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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Building our Naturalist Program

The naturalist study continues. I'm seeing how it all fits together as one expert after another comes in and shares their knowledge and experience with us. I'm carefully charting this work so that I can build on it with my team next year. I also want to find ways to use the data and information with regard to the math program.

Reaching Out to Local Environmental Organizations
Several years ago in an attempt to deepen field studies, I reached out to a large number of environmental organizations. Massachusetts Audubon's Drumlin Farm Education Director, Robin Stuart, reached back. Since that time Robin and I have worked together to design a large number of learning experiences. Each year we build on the experiences of the past year to make it better. Robin also invited our school to be part of their SUASCO grant, a grant funded by Nyanza that engages students in the study of the SUASCO Watershed

Wayland Public Schools Foundation Grant (WPSF) and PTO
During the summer I worked with my colleagues to write a grant to fund materials to enrich our study. WPSF funded a number of naturalist exploration materials including magnifying lenses, tanks, nets, and fake scat. The PTO further supported this effort by paying for environmental experts to come to teach the students and teachers as well as more materials such as tank pumps, tubing, and buckets.

Science Research and Study
All year my colleagues embedded multiple reading/writing activities to build science vocabulary and knowledge. They helped students develop a strong content foundation related to all science standards. Further during their K-4 years students engaged in a large number of interdisciplinary science learning activities.

Spadefoot Tadpoles
Getting involved with Drumlin Farm's project to introduce the spadefoot toads into their habitat in Lincoln, Massachusetts created a lot of excitement in the class. The little tadpoles are swimming in the tanks. Students enjoy watching them metamorphosize.

Nature Guide Training
Robin Stuart taught high school students, a parent, and teachers from both the elementary school and high school how to guide young children through the watershed area. She shared a terrific presentation and prepared us well for upcoming nature explorations during an early morning class.

Naturalist Classroom: River Habitats
A Drumlin Farm naturalist and teacher came to the room to introduce students to the wetland/river habitat and watershed. Students explored buckets of river water that were filled with macroinvertebrates. They also observed and learned about a duck and turtle.

Composting Experts
Composting experts from Transition Framingham reviewed the energy cycle from sun to producers to consumers and then decomposers with students as they introduced the children to composting. This fit in beautifully with our standards and our school garden program. Students began learning in the classroom and then moved outside to view our school's composting bins and process too.

Grassroots Wildlife Conservation
Today a wonderful expert from Grassroots Wildlife Conservation, Emilie Schuler, came to school to teach students all about the woodfrog and spadefoot toad. She told the story of each animal's habitat, life cycle, and challenges. She gave context with regard to what it means to study animals and how our work with the spadefoot toads is important work. Emilie was a wonderful teacher and storyteller.

Roots and Shoots
Wayland's own Anne Flaherty came in to tell students about her work with Roots and Shoots. She has a TedTalk that explains this work. Later at recess, a couple of students came up to me to tell me that they wanted to start their own Roots and Shoots club so clearly Anne made a BIG impact.

Local Nature Hike
High school students and parents will lead students on a nature walk. During the walk students will look for examples of all that they've been learning about.

STEAM Projects
Our grade level STEAM projects including building biodomes, cleaning up an oil spill, and filtering water all match this work wonderfully. Students will complete these projects soon, projects that we'll connect to the past classes.

Living Systems Talk
Wayland Green Team member, Wayland Transition Founder, and activist, Dr. Kaat Vander Straeten spoke to students about living systems, environmental activism/responsibility, and the interconnectedness of all living things.

NASA Engineer
We had an unexpected visit from a NASA engineer who furthered the discussion of living systems and elegant design with regard to space station tools for survival and exploration.

Drumlin Farm and Great Meadows Field Trip
The study will culminate with a short stop at Drumlin Farm to release our spadefoot toads if all goes well, and then a visit to Great Meadows in Concord, Massachusetts where students will venture on an "Amazing Adventure" to discover and learn about the nature all around them in this SUASCO watershed natural preserve.

I wanted to get all these activities down on one page so I can build on the experience in the year to come. As a team we'll see how we can continue to finance the expert visits and further embed our standards into this study.

Students love being apart of real learning, learning that is meaningful, inspiring, and helpful to others. This thread is a keeper, one I will continue to think about. In the meantime, if you have ideas about how to enrich this study, please let me know.