Teaching students to love and understand the natural world around them is an important part of becoming a global citizen. Having an appreciation of nature helps students gain empathy. They learn that the world is not their's for the taking but a precious gift that must be cared for and protected. In third grade our students spend several weeks every year learning about the diverse ecosystems that make up Louisiana’s environment, from the coastal plains in the north all the way down to the Mississippi river delta. They not only learn about the plants and animals but the importance of weather, climate, soil, and water and how each one affects all of the different ecosystems. They develop a deeper understanding of how every aspect of the environment is interrelated and that a change in just one part can impact the entire system.
We wove the theme of conservation throughout the entire unit. Students learned about fire suppression, invasive species, deforestation, pollution, and endangered species. It is easier to think about conserving places you have seen in person. Many of our students have experiences with forests and swamps but few of them have been to a marsh or fished in the gulf. We know that in- person experiences and hands-on learning "stick" the best. Since we couldn't bring the kids to the shore, we brought the shore to the kids. I set up an in house field trip by bringing a variety of guest experts to Episcopal to give the kids a taste of the gulf coast. With help from an Episcopal family and LSU I was able to set up six stations for them to visit and explore.
Finally Dr. Chris Greene shared some live crawfish with the students from the LSU Aquaculture Research Station. Students got to hold crawfish, find out about how they are adapted to live in the water and mud, and identify males and females by the size and shape of their swimmerets.
The event was a huge success thanks to our community partners' enthusiastic participation. The students learned so much and were extremely disappointed when the event was over. If you have a career or passion that you would love to share with our students please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @betsy_minton on Twitter.
Elizabeth "Betsy" Minton is the Science, Math and Creativity Instigator at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. She enriches instruction by generating interdisciplinary curriculum, spearheading hands-on, project-based learning and supporting faculty in the application of STEM education standards. In addition, she coaches the middle school robotics team and facilitates the middle school MakerSpace. She has over a decade of elementary classroom experience in general and special education with graduate coursework in literacy, special education, and technology integration. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Bates College and was a 2002 Teach for America Corps Member.