Sunday, July 26, 2015

Crafting a Learning Experience: Pattern Seekers in Nature

This week I'll meet with Robin Stuart, Education Director at Adubuon's Drumlin Farm, to plan next year's naturalist study and investigations. We have been working with Robin, Drumlin Farm, and the SuAsCo grant in that past two years to develop interdisciplinary, hands-on study that fosters knowledge, stewardship, and interaction with local habitats. Overall the study has been deep and rewarding as we watched students learn in beautiful, natural spaces including Great Meadows in Concord, MA, Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, MA, our local school habitat, and Great Meadows in Sudbury, MA.

The past studies were conducted with the same students in both fourth and fifth grade. This year's students visited Drumlin Farm last year to learn about life 1,000 years ago so they've had some introduction, but in a large part, we'll be starting fresh with a new group.

Robin has mentioned that she wants to involve us in creating a habitat for an endangered frog species. I think students will really love that work. I imagine we'll connect our science reading and study related to the life science standards to this project. I also guess that students will work as conservationists, naturalists, biologists, and environmentalists as they contribute to this effort. Further, we want to write a grant, Pattern Seekers: Interdisciplinary STEAM Study,  to our local funding source, the Wayland Public Schools Foundation, to access expert visitors, field studies, and naturalist materials similar to the magnifier you see in the picture above.

I expect our naturalist work next year will include the following events:
  • Studying about the specific frog species, habitat, adaptations, life cycle and more. In a sense, learning the life science standards through study related to this endangered frog species.
  • Participating in the frog habitat creation at Drumlin Farm probably in September or October.
  • Naturalist observations and learning experiences integrated with our STEAM lab efforts in the classroom and school habitat.
  • Integrating close reading strategies and SRSD writing responses with related science informational text.
  • Ending the year with another visit to Great Meadows to apply our naturalist learning to specific investigations that day.
Now in the third year of our collaboration with Drumlin Farm, I am convinced more than ever that schools should connect deeply with local museums, nature preserves, conservation, and educational organizations to help students learn in deeper, more relevant, and connected ways. 

School systems can take this idea seriously by identifying local education-related organizations and making sure that educators at different grades and subject areas give students the opportunity to work with depth with each of those organizations sometime or several times throughout their tenure in the school system. This will help to create active, connected lifelong learners. 

Designing with Science