Integration Can Help You Teach
More Science and Environmental Education
by Jim McDonald
Central Michigan University
The demands on classroom teachers to address a variety of different subjects during the day means that some things just get left out of the curriculum. Many schools have adopted an instructional approach with supports for students that teach reading and math, with the addition of interventions to teach literacy and numeracy skills which take up more time in the instructional schedule. In some of the schools that I work with there is an additional 30 minutes a day for reading intervention plus 30 more minutes for math intervention. So, we are left with the question, how do I fit time for science or environmental education into my busy teaching schedule?
In a recent STEM Teaching tools brief on integration of science at the elementary level, it was put this way:
We do not live in disciplinary silos so why do we ask children to learn in that manner? All science learning is a cultural accomplishment and can provide the relevance or phenomena that connects to student interests and identities. This often intersects with multiple content areas. Young children are naturally curious and come to school ready to learn science. Leading with science leverages students’ natural curiosity and builds strong knowledge-bases in other content areas. Science has taken a backseat to ELA and mathematics for more than twenty years. Integration among the content areas assures that science is given priority in the elementary educational experience (STEM Teaching Tool No. 62).
Why does this matter? Educators at all levels should be aware of educational standards across subjects and be able to make meaningful connections across the content disciplines in their teaching. Building administrators look for elementary teachers to address content standards in math, science, social studies, literacy/English Language arts at a minimum plus possibly physical education, art, and music. What follows are some things that elementary teachers should consider when attempting integration of science and environmental education with other subjects.
Things to Consider for Integration
The integration of science and environmental education concepts with other subjects must be meaningful to students and connect in obvious ways to other content areas. The world is interdisciplinary while the experience for students and teachers is often disciplinary. Learning takes place both inside and outside of school. Investigations that take place outside of school are driven by people’s curiosity and play and often cut across disciplinary subjects. However, learning in school is often fragmented into different subject matter silos.
Math and reading instruction dominate the daily teaching schedule for a teacher because that is what is evaluated on standardized tests. However, subjects other than ELA and math should be kept in mind when considering integration. Social studies and the arts provide some excellent opportunities for the integration of science with other content areas. In the NGSS, the use of crosscutting concepts support students in making sense of phenomena across science disciplines and can be used to prompt student thinking. They can serve as a vehicle for teachers to see connections to the rest of their curriculum, particularly English/Language Arts and math. Crosscutting concepts are essential tools for teaching and learning science because students can understand the natural world by using crosscutting concepts to make sense of phenomena across the science disciplines. As students move from one core idea to another core idea within a class or across grade-levels, they can continually utilize the crosscutting concepts as consistent cognitive constructs for engaging in sense-making when presented with novel, natural phenomena. Natural phenomena are observable events that occur in the universe and we can use our science knowledge to explain or predict phenomena (i.e., water condensing on a glass, strong winds preceding a rainstorm, a copper penny turning green, snakes shedding their skin) (Achieve, 2016).
Generally, when I hear about science and literacy, it involves helping students comprehend their science textbook or other science reading. It is a series of strategies from the field of literacy that educators can apply in a science context. For example, teachers could ask students to do a “close reading” of a text, pulling out specific vocabulary, key ideas, and answers to text-based questions. Or, a teacher might pre-teach vocabulary, and have students write the words in sentences and draw pictures illustrating those words. Perhaps students provide one another feedback on the effectiveness of a presentation. Did you speak clearly and emphasize a few main points? Did you have good eye contact? Generally, these strategies are useful, but they’re not science specific. They could be applied to any disciplinary context. These types of strategies are often mislabeled as “disciplinary literacy.” I would advocate they are not. Disciplinary literacy is not just a new name for reading in a content area.
Scientists have a unique way of working with text and communicating ideas. They read an article or watch a video with a particular lens and a particular way of thinking about the material. Engaging with disciplinary literacy in science means approaching or creating a text with that lens. Notably, the text is not just a book. The Wisconsin DPI defines text as any communication, spoken, written, or visual, involving language. Reading like a scientist is different from having strategies to comprehend a complex text, and the texts involved have unique characteristics. Further, if students themselves are writing like scientists, their own texts can become the scientific texts that they collaboratively interact with and revise over time. In sum, disciplinary literacy in science is the confluence of science content knowledge, experience, and skills, merged with the ability to read, write, listen, and speak, in order to effectively communicate about scientific phenomena.
As a disciplinary literacy task in a classroom, students might be asked to write an effective lab report or decipher the appropriateness of a methodology explained in a scientific article. They might listen to audio clips, describing with evidence how one bird’s “song” differs throughout a day. Or, they could present a brief description of an investigation they are conducting in order to receive feedback from peers.
You can find time to teach science and environmental education and integrate it with social studies by following a few key ideas. You can teach science and social studies instead of doing writer’s workshop, choose science and social studies books for guided reading groups, and make science and social studies texts available in your classroom library.
Teach Science/Social Studies in Lieu of Writer’s Workshop: You will only need to do this one, maybe two days each week. Like most teachers, I experienced the problem of not having time to “do it all” during my first year in the classroom. My literacy coach at the time said that writer’s workshop only needs to be done three times each week, and you can conduct science or social studies lessons during that block one or two times a week. This was eye-opening, and I have followed this guidance ever since. My current principal also encouraged teachers to do science and social studies “labs” once a week during writing time! Being able to teach science or social studies during writing essentially opens up one or two additional hours each week to teach content! It is also a perfect time to do those activities that definitely take longer than 30 minutes: science experiments, research, engagement in group projects, and so forth. Although it is not the “official” writers workshop writing process, there is still significant writing involved. Science writing includes recording observations and data, writing steps to a procedure/experiment, and writing conclusions and any new information learned. “Social studies writing” includes taking research notes, writing reports, or writing new information learned in a social studies notebook. Students will absolutely still be writing every day.
Choose Science and Social Studies Texts for Guided Reading Groups: This suggestion is a great opportunity to creatively incorporate science and social studies in your weekly schedule. When planning and implementing guided reading groups, strategically pick science and social studies texts that align to your current unit of study throughout the school year. During this time, students in your guided reading groups can have yet another opportunity to absorb content while practicing reading strategies.
Make Science and Social Studies Texts Available and Accessible in Your Classroom Library: During each unit, select texts and have “thematic unit” book bins accessible to your students in a way that is best suited for your classroom setup. Display them in a special place your students know to visit when looking for books to read. When kids “book-shop” and choose their just-right books for independent reading, encourage them to pick one or two books from the “thematic unit” bin. They can read these books during independent reading time and be exposed to science and social studies content.
Elementary Integration Ideas
Kindergarten: In a kindergarten classroom, a teacher puts a stuffed animal on a rolling chair in front of the room. The teacher asks, “How could we make ‘Stuffy’ move? Share an idea with a partner”. She then circulates to hear student talk. She randomly asks a few students to describe and demonstrate their method. As students share their method, she will be pointing out terms they use, particularly highlighting or prompting the terms “push” and “pull”. Next, she has students write in their science notebooks, “A force is a push or a pull”. This writing may be scaffolded by having some students just trace these words on a worksheet glued into the notebook. Above that writing, she asks students to draw a picture of their idea, or another pair’s idea, for how to move the animal. Some student pairs that have not shared yet are then given the opportunity to share and explain their drawing. Students are specifically asked to explain, “What is causing the force in your picture?”.
For homework, students are asked to somehow show their parents a push and a pull and tell them that a push or a pull is a force. For accountability, parents could help students write or draw about what they did, or students would just know they would have to share the next day.
In class the next day, the teacher asks students to share some of the pushes and pulls they showed their parents, asking them to use the word force. She then asks students to talk with their partner about, “Why did the animal in the chair sometimes move far and sometimes not move as far when we added a force?”. She then asks some students to demonstrate and describe an idea for making the animal/chair farther or less far; ideally, students will push or pull with varying degrees of force. Students are then asked to write in their notebooks, “A big force makes it move more!” With a teacher example, as needed, they also draw an image of what this might look like.
As a possible extension: how would a scientist decide for sure which went further? How would she measure it? The class could discuss and perform different means for measurement, standard and nonstandard.
Fourth Grade Unit on Natural Resources: This was a unit completed by one group of preservice teachers for one of my classes. The four future elementary teachers worked closely in their interdisciplinary courses to design an integrated unit for a fourth-grade classroom of students. The teachers were given one social studies and one science standard to build the unit around. The team of teachers then collaborated and designed four lessons that would eventually be taught in a series of four sessions with the students. This unit worked to seamlessly integrate social studies, English language arts, math, and science standards for a fourth-grade classroom. Each future teacher took one lesson and chose a foundation subject to build their lesson upon. The first lesson was heavily based on social studies and set the stage for the future lessons as it covered the key vocabulary words and content such as nonrenewable and renewable resources. Following that, students were taught a lesson largely based on mathematics to better understand what the human carbon footprint is. The third lesson took the form of an interactive science experiment so students could see the impact of pollution on a lake, while the fourth lesson concluded with an emphasis on language arts to engage students in the creation of inventions to prevent pollution in the future and conserve the earth’s resources. Contrary to the future educators’ initial thoughts, integrating the various subject areas into one lesson came much more easily than expected! Overall, they felt that their lessons were more engaging than a single subject lesson and observed their students making connections on their own from previously taught lessons and different content areas.
