A lot has changed since the first Earth Day, especially in the area of technology and the emphasis on test results. The More High-Tech Our Schools Become, the More They Need Nature sets the stage for the rest of this issue with Richard Low’s call for both formal and informal learning activities for “no child left inside.”
Do Earth Day activities have a life beyond the designated day? The authors of Green Team to the Rescue state that “The environmental science opportunities we offered were one-shot lessons sprinkled throughout science units; they were not connected across grade levels and rarely tied to the world outside the classroom.” So they transformed an afterschool club into a service learning opportunity that helped students develop leadership skills in environmental science. They provide descriptions of some of their students’ projects.
Sweetgrass Science focused on place-based education and making classroom content more meaningful to students by connecting science content to the lives of the students through local issues, culture, and people. Although the project was based in South Carolina, it’s certainly possible to replicate this interdisciplinary study anywhere. Get ‘Em Outside is another example of place-based education–in this case students turning an abandoned lot into a nature study center for activities such as the identification ones described in The Naming Convention. [SciLinks: Taxonomy]
Banishing Bradford Pears has suggestions for an activity in which students investigate a topic (in this case, an introduced species of ornamental tree) from several points of view and share their findings via role-playing. [SciLinks: Invasive Species] Speaking of trees, although buds are bursting early this spring, students may ask Why Do Leaves Fall Off Trees in the Fall? This explanation is an easy read that can be shared with students. [SciLinks: Plant Tropisms, Identifying Trees, Autumn Leaves, Leaf Structure and Function]
One of the activities associated with Teaching the Three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is “Where Does Garbage Go?” The other day I saw one of the answers—a huge landfill in the middle of what was pristine farmland. Speaking which, From Landfills to Robots describes a project in which students explored the recycling process by becoming “Wise About Waste” and involving students and their families in an interdisciplinary study. Many of us take recycling for granted these days, but as I traveled in Europe last year, I saw how recycling becomes a way of life—composting, no disposable water bottles, and people take their own bags into stores (I see more of that here, too). [SciLinks: Recycling]
The internet has changed the notion of “pen pals” with Skype in real time, no stamps to purchase, no writing paper, and no waiting for weeks for a response (although I must admit it was exciting to get an envelope in the mail). The project described in Birds Across Borders connected students in the US and Scotland in a citizen science collaboration. To the list of resources at the end, I’d add Bird Studies Canada. Learning by Nature and Save the Boulders Beach Penguins include suggestions for getting young children involved in studying birds and their needs. [SciLinks: Birds, Bird Adaptations]
And check out more Connections for this issue (March 2012). Even if the article does not quite fit with your lesson agenda, there are ideas for handouts, background information sheets, data sheets, rubrics, and other resources.
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