Posts Tagged ‘Environmental Education’

Education, Awareness, and Action (MAEOE Conference)

March 6th, 2013

Guest post by Emily Drobenak, First Grade Teacher, Accokeek Academy, Schoolyards as Classrooms Project partner school

In February, I had the good fortune to attend the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education, or MAEOE (may-o), conference. In short, this conference was a meeting of the minds towards the betterment of our planet and the people who live here. I, as well as members of the AFF and other local teachers, attended sessions focusing on education, awareness, and action.

My experience kicked off with a presentation by NASA Astronaut Richard R. Arnold II. What could be more engaging than a real live astronaut in his blue NASA jumpsuit? Astronaut Arnold spoke on the fragility of our great planet Earth. So often, we see the environment around us, but from space, you get a whole new perspective. While working on the International Space Station, you get the unique experience of seeing sunrise about 16 times a day. The photographs of these sunrises revealed just how thin a layer protects thriving planet Earth from the desolate space around us. We think of our atmosphere as many impenetrable miles of air, but it’s that thin wrapping that keeps our blues sparkling and our greens vibrant.

With that said, the urgency and importance of the conference seemed even mightier, like the weight of the world on our shoulders. However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a ton of fun! Throughout Saturday, I was engaged, motivated and enlightened. For me, the sessions on how to bring environmental and outdoor education into my first grade classroom were the most important. It took a simple shift in perception to see that nature does not steal time, nature enhances it. The common theme seemed to be that our over emphasis on tests, and common core, and homework has actually stolen time away from our children’s time spent outdoors. Being outside has so many physical, mental, social, and emotional benefits from which children are suffering a deficit. I grew up spending my days outside, and knew that my students were not having the same experience. Yet, I was blind to the fact that I could act and be a part of changing that for them.

After the conference, I feel the push to make my students equally aware of their environment right here in Maryland. Lions and penguins are common knowledge for most elementary age student, but so should the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland’s state parks and preserved swamp lands. As we increase our own awareness, we can educate our students and promote environmental ethics.

To sum it all up, what I took away from the conference is that when we all understand and make responsible decisions, we are promoting a better, brighter life for ourselves, and each other.

How to Win a Paddle and Save the World at the Same Time

March 5th, 2013

By Leandra Darden, Naturalist Associate, Alice Ferguson Foundation

As one of the newest members of the Alice Ferguson Foundation I had the privilege of attending my first Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Educators (MAEOE) conference with other members of the Alice Ferguson Foundation family. At the conference we were able to meet with our peers and learn about all of the exciting things that other Maryland educators and schools have been able to offer students in the last year. The Alice Ferguson Foundation was no exception, sharing with our peers our exciting Trash Free Schools program that helps guide schools to being more environmentally conscience as well as premiering our ideas for integrating education with the building of our new living buildings. We were excited to get some feedback as to the best way to get the students to understand and talk about energy and water consumption as they monitor their water and energy throughout their overnight trip to our farm. We were able to converse with people who have a better understanding of other green buildings as well as people who have great ideas about how to visually stimulate students into conversations and understanding. It was a great opportunity to learn from and share our ideas with our fellow outdoor educators.

But the MAEOE conference also gave us the opportunity to win the coveted canoe paddle.

Every MAEOE conference there is a challenge and this year it was to make an outfit made out of trash. People then voted on their favorite outfit and the winners became one the proud owners of a ceremonial, decorative canoe paddle. It was decided to bring the amazing poncho and bag made out of Capri Sun wrappers, since it is so colorful and fun. There was some tough competition, including a skirt made out entirely of cds, and dress made out of dog food bags. In the end, the fun Capri Sun colors, combined with our clever campaign of its functionality won out and we joined the illustrious few who have been able to call the paddle their own. By creating these garments we were able to keep some trash out of the landfill and reuse for a fun new purpose.

There are always new and exciting ways to reuse what we would normally perceive as trash. With a little repurposing, vision, and creativity something we were going to throw away could now be something we are going to give away. That is one way we can all save the world.

Getting the Most Out of a Field Study to Hard Bargain Farm

January 9th, 2013

By Becky Williams

In my role as Naturalist/Educator for Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center, I look forward to my visits to school classrooms both before and after the students come to the Farm for a two day field study.

As I arrive at the school office, I hear, “the lady is here from the Farm” or “the kids are really excited about coming to the Farm!”   I am often carrying a large bag of “trash” for the Trash Timeline activity in which we discuss how long it takes for common items of “trash” to decompose.  The activity helps introduce students to concepts they will learn at the farm, including decomposition and the energy cycle.  The activity also prepares students for their challenge to bring a Trash Free Lunch on their trip; often, this concept is new to the students, yet they embrace the challenge.

As I begin to learn what the students already know and what they need to know for their trip, I am struck by their excitement and willingness to explore a new setting, gather eggs, hike for 2 hours and have a campfire.  Often I work with the groups at the farm and am able to reflect back on the previsit, as we share these experiences.

When I return for the post visit after their field study, I am able to reinforce what they’ve learned through our Food Chain/Energy Cycle activity that expands their interest in concepts learned at the Farm. This lesson develops a feeling of empowerment and responsibility in their roles in their environment.

As a former teacher, I believe these classroom visits (before and after the field study) both augment and reinforce the learning and teaching potential of the field study.  I encourage teachers to take advantage of these outreach opportunities!

For more information and how you can participate in Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center Outreach please contact Sara Campbell at [email protected].

Activities for Transfer of Science Knowledge

October 5th, 2012

Guest post by J. Ryan Thompson, Primary Science Teacher, Berry Elementary School

This is my first year working with Kindergarten students, and I am having a wonderful time with them. I encourage you to perform some simple activities with your children to reinforce the content and skills we are using in science class. Many of these suggestions can be part of your daily life. Using what is learned in school outside of the classroom helps students retain that knowledge. This is called transfer and can be beneficial in developing skills for use later in education and the workforce. Enjoy!

Activities for Transfer of Science Knowledge

  1. Go for a walk. Talk about the organisms, or living things, you see in the natural world around you. Do you see or notice evidence of any animals? What kinds of plants are around you? Discuss animal and plant parts and how they help the plant or animal live.
  2. Observe an ant colony in your backyard. Place pieces of food nearby and observe the ants’ behavior once the food is discovered.
  3. Look for spiders in and around your house. Discuss the appearance of the web. If you’re lucky, you might see a spider busy at work building a web or wrapping up prey.
  4. Encourage students with questions to look for information in books, videos and online sources. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips. Help children to choose reliable online sources (.edu, .gov) over sources that can be edited by anyone. Wikipedia is very useful, but pay attention to the sources provided at the end of an article to ensure validity.
  5. Visit a local waterway, such as a pond, creek or river. Discuss, observe and draw some of the animals and plants you see in these habitats.