Achieve. (2016). Using phenomena in NGSS-designed lessons and units. Retrieved from https://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/default/files/Using%20Phenomena%20in%20NGSS.pdf
Hill, L., Baker, A., Schrauben, M. & Petersen, A. (October 2019). What does subject matter integration look like in instruction? Including science is key! Institute for Science + Math Education. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Retrieved from: http://stemteachingtools.org/brief/62
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (n.d.) Clarifying literacy in science. Retrieved from: https://dpi.wi.gov/science/disciplinary-literacy/types-of-literacy
Jim McDonald is a Professor of Science Education at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. He teaches both preservice teachers and graduate students at CMU. He is a certified facilitator for Project WILD, Project WET, and Project Learning Tree. He is the Past President of the Council for Elementary Science International, the elementary affiliate of the National Science Teaching Association.
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
The Suquamish Basket Marsh: Creating a Living Library
An Outdoor Environmental Learning Classroom for the students of Suquamish Elementary School
By Melinda West
There is a Salish legend passed down by the First Peoples of the Pacific Northwest that explains the origin of the cedar tree and why it has been referred to as: “Long-Life Maker”. For over four-thousand years this slow-growing, shade-and- water-loving evergreen has resided amongst the fir, yew and hemlock trees, in forests along the edges of Puget Sound. The legend explains that the cedar trees were once generous people who looked to the welfare of others in their community and responded to their needs. I’d like to tell you a story that makes me believe the spirit of this legend is alive and flourishing today.
My relationship with Suquamish Elementary school was rekindled in the spring of 2000. This was the public school my own two, now adult sons had attended. For over a decade, I had spent many hours volunteering in each of their classrooms. On this occasion I was invited as a consultant because of my work as a natural fiber weaving specialist. This visit was to hear about an innovative idea for a project that would combine science, social studies and art education. The proposed project would involve converting a barren, fenced-off drainage catchment area on school grounds into a pond and native plant garden.
Pulling into the auxiliary parking lot, I glanced straight ahead at this desolate space, off limits to students, yet taking away up to one third of the play area. These depressions in the landscape surrounded by locked chain-link fences are commonly seen throughout the Kitsap Peninsula, in Washington State, where I’ve resided for over a quarter century. They are required for surface water purification. I tend to look away from these sites and search for alternative focuses which hold some beauty — the chirping sounds of children at play, verdant leaves unfurling, even the bright yellow of dandelion weeds.
Six years later, as I drive into that same parking lot at Suquamish Elementary, my eyes are drawn to cattail leaves dancing over a shimmering pond. I see delicate, green stalks of the Northwest sweetgrass sedge growing in the bog. Both plants have been used for centuries as weaving materials by the First People of this place. There is a boardwalk and gravel trail that follows the perimeter of the pond. A rain shelter built of yellow cedar is reminiscent of the long houses that once stood nearby. A small cedar tool shed, and wooden benches are nestled in between adolescent hazelnut, vine maple, and western red cedar trees. Shrubs, ferns and ground covers mingle below the wild roses, red currants, and willows.
There is a class of third graders using this space when I arrive. Little faces peak out from behind a bird blind woven with grapevines from a local vineyard. Other students are sitting on boulders perched near the pond, glacial remnants generously donated by a local landscape company. At this moment the students are quietly engaged, making observations and entries in their pond journals. They are smelling and touching plants, writing, measuring, and sketching. In a little while, I will be accompanying a class of fourth graders the fifty odd yards away from the building, through the woven arbor gate and under the twig sign that says: “Welcome”.
“In traditional Native American cultures, art was not a separate pursuit. Beauty and utility came together in objects of everyday use to reflect a way of life and an aesthetic that respected the relationship people had with their environment.”…Shaun Peterson, Salish Artist, 2004 SAM exhibit” Song, Story, Speech”.
As a plant fiber artist, teachers invite me to present ethnobotanical knowledge about Pacific Northwest plants to their students. This provides content for social studies and science requirements, while the techniques for using the plant fibers provide physical activity, math and art skills. The Basket Marsh and outdoor classrooms of its kind are living libraries and laboratories. They contain unlimited resources for teaching every subject students need to learn.
What I have to offer as a teaching artist is most effective in an environment where students can see, touch, smell, hear, and sometimes even taste, the subject-matter. Again and again, I have witnessed that this first-hand experiential learning of natural science and culture gives lasting memory and meaning to students. The virtues of the western red cedar can easily be appreciated by children, when they are given pieces of the leather-like inner bark to experiment with as they sit next to young growing cedar trees. Non-conventional learning environments like the Suquamish Basket Marsh give opportunities for students and classroom teachers to meet and interact directly with artists and other specialists from the community.
Today I will model my craft, and students will get to experience weaving with cattails that they have helped to grow and harvest from their Basket Marsh. We will share stories, sing a weaving song, and then weave a mat or make some rope in order to experience first hand the ingenious ways that cattails and other native plants have been used by the First People of this place.
Connecting the Project to the Place
“Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove has been hallowed by some fond memory or sad experience of my tribe.”…..Chief Seattle, speech at the Pt. Elliot Treaty signing, paraphrased by Dr Henry Smith, 1854.
Twelve thousand years ago, a thick layer of ice covered the Pacific Northwest. As the ice melted, glaciers formed and slowly carved out deep channels that the water filled. Forests grew, and the land that was left became covered with plants. In some origin stories, native North American storytellers have told that the First People were once plants and animals who later took human form. Those people began to live in villages along the shorelines, and since then their descendants have been living here too. Long before contact with explorers, trappers, and settlers, the place near the present day town of Suquamish was highly populated. Everything needed to sustain a rich community and cultural life was present in the forests, meadows, rivers, at the water’s edge, and in the sea.
“Children learned from an early age not to pluck too much or ruthlessly destroy the valuables of the earth. They learned responsible, caring behavior both through stories, metaphors and focused instruction at opportune moments and through observation, emulation and experience.”…Nancy Turner, from THE EARTH’S BLANKET, 2005.
Prehistoric survival was dependant upon the knowledge of place accumulated over time: geography, seasons, cycles, weather patterns, plants, and animals. In recent times, this knowledge, reflected in the First Peoples’ relationship with the flora and fauna, is being referred to as Sacred Ecology or Traditional Ecological Knowledge. This body of information has been passed down through the oral tradition from one generation to the next, through stories, songs, ceremonies, and through the practice of traditional technologies, skills, and arts derived from the environment.
In Lushootseed, a language spoken by many of the First People of the Puget Sound area, the word for Suquamish is d’suq’wub which means “place of clear salt water”. The city of Seattle was named in honor of Chief Seattle, the Duwamish and Suquamish leader, who in the mid 1800’s protected his community from the raiding parties of other tribes. Later, in hopes of further protecting his people from the influx of settlers and a new government hungry for land and resources, he signed a treaty with the United States government which resulted in the city of Seattle being built upon traditional Duwamish Tribal land. Chief Seattle’s burial site is only a few blocks away from Suquamish Elementary school. Every August, the Suquamish Tribe sponsors a huge gathering of Intertribal-Nation festivities and canoe races known as Chief Seattle Days, honoring this important leader.
Nearly one quarter of the students at Suquamish Elementary school, are descendants of First Peoples indigenous to North America. After many years of misunderstanding by impinging dominant cultures, the perspectives and approaches to education espoused by some of the traditional First Peoples’ teachings are starting to be better understood and valued. The holistic ways of thinking about the Earth, organizing information, and connecting knowledge to daily life are as important today as ever.
“In our culture all things are living….everything has life.”…Dr. Martina Whelshula, Colville Tribes, Benchmarks Panel, WAEYC Conference, 10-27-06.
Traditional teachings are imbued with lessons for sustainable living and are intrinsically linked to place. Relationships — with people, plants, animals, and all the elements, are emphatically important. Now the Suquamish Basket Marsh is providing opportunities everyday for these types of lessons to touch children of all cultural backgrounds within the school and community. The Lushooteed name for this outdoor classroom is: gelk’ali. It means “place of weaving”.
“Weaving has always been part of the community in the First People’s traditional culture here in this place. Now it is part of the healing for our people. We are stitching and mending the culture back together.”….Darlene Peters,PHD, counselor, teacher, Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam, gelk’ali dedication speech, May 2002.
