Easthampton Learning Foundation Supports Unique Nature Programs at New School
Mass Audubon educators at based at Arcadia were presented with a unique opportunity when they approached the Easthampton Learning Foundation (ELF) about a grant for nature programs in the district’s schools.
Members of ELF had a proposal for them: create lessons that encouraged outdoor learning around the new state-of-the-art facility, Mountain View School, in the process of being built to house Pre-K to 8th grade classes. Along with addressing science standards, the lessons would help the young people settle into and learn about their new school and its landscape.
Teacher Naturalist Laura Beltran enthusiastically embraced the request: “The designers of the new school created many exciting outdoor learning spaces, and we look forward to working with students to plan how they want to use those spaces.”
Seeking input from teachers in the district, educators at Arcadia put together a proposal that includes in-service training for teachers, classroom and outdoor lessons for students, and student-led projects.
Through professional development, teachers will learn about topics such as outdoor education best practices, field journaling, community science intro- short and long-term datasets, intro to local climate change, site specific climate solutions.
Lessons for middle school students will include:
6th grade - A seven lesson unit on trees and climate change. Each lesson consists of a short video introduction that the classroom teachers show, an outdoor field journaling assignment also led by the classroom teacher that can be done in class or as homework, and a Mass Audubon educator-led schoolyard-based lesson.
7th grade - A year-long exploration of the new outdoor learning spaces at Mountain View School. Students will first have a series of mostly outdoor, hands-on lessons on different climate change topics focused around local climate impacts, natural history, and community climate solutions. Topics will include:
- Water quality and management
- Birds-changing populations and how we can support them
- Gardening- local food, native plants, and pollinators
- Ecosystem health- soil/composting, trees, and sequestering carbon
- Climate communication and journaling After students have explored these topics, they will break into smaller groups and select a project. They will then work with Mass Audubon educators to help facilitate these student-led projects.
After students have explored these topics, they will break into smaller groups and select a project. They will then work with Mass Audubon educators to help facilitate these student-led projects.
8th grade - Students will be invited to bring a team of five to six students and one to two adult mentors to the fall 2022 Western Mass Youth Climate Summit hosted by Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. Teams that attend the Summit come away with Climate Action Project plans that they can implement in their school or community with the help of their classmates.
In February ELF awarded $25,000 for programming to begin this summer.