Tropical butterflies soared and glided over the heads of 50 Millcreek Elementary 5th grade students and their teachers at Franklin Park Conservatory in late March. This field trip was the grand finale of a unit led by Rural Action’s Environmental Education Program that focused on food webs, pollinators, and life cycles of plants and insects…read more
These 50 students became experts on pollinators and the like by interacting with them in outdoor settings such as Monroe Outlook on the Wayne National Forest where students were able to see Monarch butterflies in all four stages of their magical life cycle.
Rural Acton’s EE program has provided similar outdoor exploration experiences for 1400 children so far in 2012 and has worked with 30 teachers in Southeast Ohio during the 2011-12 school year to integrate environmental learning into their curricula. Projects vary–from trail building with Trimble High School to developing sense of place with Nelsonville-York 8th graders, exploring water quality in Sunday Creek’s headwaters with Trimble Middle School students, and arming Millcreek Elementary students with butterfly nets and field guides–but all are tied to a central theme: enriching education by celebrating the region’s biodiversity.
Working with local schools to take advantage of amazing outdoor resources has been very successful for Rural Action and our partners this year. Millcreek Elementary 5th grade science teacher Angie Plant “could have done cartwheels”, she said, when she saw that the standardized tests her students were about to take had several questions focused on food webs and life cycles. Mrs. Plant said that the lessons Rural Action facilitated “gave the students confidence to answer those questions. Some of them had started writing before I even finished reading the question.”
Mr. Amrik Brar, environmental science teacher at Trimble High School, touted the trail building project with Rural Action and the Buckeye Trail as “the most rewarding collaborative experience I have been a part of in my 10 years of teaching.” His environmental science students helped to build 1/4 mile of trail behind the school through various habitats that teachers now have access to for their classes.
As we have gathered feedback from these programs, it’s clear that this type of outdoor education not only improves student learning but also engenders a sense of pride in both students and teachers. They become more aware of how special the natural world is in Southeast Ohio and therefore more passionate about understanding and preserving it.
These programs are made possible by generous grants from Epstein Teicher Philanthropies, the Ohio Environmental Education Fund, Athens Foundation, and Target Field Trip Grant Program.