Planting the Seed
The idea for the gelk’ali came from Ron Hirschi, a fisheries biologist who worked for many years with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. He is author of over fifty books for children, many that combine real life pictures of animals with accurate scientific information. While appearing as a guest for the school’s May 2000 Young Authors Day, Mr. Hirschi shared with students, projects from other schools including the restoration of a wetland at Pickerington Elementary in Ohio. He suggested creating a pond out of the storm water retention area at Suquamish Elementary. His idea was that by planting it with native plants traditionally used by the local First People, especially plants used for traditional basket weaving, there would be an opportunity for tribal families to become more involved at the school. Tribal members living in the community could be invited into classrooms to share cultural experiences and knowledge with all the students. Mr. Hirschi also shared how students, at nearby Seabeck Elementary, formed an after school group called the “Salmon Team”. He helped this team partner with parents, the S’Klallam Tribe, and Trust for Public Lands, to acquire an entire estuary after research by the Salmon Team showed the presence of endangered salmon in its waters.
Recognizing a Problem
“As teachers we should be striving to give kids moments of greatness. How can we help students have these moments?”…Jan Jackson, personal interview, 9-13-06
After 18 years of teaching, Jan Jackson, a librarian at Suquamish Elementary school, was considering retirement. She felt she was losing an important connection with her students. Like many classroom teachers today, Ms. Jackson recognized the challenge of engaging students with a broad spectrum of learning styles from various cultural and economic backgrounds. She noticed that many students were spending more and more time in front of video and television screens. She also saw the pressures put upon teachers to spend more time teaching to a system of standardized tests, leaving less time to develop relationships with students for building life and learning skills. At the same time, children were having fewer opportunities to be outside, fewer chances to be observing nature, less time to be exploring and responding to the natural environment through the arts and sciences.
“Direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development – physical, emotional, and spiritual….it is a potent therapy for depression, obesity, and ADD…it improves standardized test scores…it develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking, decision making…and creativity”… Richard Louv, The Last Child in the Woods, 2005.
When a need is recognized and a community cares, a good idea can be set into motion as long as there is someone like Ms. Jackson to see it through. She first approached Principal Joe Davalos with the concept of the outdoor classroom. “It helps to have a principal that lets people follow their heart,” she says of Davalos. Other teachers became interested, and a committee was formed which met through the summer to plan a Basket Marsh curriculum. Relating the curriculum to career education helped the school apply for funds from their school district’s vocational department to get them started.
Gathering a Team
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead, anthropologist 1901-1978
With the principal, teachers, students, parents, and the Suquamish Tribe on board, it was time to see if there was community support for the Basket Marsh. For the next two years Ms. Jackson spent many hours in outreach, bringing students with her to attend school board and other community meetings. Individuals, families, corporate and business sponsors, all stepped forward to provide funds, services, equipment, materials, and the invaluable hours of labor and expertise required. Approval from the school board, consulting with the water district, permits from the county, all needed to be researched and secured.
The Suquamish Tribe partnered with the school, providing ongoing funding for programs and projects at the gelk’ali. They helped develop the plan for the marsh, provided soil testing, water flow analysis, ground surveys, plant recommendations, and consultations by hydrology and fisheries professionals. The county departments of Waste Water Management and Solid Waste, as well as the local public utility district’s Education Department, have given continual support.
Institutions of higher learning have been important resources for the gelk’ali. Each year, many students from Suquamish Elementary spend four days at IslandWood’s School Overnight Program, receiving an intensive environmental education experience. An ongoing partnership has formed with this nationally acclaimed environmental learning center, and inspiration for many of the class service projects have come from this relationship. Members of IslandWood’s staff and some of their graduate students have helped with improvements at the gelk’ali, and have been involved in follow-up teaching. The National Wildlife Foundation and Cornell University’s department of Ornithology’s “Classroom Feeder Watch Program” have also enhanced environmental education and science curriculum.
As director of the pond project, Ms. Jackson credits the whole community with building the gelk’ali. Students, teachers and staff, PTA, school district personnel, county employees, the Suquamish Tribe, biologists, carpenters, scientists, authors, specialists, garden clubs, the local Rotary, civil engineers, architects, landscapers, artists, area businesses, parents and volunteers — all saw the need and understood the benefits.
Involving the Students
“I want kids to get their hands dirty, and not be afraid to make a mess.” …Jan Jackson 9-15-06
Known as the “Pond kids”, these 4th-6th graders fill out applications at the beginning of each year in hopes of gaining a position on the Student Advisory Board. This extracurricular group of 25-30 students meets weekly with Ms. Jackson and the volunteer docents. The Pond Kids have been involved in all aspects of the development of the gelk’ali, from research, to fund-raising, to planning and coordinating Earth Day assemblies. Early on, the students helped design and plan the pond. After meeting with a parent who showed them how to take topographical measurements of the site, they built a 3-dimensional scale model to help with their presentations to the School Board, sponsors, and to other community groups. They cleared out the blackberries and Scotch broom, and helped rake, dig and plant. Now the Pond Kids continue the ongoing physical labor at the gelk’ali, restoring habitat and maintaining the plants.
“Before the pond was built the grass was brown and now it’s green. I enjoy knowing I’m making a difference in the school.” …Winona, 5th grader, 2002
All the students at Suquamish Elementary utilize the gelk’ali for learning. Each student has a pond journal they use for documenting their observations at the gelk’ali throughout the year. Along with each class, every year a new group of Pond Kids implement one or more service projects that connect the gelk’ali with the whole school. One project inspired after a visit to IslandWood has been recycling lunchroom waste. The Pond Kids researched vermaculture, and agreed upon the size needed for the worm boxes based upon their measurements of daily school lunch food waste. The boxes were built by a parent volunteer. The students made instructional posters, gave presentations to classes, and volunteered to stay in from recess to help collect the food waste. Now the school saves district money since there is less trash. At the same time, the worms decompose all that food waste into useful compost for the plants at the gelk’ali.
As well as learning important aspects of being responsible stewards of the land, the Pond Kids are encouraged to be active citizens and communicators. They have written letters to sponsors, articles for school newsletters, and corresponded with foundations and public officials. In the course of these activities they have won local, regional and national recognition for their environmental leadership. Each week the Pond Kids report back to their classrooms what they are leaning at the gelk’ali. To help build relationships between grade levels they also report weekly to their “buddy classrooms” in the primary grades. Each year all the students at Suquamish Elementary are learning about environmental stewardship first hand.
“The marsh is like a puzzle that fits into the big picture. The plants protect the pond from harm. The trees grow, give shade, and hold together the pond with their strong immense roots. The dirt absorbs nutrients and, sometimes, the pollution. The animals in the pond make it a happier place for us.” …Tyler, 4th grader, 2002
Imagining the Future
Teachings of the Tree People: The Work of Bruce Miller from NWIN on Vimeo.
“An intimate participation leaves a memory as long as you are on the earth.”…Bruce Miller, the late Skokomish Spiritual Leader and Cultural Teacher, from Teachings of the Tree People, 2005 video produced by Katie Jennings and IslandWood
How can teachers find the support they need to step outside of the metaphoric boundaries of classrooms today? In conjunction with standardized learning and testing, is it within the realm of possibility that community-born projects for learning could be used by more teachers and children, on a daily basis?
Imagine every elementary school in the United States being able to tell a story like this. Not identical, of course, but a story of how their schools, students, parents, and communities could find authentic ways to meet the educational needs of their children. The native plant garden and outdoor classroom is just one possibility for providing an atmosphere for student-driven, inquiry-based learning. At the gelk’ali, as teachers become more comfortable embracing this resource, the natural history of Suquamish can come to life for their students. Differing cultural perspectives can be explored giving all students the opportunity to examine their own cultural roots and traditions. The scientific and artist processes can be taught –honing observation skills, exploring and asking questions, experimenting, designing solutions, researching, making measurements, learning techniques and skills, documenting results, reflecting upon them, and finding new questions!
Throughout the development of the gelk’ali, the school, tribe, and community have proven to be devoted advocates for promoting diverse cultural perspectives and approaches to education. They have diligently created a place of learning that enhances the educational opportunities for students with various learning strengths, and engages them through methods that mainstream classrooms cannot offer.
“Working with the Suquamish Tribe…planting the grasses the indigenous peoples worked with for their basket making, takes teaching to the highest level: Every time we educate our children on the rich diversity that exists in this country, we educate ourselves.” …Jay Inslee, US House of Representatives, Washington State Congressional District # 1, Letter for the Dedication of the Galk’ali 4-02
Outdoor classrooms, such as the Suquamish Basket Marsh, broaden educational opportunities for a diverse group of students. They give non-conventional teaching specialists the opportunity to use their respective art forms as vehicles for teaching science, math, social studies, language, history, and the arts. Concepts difficult to learn from books alone or while sitting inside at desks, become illuminated, when students are given opportunities to relate them to natural living systems on a daily basis.
Many caring individuals have built this special place of learning. Around the pond, the cedar trees are growing taller. As in the ancient legend of the cedar tree, each sword fern, camas bulb, huckleberry and Oregon grape plant – reflect a piece of a story of someone’s generosity. When people care about their children’s education, even a small puddle on the school grounds can become a lesson about the transformative power of a community working together.
