Academic journal article Science and Children

Methods and Strategies: Greenteam: A Community Collaboration Celebrates Environmental Science

Academic journal article Science and Children

Methods and Strategies: Greenteam: A Community Collaboration Celebrates Environmental Science

Article excerpt

"It's a good thing to learn more about nature in order to share this knowledge with children; it's even better if the adult and child learn about nature together. And it's a lot more fun."

-- Richard Louv

When teachers, parents, and community members work together, children benefit (Henderson and Mapp 2002). This is especially true when the collaboration is coordinated and focused, as it was for the Greenteam, a science ecology club and an event created by a network of educators, elementary students, and science professionals. The club and a coordinated, daylong outdoor science event made science personal and relevant to students, brought working field science to life through real-world connections, and engaged science professionals in the education of elementary-age kids. This event highlighted the power of an outdoor science activity to create excitement about environmental education as well as offer students the opportunity to take the lead in peer teaching. This event can take place at any temperate time of year, but summer provides the perfect time to start planning a similar event for your school.

Why and How

Family science nights show success in communicating science to children and families (Ogens and Padilla 2012). The idea of the Greenteam grew from long conversations between a professor of science education and the elementary school's science specialist. The science club became a stand-alone group connected to the school's science curriculum. However, both educators wanted to translate the family science model to environmental education. Richard Louv's paradigm-changing book Last Child in the Woods (2005) kindled their desire to get students out of the classroom for active learning about the natural environment. Moreover, both educators knew real-world experiences create interest and cement memories (Stolpe and Bjorklund 2012). Therefore, planning began for a science night-type of event pulling together the student club members and other educators. The initial funding for the environmental education concept was a GreenWorks grant awarded by Project Learning Tree. The grant provided funds for science field supplies such as backpacks, notebooks, pencils, highlighters, index cards, nets, sample jars, and lenses. Matching funds for transportation and admission to a local park for the Environmental Education Field Day (EEFD) event came from the school's parent/teacher association. The park director offered discounted ticket prices for the teachers and the students.

What set this grant apart was the idea that the club members would have a science field day themselves, and in turn, would lead the experience for younger students, thereby solidifying their nascent leadership and teaching skills.

Recruitment and Training

Announcements went out in all fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade science classes. Students applied to be in the ecology club by writing an essay addressing why they wanted to be Greenteam club members (see NSTA Connection). While an interest in nature or nature experiences was the most important membership criteria, the club's advisors made a concerted effort to have a diverse membership. We selected 20 students, with girls and boys included in equivalent numbers. The school science teacher coordinated weekly meetings at the school and in the occasional outdoor after-school venues. Students ran the meetings, but the science teacher arranged for guest speakers on leadership and communication skills and science inquiry skills. During the first few months of their club meetings, the students participated in special workshops devoted to using field equipment such as GPS units, including how to program them and use them in a scientific setting. Students also learned scientific practices and skills such as critical observation, appropriate questions to ask, the development of a hypothesis, and data collection techniques for the field. A Framework for K-12 Science Education, our state's science standards, and national science standards for science and environmental education guided this academic content (ETS2. …

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