Our team worked with the Massachusetts' Audubon environmental education staff to forward students' education and advocacy related to the local watershed and global warming. Throughout the year students learned about and studied the local watershed ecosystem and the impact of global warming and climate change on that ecosystem and our lives. Later student teams identified one climate change issue they wanted to study more, and after that they created a service learning/advocacy project related to that climate change issue. This year-long study with a wonderful naturalist coach resulted in lots and lots of learning, learning that we'll continue to build next year.
As I work to piece together multiple student summaries of their projects into one short film, I find myself reflecting on all the project pieces and how we might develop and better the learning and project work next year.
Some of the main features of next year's work will include the following:
Focus on Teamwork
We were surprised to find that working as a team was challenging for many students, and ended up doing a lot of teaching related to teamwork. Next year we'll begin the year with a strong social-emotional learning focus on what it means to be an effective team member and how good teams work. Our school guidance counselor has agreed to help out with this, and this is a natural focus for the starting days of the school year, days when our TeamFive fifth grade group begins their year-long learning/teaching adventure.
Focus on Survival
Since the STEAM (science, tech, engineering, art, and math) focuses on survival-related projects, we plan to begin the year with a survival theme that incorporates related reading and writing. We'll use that theme to bridge the end-of-fourth-grade focus on adaptation to our efforts as humans to innovate in order to survive and live well. We'll use this theme also as an adventurous perspective with which to learn about the local watershed.
Standards-based science, tech, and engineering
While this year's study was tied to the standards, we'll aline the standards with even more strength next year by making sure that students bring the study full circle using science, tech, and engineering vocabulary and process to solidify concepts, skills, and knowledge in memorable ways, ways that find students writing, talking, and extending the learning in rich and deep ways.
Teaching the tools
We use many tools as we study the local environment. At the start of the year, we'll teach those tools in multiple ways. Students will learn to use microscopes, compasses, nets, iPads for outdoor exploration, water testing materials, and more. The better students know how to use the tools with care, the better they'll be able to extend the study.
Greening the classroom; intentional learning
Sometimes mostly because school life is so fast, we are not as intentional as we can be about being a green classroom. From the start of the year, we'll work to reduce the use of plastics, to reuse and recycle as much as possible, to use less paper, and treat all of the tools and materials we use with care.
There's much to learn in this curriculum area. The children are clearly invested in the study and project work. I'm sure this will positively affect their good living and leading in the future.