History/Stages of Pond Development
Stage I – 2000 – Planning
Stage II – 2001 – Construction
Stage III – 2002 – Maintenance, Improvements, Service Projects
Stage IV – 2003 to Present – Maintenance, Ongoing Service Projects
Suquamish Garden Club
Kitsap County Solid Waste Department
Kitsap County Storm Water Management Department
Public Utilities Education Department
National Wildlife Federation
President’s Environmental Youth Award, 2003
Kitsap County Commissioners’ Earth Day Award, 2002, 2006
Grand Prize, Ivy Sculpture Contest, Bainbridge Gardens, 2004
Suquamish Tribe Appendix X, 2000-present
Lowe’s Toolbox For Education Grant, 2006
Gifts from many assorted local business and individuals
Traditional Native American Tribal Weavers
Natural Fiber Weaver
List of Service Projects by Classes and Pond Kids
Science Fair Projects
Building a copper water gauge for measuring water level at pond related to rainfall
Weaving a branch and vine bird blind
Earth Day Celebration assemblies
Native plant tiles with imprint and scientific, common and Lushootseed names
Native plant studies, drawings over the seasons
Cattail weaving projects
Ivy animal sculptures
Classroom Bird Feeder Watch, Cornell University
Participate in making film, Teachings of the Tree People, sponsored by IslandWood
Recycled material baskets
Contribute drawings for IslandWood field Guide: ALL MY RELATIONS.
Cedar gathering bark with Suquamish Tribal Elder
Cedar basket weaving
Mason Bee house
Bird feeders and houses
Programs with Tribal Elders
Field testing a weaving project for a book by Bruce Miller and Nan McNutt
Participation in a Nature Conservancy Education Video
Bird Observation Garden
For More Information Contact:
Ron Hirschi www.ronhirschi.com
Watch for the new book: We all Live Downstream. These are the words of Holly Cocoili, Environmental Biologist for the S’Klallam Tribe. Her words and the concept inspired a new book by that title written by Ron Hirschi, and including the Suquamish Basket Marsh, Pickerington Pond in Ohio, and Seabeck Salmon Team projects on Hood Canal, WA.
Suquamish Environmental Education Boosters, (501(c)(3) www.seeboosters.org
Jan Jackson, librarian, Gelk’ali Director : firstname.lastname@example.org
Melinda West, fiber artist, article author : email@example.com
IslandWood Environmental Learning Center www.islandwood.org
Much of the credit for this article comes from the inspiration I’ve received from reading the works of Distinguished Professor Nancy J. Turner, author of the recent books: THE EARTH’S BLANKET – TRADITIONAL TEACHINGS FOR SUSTAINABLE LIVING, and KEEP IT LIVING – TRADITIONS OF PLANT USE AND CULTIVATION ON THE NORTHWEST COAST OF NORTH AMERICA; along with Richard Louv’s book: THE LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS – SAVING OUR CHILDREN FROM NATURE-DEFICIT DISORDER.
Melinda West, of Indianola Washington has been practicing the art of natural fiber weaving since 1985. She has studied with many native and non-native weavers and artists, the foremost being Ed Carriere of the Suquamish Tribe. Melinda enjoys sharing her love of natural history, environmental stewardship, and indigenous cultures through the teachings and the practices of traditional fiber arts.
50+ Simple EE Activities Across the K-12 Curriculum
Back to the Earth
Display food items such as a boiled egg, apple, peanut butter, bread, jelly, strip of bacon, etc. Pictures can be used. Ask students to identify the food items you have on display. As the students respond, ask them to tell what their favorite food is. From answers they give, let them trace two or three through their many forms back to the soil. Example:
As a follow-up, provide each student with drawing paper and crayons. Ask them to draw a series of pictures showing each step of the cycle of a product from its soil origin to the consumer. Post representative products on bulletin board.
Read Snail Spell by Joanne Ryder. Have the students fantasize “shrinking” to the size of an insect and write a descriptive paragraph, of their experience.
Flannel Beach Life
Cut out pictures of intertidal animals from calendars or a cheap field guide. Laminate pictures and use stick-on velcro to turn them into flannel board creatures. (You can also purchase a set of flannel patterns from the Seattle Aquarium). Use the flannel board to introduce the intertidal animals. If possible, have students act out the movements of each, for example, pretend to be anemones and wave arms as tentacles during high tide, cover up tight at low tide.
Have students bring in an egg carton and empty halved egg shells from six eggs. Pierce the bottom of the egg shells and fill them with composted soil. Place the egg shells in the egg carton to keep upright. Plant various types of seeds in the egg shells. Make sure to label each student’s egg carton with their names and the types of seeds they planted. Extend the learning by creating experiments dealing with the effects of natural environmental variations such as light and water as well as “artificial” variations including the application of household hazardous wastes found in the classroom (check out areas around your sink for these products). — TGP
If there is a marina area, take the class on a tour of it. Arrange a tour of a fishing boat, and have the skipper explain all the different equipment and the variety of jobs aboard the craft.
Many cultures depend heavily on food from the sea for their sustenance. Have students survey family members and friends about the types of seafood they like to eat. This can be graphed on the chalkboard as well. Follow up survey with a visit to a local fish market or grocery to look at varieties of fish and shell fish up close.
Getting Down to Basics
List all the items below on the chalkboard. Then ask students, one at a time, to erase something that could harm the environment.
Beds, foam cups, what, war, polio shots, oil, atom bomb, pine trees, friends, sneakers, car, hairspray, vegetables, television, plastics, hamburgers, gold, food coloring, love, lawnmower, oxygen, zippers, flowers, aspirin, rockets, ice cream, water, candy bar, computers, grass, chemical fertilizers, jets, school, mosquitoes, boom boxes.
Add to this list. Have students explain their reasoning. — KT
Whale Milk Math
A newborn blue whale gains 200 lbs per day (9 lbs. per hour) by drinking up to 50 gallons of milk each day. In one day, a blue whale calf would drink the amount of milk in 800 school-sized milk cartons! Have students rinse and save milk cartons each day. Count the new ones daily and add the total to the previous day’s total until you reach 800.
How Many Legs?
Post pictures of an octopus, a seastar, a crab, and a gull. Review as a class the number of legs each animal has, and discuss the ways each animal’s legs help it to survive. Next challenge students with addition problems, such as: How many legs would there be if we had added the legs of the octopus and the gull? The seastar and the crab?
Geometric Shapes in Nature
Geometric shapes can be found in twigs, rocks, leaves, insects, and feathers. Look for cubes, cylinders, pyramids, cones, ovals, spheres, spirals, etc. have students put specimens in like piles. Variation: Human-made shapes. Triangles, squares, dcircles, rectangles, etc., can be found at school in sidewalks, buildings, clothing.
What Do You See?
Students view several pictures of beach/ocean wildlife, then choose one to study. After examining closely, each student writes a description of his/her animal. Later, teacher reads written description and class guesses which animal picture it was based on.
You and your students can listen to, discuss, learn the lyrics and sing along with international artists of world music. Johnny Clegg and Savuka, Raffi, Peter Gabriel, Midnight Oil, Sting (song composed in the video, Spaceship Earth), Julian Lennon (“Salt Water Tear”) and Paul Simon (“Boy in the Bubble”) are only a few. Kid’s Eye View of the Environment, presented by Michael Mish, is a delightful audio cassette with clever lyrics and catchy melodies that will make everyone want to sing and dance. — TPE
Give each child a small piece of paper with one or more adjectives that describe something in nature (e.g., smooth, slimy, triangular, expanded, cool, soft and green, round and gooey). Have students explore a natural area to find items that meet these descriptions. Let students take turns sharing what they found. —JOD
Be a Tree
Have students identify characteristics of trees. Visit trees in a back yard, in an orchard, in a park, or in the school year.
Have the students do tree dramatizations, using their arms as the branches and their legs as the trunk. How does the tree look during a storm? How does a fruit tree look in the spring? How does a young tree look in comparison with an old tree? What would happen to change the tree in different kinds of weather or during the different seasons?
After feeling what it might be like to be a tree, have the students paint pictures of them. — EGO
Make a Refracting Telescope
Use two small convext lenses, a toilet paper tube, cardboard, rubber cember, and paper.
1. Find the focal length of one of the lenses.
2. Cut a lens-size hole in the cardboard
3. Glue the lens over the hole.
4. Trace around the toilet paper tube with a pencil over the spot in the cardboard where the lens is located.
5. Cut on this line, and glue the cardboard-mounted lens in the end of the tube.
6. Wrap a sheet of paper around the tube.
7. Tape it in place.
8. Mount the other lens in the end of the paper tube.
9. Slide the tubes back and forth.
Collect natural materials, or have students collect them. Suspend them with string under a crossbar of two sticks. Driftwood, acorns, and pine cones are among materials that are effectively used. Hang these in the classroom to brighten the scenery.
Growing plants in crowded and uncrowded situations will show the effects of overpopulation. Fill milk cartons about three-fourths full of soil. Plant several cartons with seeds — some with two or three seeds, several cartons with a small handful and several cartons with a large handful. Varying the amounts of seed in the different cartons creates different conditions under which the plants will grow. After the seeds have become seedlings, measure and record their heights on a piece of paper and draw a line graph on graph paper to represent each group of seedlings. Evaluate the plants’ growth periods in terms of the number of plants under the different conditions. —CTE
Living in the Schoolyard
Teacher begins activity by drawing an outline of the classroom on the blackboard. Develop a key to one side of the outline to be used to represent the plants, animals and special features which exist in the classroom. “Let’s see if we can make a map of all the living things in our classroom. Does anyone see a plant? Skippy, will you come up and mark the plants on our map for us?
Then provide a map of the schoolyard for groups of students (or for individual students depending on skills at map making). Take children outside and let them map all the living things that they see. Remind them that they have to look hard to see some of the things that are there.
After students have completed their maps, gather them together for discussion about the roles of the living things they found.
Discuss as a group the items a city has and make a list. Suggestions include people, factories, subways, cemetery, apartments, treffic, plumbing, stores, garbage collectors, streets, etc.
Divide the group into smaller ones of 3 to 4 each. Send each group out in a forest or wooded area and have them try and identify the natural item that corresponds to the ones on the list. —ECO
Pick a Package, Any Package
Visit a supermarket and find the following products: cereal, laundry soap, milk, fruit juice, vegetables, soup, cake mixes, spices, candy, and toothpaste. In what different kinds of packages can they be bought? Are they available in the bulk food section? Why are products available in so many different packages? Which packages have the least amount of throw-away packaging? Which packages cost the least for each product? Which one does your family usually buy? Back in class, make a wall chart. Can some of the packages be reduced or avoided, reused or recycled? Circle in green all the reusable items, in yellow all the recyclable items, and in red all the disposables. -NTW
Non-Pointing the Finger
Take a walking tour of the neighborhood. List possible examples of non-point source pollution, both natural and human-caused. Back in the classroom, compile a class list to see how many sources were pin- “pointed.” Use magazine or newspaper pictures to make an informational display of possible sources of non-point water pollution. — FSS
Water, Water Everywhere…NOT!
Point out that last year water was rationed in parts of California. It was shut off altogether in parts of Rhode Island when a leaking gas station tank polluted it. Our carelessness can hurt the water supply. Also, it is important not to waste water if we want to be sure of having enough for our needs. Have students name some ways each of us can help protect our water supply. (Ideas include using less water, not running water needlessly, not littering near bodies of water. Also some environmentalists suggest eating less meat to save water. A vegetarian diet requires much less water in its production than is used in the raising of cattle, for example.) —KT
Milk Carton Madness
In an attempt to determine how much potential space milk cartons take up in a landfill, students measure and calculate the volume of one milk carton. Students also determine the volume of their classroom. Using the milk carton volume figures, have the students determine how many cartons it would take to fill up their classroom. Then determine how many milk cartons are generated by the entire school in one day. Determine how long it would take to fill up their classroom. Extend these computations to a volume the size of the school. Follow this by discussing the importance of diversion of materials from the landfill and by exploring the feasibility of milk carton recycling at your school. — TGP
Shoot the Moon
Knowing that the moon returns to a given position every 29 1/2 days, have students figure out the dates that will have full moons for the coming calendar year. From this they can make their own calendars and check up on themselves. —JOD
Get Your Story Straight!
Invent or find a story that conveys an environmental message you wish to have your students think about. Divide the story into individual events that have ideas or words that allow the student to sequence them in a particular order.
As a group, or individually, have the students read the passages. Have the students number the passages so that the story can be read in the correct order.
Read the story aloud in the correct sequential order.
Use discussion and questioning to strengthen the story’s message. —IEEIC
How important is water to our society? Just think how many different words we have to express it. Have students brainstorm words that mean water or a form of water (e.g., splash, drip, etc.) while the teacher lists them on a large sheet of butcher paper. Can your class reach one hundred? Save the list and use it later for creative writing activities.
Wetlands Animal Masks
Students can create paper mache masks of their favorite wetlands creatures. Creative dramatics can be developed by students using their masks to play a role in a wetlands drama.
Students will need old newspapers, wallpaper paste or liquid starch, water, tempera or acrylic paint, round balloons, and scissors.
Choose a wetlands animal. Tear the newspaper into narrow strips. Blow up the balloon. Mix the wallpaper paste. Use one part wallpaper paste and 10 parts water or straight liquid starch.
Dip the strips of newspaper into the wallpaper and water mixture. Lay the paper over the balloon. Apply two layers to what will be the front of your mask. Let it dry completely.
Repeat procedure, building up the areas that will be noses, beaks, ears, etc. Let it dry completely.
Repeat the procedure, applying one last coat of paper over the entire mask. Let it dry completely.
Put the mask over your face. Feel where your eyes are. Have a friend mark the eye gently with a crayon or marker. Remove the mask and cut eyeholes. Put the mask over your face and check the eyeholes; remove it and make any corrections.
Cut a mouth hole.
Paint the mask and let it dry.
Water Drop Necklaces
Give each student a sheet of paper onto which a large water drop has already been drawn on both sides. On one side of the paper, printed inside the water drop are the words, “I’M TOXIC, DON’T FLUSH ME.” On the reverse side of the paper, inside the water drop are written the words, “WATER IS PRECIOUS, AS PRECIOUS AS…” Instruct students to draw one or several toxic items that should not be flushed down the toilet (e.g., paint, oil, chemicals) inside the water drop on the “toxic” side of the paper. On the other side instruct them to draw pictures of one or more persons or items that are precious to them (e.g., grandma, grandpa, a pet, a bicycle).
Once the drawings are completed, have the students cut out the water drop, then punch a hold near the top of the drop using a paper punch and finally thread a string of yarn through the hole to create a necklace. The necklace has a positive “precious” side and a negative “toxic” side depicted by the students’ drawings. — CON
Torn Paper Art
To help the students understand the fibrous make up of paper, tear a scrap of paper and hold one of the torn edges up to the light. Along that edge will appear a slight fuzz. Here and there tiny strands will project separately, like fine hairs. These strands are cellulose fibers.
Discuss with the children all the different materials from which fibers can be harvested to make paper. Show them fibers from a small piece of cloth to illustrate the point.
Using scraps of construction paper, tear and glue different colors to represent the forest and creatures who depend on the forest for survival. Display these pictures throughout the school to heighten awareness of the need to conserve and protect natural resources. – CON
Use artistic talents to create blocks symbolizing rainforest creatures. Build a pyramid, putting the prey species such as insects at the bottom – building up until the top predators like the jaguar and harpy eagle are at the top. Show what happens when prey species are taken away – such as if insects are killed by pesticides, or small rodents are killed as pests. The same activity can be done for temperate forests of the Northwest as well, or any other particular ecosystem. —RC
Adopt a Part of Nature
Adopt part of a stream, creek, river, lake or ocean. Clean up the beaches or shores and spend time there as a class enjoying these special places.
After introducing the class to common shorebirds and the field marks used to identify them, take your class to a beach. Shorebirds are visible year round, especially as the tide goes out. Students should try to identify special adaptations the birds have and predict the type of food they are seeking.
How Did They Do It?
Have students investigate the lifestyles of Native Americans on the prairie or along the coasts or in your local area. How were their needs met by these different environments?
Nature’s Tool Box
Pass out to individuals or small groups of students an assortment of simple tools: paper clips, sewing needle, letter opener, hair brush, straight pin, comb, and so on. Have students examine the tools carefully and decide what kinds of natural objects could be used or modified to make them. After students hike through an outdoor setting and collect materials, have them use the materials to make specific tools. —EGO
Design a travel log to show the travelling you do for two weeks. Include the date, where you went, how you travelled, who went with you, how long it took and how many kilometres you travelled round trip. After two weeks, add up how many trips you took by car, transit, bicycle, foot, taxi or other modes. How many kilometres did you travel all together? Which transportation mode is the fastest? The cheapest? Which is you preferred transportation mode for each type of trip? Why?
Now analyze your information and make suggestions as to how you could have reduced the number of trips you made. How many times could you have used transportation other than a car? Compare your results with those of your friends. —LCA
Calculating Growth Rates
In 1990 the U.S. population was 248.71 million, in 1980 it was 226.54 million. If you need to determine the annual growth rate and doubline time from this information, use the following equation:
growth rate = (100÷number of years) x In (pop. 1990 ÷ pop. 1980)
To calculate natural log (In), you will need a calculator with an “In” key, which are available for under $20. The following is the series of keystrokes required to work out this example:
KEY DISPLAY READS
divided by 248.71
divided by 9.336603
Because of the uncertainty in the data, we will round this number up to 0.934. You now know that population in the U.S. increased between 1980 and 1990 at an average annual growth rate of 0.934 percent per year. Using the equation to determine doubling times (70 divided by the rate of growth), you can also figure out that the U.S. population at that continued growth rate will double in approximately 74 years. We cannot however, assume that the rate of growth will remain constant. The Immigration Law of 1990 for example, which increased immigration rates by 40%, will proportionately raise the U.S. population growth rate and thereby decrease the time it takes for our country to double its population. -CCN
Graph the Tide
Purchase a tide table wherever fishing supplies are sold. Enlarge and photocopy each month’s chart on a separate page. Make enough copies so that each student will have one month to chart on graph paper. Post the papers in a line along the wall to see the rise and fall of the tide for the year. Teacher may want to designate a place on the paper for the base point (0.0).
Here is a thought-provoking idea: Collect photographs, illustrations and/or paintings from magazines — some that graphically portray a healthy, balanced environment and others that depict a damaged, unhealthy Earth. Hang these on opposite walls in the classroom to stimulate discussion and inspire writing. How does each set of images make students feel? Encourage them to think about how the healthy can be changed into the damaged and how they can help to change the damaged back into the healthy. As students learn about environmental problems and the solutions, they may go to the appropriate sides of the room to record their thoughts and ideas in two separate notebooks. For example, if a student is studying about an extinct animal, that student may record his/her concerns in a notebook located next to the unhealthy Earth artwork. If he/she knows of possible solutions and actions that can be done to help, they may be recorded on the other side of the room next to the healthy Earth artwork. Eventually, your class will have two useful notebooks filled with concerns and solutions to many environmental problems. Prioritize these and use your computer to record the top ten items that can be posted in the room for reference and distributed to family members. – TPE
What’s the Idea?
Encourage students to be on the lookout for environmental articles in their magazine. Once they begin coming in, select one and duplicate as many as needed.
Distribute copies to students.
Instruct the students to read the selection very carefully. On a clean sheet of paper, or index card, they are to write the following:
• the main idea
• the problem
• a solution
• their personal opinion
• a summary (approximately eight sentences)
On the back they are to compose and write three quality questions with answers regarding the selection; one true-false, one multiple choice, and one fill-in-the-blank.
Collect papers and compose a comprehension quiz to distribute the next day, or perhaps create a game with which to exercise learned facts. — IEEIC
Students can write a paper that expresses their feelings about going to outdoor schooll. By knowing their anxieties, fears, and excitement, you may be able to better understand their individual needs. It is always fun for students to reread their own papers upon returning home. —JOD
Touch of Color
While visiting a wooded area, pass out paper to the class and have each student, using natural materials (soil, berries, flowers, leaves, moss), draw a picture of the forest setting. Give the class an opportunity to display their work and describe their feelings about the surroundings. Encourage the students to discuss what materials were used to add color. —EGO
For one game, divide the group into teams, with no more than 10 persons on a team. How write a column of numbers one to 10 in three widely separated places in the room. Each team has a pice of chalk or marking device.
At a signal, the first person on each team dashes to the column of numbers and writes the name of a plant or an animal opposite the number “1”. Then he dashes back and gives the marker to the second person on his team. This person goes to the column and writes the name of something that eats what is written in number “1”. The marker is then passed to the third person, and so on down the line.
If a player writest down an incorrect name, it can be erased only by the next player, who loses his turn to write a name. Winners are determined by the most correct food-chain connections identified by a group.
Once a group has developed some skill at playing, try limiting the habitat to that of the forest, a brook, a marsh, a pond, the ocean, or some biome or community.
Working with a partner, students research symbiotic relationships amongst intertidal and ocean organisms and choose one to report on. One example would be the anemone and the clownfish.
Assign one water-dwelling animal to each student or team. Students then must design (on paper) an artificial habitat which would suite the living requirements of the animal. To do so, they must investigate and establish the characteristics of the animal’s natural habitat, including food, water, shelter, space, climate, etc. This assignment could be followed by creating models of artificial habitats.
Create a large mural on butcher paper of a natural area complete with wildlife, trees, mountains, rivers, etc. but no human development. After completing the mural, brainstorm a list of things that would happen if a much needed energy source (e.g., coal, oil, uranium, water) was discovered in that area. Draw pictures of these activities and facilities and place them in appropriate places on the mural. Discuss the positive and negative impacts the “new development” will have on the environment and wildlife, and create a list of these effects. Now, re-develop the energy source and see if you can come up with ways that the development can have less impact on the environment and still get the energy needed, at an affordable cost.
To begin this activity, tell your class they are going to try an experiment dealing with classroom arrangements. Don’t mention the idea of overpopulation or limited resources. These concepts will surface as the outcome of the activity.
Select an area of the classroom to be used in this overpopulation experiment. an area approximately 10’x10’ should be marked with masking tape on the floor and two desks should be placed inside the area. Also provide a “Resources Box” with 4 pencils, 2 pens, 6 sheets of paper and 1 pair of scissors.
Select two volunteers to work in the square. They should take with them only the books they will need. One half hour later, select two more students to work in the square and add their desks to the other two. (Make sure to remove all “resource” from the desks first).
Continue to add students to the area in shorter intervals of time similar to the way population grows rapidly. When the area can no longer hold additional desks, add students and have them share desks. Make sure the tasks the children are involved in will require the use of resources in the “Resources Box.”
When the limited resources and overcrowded conditions lead to bedlam, bring the class together for discussion. How is this like the real world? What “resources” are in short supply? —LLC
Plan an Environmental Careers Day. Research various careers associated with the environment and invite people in to speak about their jobs. Try to get a variety of speakers to reflect the diversity of careers and educational requirements. Prepare an outline for the speakers to they will address the questions you are most interested in.
Both Sides Now
A forest management specialist, touring a watershed area, notes that in one part of the forest many diseased trees have fallen and are covering the ground. This is a serious fire hazard for the forest. The specialist recommends logging this area and replanting with young, healthy seedlings. A concerned citizen’s group protests the logging, saying that clearcutting the area will erode the soil, which will make our drinking water unclean.
Your group has been asked to list the pros and cons of logging that area of the watershed. Consider the environmental, economic and social arguments. Can you find a compromise to the problem? How do personal opinions affect your decision? —FSS
Students collect litter in an outdoor setting — school parking lot, playground, camp, or business district. Then each student selects a piece of trash – soda can, chewing gum wrapper, potato chip bag —and makes a life line of the litter, from the origin of its natural materials to its present state. — TGP
Types of soils differ in the amount of water they can hold. Collect a standard amount of each of five or six soil types. Place each soil sample in a sieve held above a container. Pour a measured amount of water onto the soil and measure how much is collected after 30 seconds, one minute, 10 minutes. The amount of water the soil can hold is total added, minus that which drained out at the bottom.
From the data obtained, determine which of the soils can hold the most or the least water. On what properties of the soil does this depend? Which soils would erode most easily? Which would be best for plant growth? —ECO
Food Chain Figuring
Use the following information to create math problems. A medium-sized whale needs four hundred billion diatoms to sustain it for a few hours! The whale eats a ton of herring, about 5,000 of them. Each herring may have about 6,500 small crustaceans in its stomach, and each crustacean may contain 130,000 diatoms…
Invite the participants to imagine that they have landed on Earth from another planet. The planet they come from only has minerals and air. They had received word that a substance had been found on Earth that could move or hold its shape. They are here to see if the report is true and discover for themselves what this “water” is like. They are equipped with finely tuned instruments for sound, feel, sight, smell, and taste. They are to split into two search parties, one going to the pond area, one to the stream. They have 15 minute to gather sounds, smells, signs of animal and plant life, observe water clarity, etc. The groups then discuss and compare the two water sightings and make speculations about the role of water on this green planet. Have students write an essay on their exploration of this strange planet and the miracle substance “water.” —JOD
Have students write an imaginary story using one of the following titles: a) The Life of a Pencil; b)An Autobiography of a Tree from Seed to Lumber.
Legends of the Sea
Many cultures have legends about the way the ocean and its life forms were created. Read some of these to the class, then encourage them to create their own legends about how somethings came to be. It would be helpful to have some pictures of marine life forms for the students to view. Some ideas: How the Eel Became Electric; Why Octopi Have Only Eight Arms; Before Whales could Swim; How the Hermit Crab Lost His Shell.
Students begin by brainstorming a list of all the ways they are dependent on the Earth. From that list should come some ideas for presenting that information to others. They may decide to have teams of students work on representing different items on the list. They may want to expres their relationship to the land written in story format, in poetry, verbally on tape, through photographs, drawings, paintings, or soft sculpture. They should come up with a theme uch as Native American philosophy, or a celebration of life-giving qualities of the Earth, or getting involved with conservation, and work from there. Ask for volunteers to write letters to local organizations requesting space to set up their display for others to view.
Encourage your students to express their feelings about our responsibility to live in harmony with the land. Is it our responsibility? Can the actions of one person make a difference? What kinds of actions does living in harmony with the Earth require? —LLC
Visit a natural history museum. Or, have students look through books with photographs of paintings depicting the environment. They may analyze, discuss, compare, contrast art works and give critiques. Pupils may be inspired to write poems or stories about ideas generated from the special works and they may then create their own works of art.
Sources of activities:
CCN — Carrying Capacity Network Clearinghouse Bulletin, June 1992.
KT — Kind Teacher, Natl. Association for Humane and Environmental Education
IEEIC — Inegrating Environmental Education Into the Curriculum… Painlessly. National Educational Service, 1992.
RC — Rainforest Conservation, Rainforest Awareness Info. Network, 1992.
ECO — Eco-Acts: A Manual of Ecological Activities, Phyllis Ford, ed.
JOD — Just Open the Door, by Rich Gerston, Interstate Printers and Publishers, 1983.
LLC — Living Lightly in the City, Schlitz Audubon Center, 1984.
EGO- Education Goes Outdoors, Addison-Wesley 1986.
CON – Connections: Life Cycle Kinesthetic Learning. The Energy Office, Grand Junction, CO 1993.
CTE – Consider the Earth by Julie M. Gates, Teacher Ideas Press, 1989.
FSS – From Source to Sea, Greater Vancouver Regional District 1993.
GGC – Growing Greener Cities and Environmental Education Guide
American Forests, Washington DC 1992
LCA – Let’s Clean the Air, Greater Vancouver Regional District 1993.
NTW – No Time to Waste, Greater Vancouver Regional District 1993.
TPE – The Private Eye, Kerry Ruef, The Private Eye Project, Seattle, 1992.
Phenology Wheels: Earth Observation Where You Live
By Anne Forbes, Partners in Place, LLC
This article originally appeared in Earthzine – http://earthzine.org/
aking a habit of Earth observation where you live is a fun and fundamental way to practice Earth stewardship. It is often our own observations close to home that keep us inspired to learn more and allow us to remain steady advocates for solutions to today’s daunting problems. Earth observation done whole-heartedly becomes skilled Earth awareness that leads to profound relationships with the plants, animals, and seasonal cycles surrounding us in real time, whether we live in the city, suburbs, or countryside.
Courtesy Anne Forbes.
One way to track Earth observations is an activity called Phenology Wheels, suitable for individuals, families, classrooms, youth programs, and workshops for people of all ages. Phenology is a term that refers to the observation of the life cycles and habits of plants and animals as they respond to the seasons, weather, and climate. A Phenology Wheel is a circular journal or calendar that encourages a routine of Earth observation where you live. Single observations of what is happening in the lives of plants and animals made over time begin to tell a compelling story – your story – about the place on our living planet that you call home.
Why a circle? We usually think of the passing of time as linear, with one event following another in sequence by day, by month, by year. Placing the same events in a circular journal, or wheel shape, helps us discover new patterns (or rediscover known ones). We can use the Phenology Wheel to communicate about what is really important or interesting to us.
Here’s the General Idea
A Phenology Wheel is made up of three rings in a circle, like a target. To become a Wheel-keeper, you select a home place, such as a garden, a “sit spot,” schoolyard, watershed, or landscape that will be represented by a map or image in the center ring, the bull’s eye. Next, you mark units of time – such as the months and seasons of a year, hours of a day, or phases of a lunar month – around the outside ring, like the numbers on the face of a clock. Then, as you make specific observations of what is going on in the lives of plants and animals and the flow of seasons, you record them within the middle ring using words, phrases, images, or a combination.
Here’s How To Get Started
Because the wheel is round, you can begin a Phenology Wheel for Earth observation at any time of year.
Although you can pick among different time scales for the outer ring, let’s begin here with a year of seasons and months.
Courtesy Anne Forbes.
1. Draw a set of nested circles on a large piece of paper. You can do this by tracing around large plates or pizza pans, by using an artist’s compass or by making your own compass out of a pencil, pin, and string. You may also purchase a kit of print Wheels or a set of digital PDF Wheels online.
2. If you are making your own Wheel, write the names of the seasons and months on the outer rings.
3. Select an image for the center to represent the place or theme you have selected and to anchor your practice of observation in time and space.
Maps for the Center: If you choose a map, will it be geographically accurate or symbolic? Will it be traced or cut and pasted from an existing map, or will it be a map of your own creation?
Tip: Use a web-based mapping system such as Google Maps to print a map and use it to trace selected features as a base map for your Wheel.
A Centering Image: If you choose an image other than a map, will you create your own image or use one that you find already in print material? Will you use a photo, make a collage, or choose a found object, like a leaf or feather?
Tip: Children often enjoy a picture of themselves at their “sit spot” or other place they have chosen to track their observations.
4. Establish a Routine: Observe → Investigate and Reflect → Record
OBSERVE: What do I notice in this moment? What is extraordinary about seemingly ordinary things? What surprises me as unexpected or dramatic?
INVESTIGATE: What more do I want to know about what I observe? What questions will I seek to answer through my own continued observation? What information will I search for in books or from mentors or websites?
REFLECT: What does my observation mean to me? How is it changing me? How does it help me explore my values and beliefs?
RECORD: A routine of frequent observation provides the raw material to transform your blank Wheel into a circular journal as you record images, symbols, or words as you observe the passing of the seasons in your home place.
Tip: An interactive diagram of this process can be found under the Observe & Record tab here.
5. Share and Celebrate: Use your Wheel to report or tell stories about what you learn from and value about Earth observation in your home place.
Like a wheel on a cart, time turns around the hub of your home place;
the metaphor is a journey taken through a day, a month, a year,
or a lifetime of curiosity and appreciation.
Of course, you don’t have to keep a journal to explore and appreciate your home place on earth and the home place in your heart. What are the dimensions of your home place in this moment? What marks of time’s passing do you observe? The more playful you are with these questions, the more you may feel a part of your home place and committed to co-creating its well-being with others in your community.
Courtesy The Yahara Watershed Journal.
Example #1: The Yahara Watershed Wheel
About twelve years ago, a group of like-minded friends gathered by my fireside to reflect upon what it means to live in this place we call home in Dane County, Wisconsin, USA. We chose to think of the Yahara Watershed as our common home place, and the series of seasonal events that occur in a typical year as the time scale to track. We put a map of the watershed in the center of a large Wheel of the Year, with units of time going around the outside rim, much like a clock, but using seasons and months instead of hours. We then went around our own circle, each speaking of the defining moments in the natural world and in the lives of people enjoying it throughout the months of a typical year. The artist among us sketched the images onto the Yahara Watershed Wheel that you see here. The detail in the enlarged image represents the unique happenings in March and April: pasque flowers in bloom, the return of redwing blackbirds and sandhill cranes, woodcock mating dances, first dandelions, and spring peepers in chorus.
Courtesy Anne Forbes.
Example #2: Poems of Place
In reporting on this Wheel filled with seasonal poems by 4th and 5th graders about the large school woods, just outside an elementary school “backdoor” in Cambridge, Wisconsin, teacher Georgia Gomez-Ibanez writes, “Because the woods is so accessible, the children spend quite a lot of time there developing a deep sense of place, including keen observational skills and a heightened imagination, all enhanced by the affection they have gained by years of exploring, learning and stewardship.” This selection of student poems illustrates how Phenology Wheels can be used to enhance language arts as well as science curriculum.
Example #3: Local Biodiversity
In another example from Cambridge Elementary School in Wisconsin, teacher Georgia Gomez-Ibanez reports that a classroom studied the biodiversity of the area where they live. Each student picked a different animal or plant from their adjacent woods or prairie for the center of an 11-inch Wheel and then did research to tell the full story of the life cycle in words. The example here shows the work of one student who studied the Jack-in-the-Pulpit wildflower.
The next step would be for the students to combine their information for single species onto one large 32-inch Wheel and use it to explore the dynamics of the ecosystem that appear through food webs, habitat use, seed dispersal mechanisms, and so on.
Frequently Asked Questions
Courtesy Anne Forbes.
1. Where do I get more information?
If you are ready to start a Phenology Wheel for yourself, family, classroom or youth program, or any other interest group:
• Visit the Wheels of Time and Place website for instructions, resources, and a gallery of examples.
• Download a curriculum for youth developed in partnership with Georgia Gomez-Ibanez, an elementary school teacher, and Cheryl Bauer-Armstrong, Earth Partnership for Schools, UW-Madison Arboretum.
2. Where do I order pre-made Wheels?
Order the blank Wheel templates as a digital download of PDF files or as a complete toolkit, Wheels of Time and Place: Journals for the Cycles and Seasons of Life. The latter includes a set of print Wheels in 11-inch and 24-inch sizes, a code to download the PDF files, and an instruction booklet – all in a recycled chipboard carrying case.
3. What size should my Wheels be?
Some people prefer 11-inch Wheels because they are compact, portable, and can be easily duplicated in a copy machine on 11 x 17-inch paper. You can trim them down to 11-inch square if you would like.
When people share the 24-inch Wheels, their faces often light up with excitement. This size, or larger, works well if you have a large clip board or a place to keep it posted for frequent use or when people are working on one Wheel in a group.
Of course, if you make your Wheels by hand, you can make them any size you like. If you purchase the PDF files, you can enlarge them up to 32-36 inches at a copy or blueprint shop.
4. What if I’m already a journal-keeper?
Some people who already keep a written journal use the Wheels to review their journals periodically and pull out observations to further explore and put on a Wheel. It’s amazing what patterns and stories can emerge.
5. Can the Wheels be created from databases?
Frank Nelson of the Missouri Department of Conservation has used wheels called Ring Maps, A Useful Way to Visualize Temporal Data to show trends and reveal patterns in a complex set of data.
Anne Forbes of Partners in Place, LLC is an ecologist who seeks to integrate her scientific and spiritual ways of knowing. For over 35 years, she worked on biodiversity policy as a natural resource manager and supported environmental and community collaborations as a facilitator and consultant. Her years of spiritual practice in varied traditions, most recently the Bon Buddhist tradition of Tibet, inspire her commitment to engaged action on behalf of present and future generations. She failed her first attempt at retirement and instead created the Wheels of Time and Place: Journals for the Cycles and Seasons of Life.
Teaching Stewardship Through Native Legend
Abstract: This article provides the reader with a general background of Alaska Native education and resource conservation, focusing on southeast Alaska cultures. European contact severed these education models by creating government schools. Since then Alaska Natives have worked to balance Native culture with western education. A synopsis of several legends which speak to natural resource conservation is presented with the conservation ethic discussed. The use of these types of legends in the classroom is encouraged as a means of bringing Native values and lessons into the classroom as one means of making education relevant to Native students. The lesson from this discussion can be applied to other indigenous groups.
by Dolly Garza
To address environmental stewardship and education among Alaska Natives it is necessary to start with a brief review of Native cultures and educational systems.
Alaska Natives have lived along this northern coast for thousands of years. Groups developed cultures that revolved around local resources. The Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshian, Eyak, Supiak, Alutiiq, Yupik, Siberian Yupik, Inupiat, and the Athabascan learned how to use surrounding resources for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, regalia, and the arts.
Careful observation of animals, plants and weather over the seasons provided the knowledge base to know when to gather, or when to move. This accumulation of knowledge was necessary to the survival of the community; therefore, it was necessary to pass the knowledge from generation to generation. Knowledge was transferred through oration, observation, and action. Written instructions were generally unknown.
In southeast Alaska, among the Haida, Tlingit, and Tsimshian, children did not learn from their parents. It was generally understood that parents loved the children too much and would spoil them. It was the job of the aunties and uncles of the clan to teach the children important knowledge and skills.
Southeast Culture and Stewardship
Much of Southeast Alaska where I come from was owned or occupied by the Tlingit and Haida. Tlingit historians will tell you that many areas and the associated resources were part of a clan’s property. Their territory included permanent village sites. However a clan’s use,
territorial rights, and stewardship extended beyond these typical areas to seaweed picking areas, berry picking areas, and into the rivers and ocean with herring egg gathering sites, salmon streams, seal hunting rookeries, and halibut fishing grounds.
Anthropologist and early explorers documented many types of conservation techniques and practices. Legends such as Moldy Salmon or Herring Rock were lessons which Elders told to teach youngsters to respect and properly use salmon, herring, and other resources. Clan leaders would decide when fishing would begin and end, and determine other resource harvesting methods. Clan members understood their obligation to follow these rules and rituals. European Contact
In 1876 Alaska were purchased by the United States from Russian, an action which was protested by the Tlingit Nation in Sheetka or Sitka, Alaska. The Russian had a stronghold to very limited sites in the Sitka, Kodiak, and Aleutians areas.
The early traders brought beads, bullets, alcohol, and diseased blankets. In addition, early traders were sick from months on ships with poor water and nutrition. They passed along their sicknesses which were new, and tragic, to Native populations.
The ravages of diseases in the 1800’s have had one of the largest impacts on Alaska Native cultures. Indigenous populations were reduced to less then 1⁄2 the estimated pre-contact populations. In some areas entire villages died from small pox or influenza. Much knowledge was lost with the death of each Elder, hunter, or mother.
Gold miners, fishing companies, and pioneers followed. The military, preachers, and teachers accompanied these early arrivers. The military came to protect the white people, the Christians to convert, and the teachers to civilize the Native.
The Native peoples generally were moved from their traditional sites to designated communities where religion and education could be taught. In many areas the traditional clan structure of government was abandoned. The new education and religion systems were embraced in fear of the ravages of disease. Natives believed they would better survive under this new system, since their old plant medicines and ceremonies did not save them from new diseases.
Early Education Systems
After being taken away and educated at government schools, many Natives made it back home and were expected to live a new life. They tried to be religious and teach their children English and new cultural ways. This assimilation process was only partially successful. Many such as my grandmother Elizabeth were forced to stop speaking Haida to her children. She was devoted to her church. Her children were sent to boarding school and came home years later.
When children were sent off to school parents had no control over what they did, what they wore, what they were taught, or what they were led to believe. This generation, my mothers, came home and began their own lives. They sent their children to school and believed that this is what should be done. “Send your children to school and expect the system to do everything”. Many in my mother’s age believed they had no right to interfere with their children’s education; and for the most part this was true at the time.
Many of the “educated” from my mother’s generation came home and believed that their parents lived backward lives; or if they tried to live this new life they found their were no jobs, and no money to buy all these new commodities. Many put this education aside and went back to living the old way: hunting, fishing, putting up food, living in old ramshackle houses, some with no running water, or sewer.
Current Educational Efforts
In some senses Native people have come full circle. Part out of necessity, and a great part out of love for our culture and land, we continue to live simple lifestyles. Alaska Natives are working to balance Native culture and mainstream education.
However there is still the early education mantra that prevails among the conscious or subconscious of our Elders and thus our community: “Native people must be civilized and cleansed of their former ways”, “Western education is better”.
Today many Alaska Natives still believe that the western education is better. They see education as severed from their daily life and do not feel that they can add to this educational process. Children come to school still thinking their home life, and cultural dance or stories, are archaic and not important. This leads to poor self-esteem and often, an aversion to Native ways. It is important to help Native students understand the value of cultures.
Recent efforts such as those of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative, funded by the NSF, promotes incorporating Native science, knowledge, and education skills into the classroom as a means of making the science relevant to local areas and helping students understand the value of parental knowledge and their culture. One part of this broad educational effort focused on Native stories or legends that were taught to children. While these stories are entertaining their main purpose has been to teach respect.
Native Legends as Teaching Tools
As an example of ritual, in some areas salmon would be harvested only after the first salmon went upstream and were properly honored through dance and ceremony. It was told that this was done so that the spirit of the salmon would return to its brothers and sisters and report that these were good people and that the salmon should give themselves to these people.
Someone would notice the first salmon coming up stream and alert the community. Eagle down was gathered, regalia donned, and people commenced to the river. Songs were sung, and words were spoken to the salmon. Respect was shown. After this, fishing could take place at the chief’s orders. In the time it took to set up these ceremonies, hoards of salmon went up the river. Today we refer to this as escapement; the necessary brood-stock to ensure continued survival of the salmon. Without the eagle down, this is a standard fishery management practice.
In the Moldy Salmon story a young boy is taken to live with the salmon people after he disrespects salmon. Upon his return to his people he educates them on how important it is to eat all of the salmon and to respect salmon.
In the herring rock story a man is turned into a stone after he disobeys the clan leaders rule to not fish for herring after nightfall. The rest of the community understands the consequences of fishing after nightfall as they pass by this rock everyday. The rock was known to recent time in the Sitka area until it was covered during a construction project. Herring biologists know that herring school up and rise to the surface at night. During this time they are very susceptible to over harvest. A “legend” as it is now called served as a regulation.
As we teach environmental ethics to our young it is well worth using Native or other indigenous folklore to highlight traditional means of conservation. It is important to keep Native children in the folds of education and help non-Natives to understand that Natives were not savages, but lived in balance with their environment.
But as we use legends we must remember to respect tribal and clan property rights. I have not written any legend in full nor do we have permission to commercialize these legends for
profit. However the use of these legends as an educational tool is welcomed by most Elders and tribes.
Dolores “Dolly” Garza is a full-time Professor for the University of Alaska Marine Advisory Program. She has worked in Kotzebue and Sitka and now works in Ketchikan as a Marine Advisory agent, interfacing European science with Alaska’s marine resource users in the areas of subsistence management, marine mammal management and marine safety. This article reprinted from proceedings of the 2006 North American Association for Environmental Education annual conference in Anchorage, Alaska.