Work Hard, Have Fun, Save the Environment

By Crane, Elizabeth | District Administration, January 2006 | Go to article overview

Work Hard, Have Fun, Save the Environment


Crane, Elizabeth, District Administration


Christina Swosinski fell into turtle-watching. The sandy beaches of the barrier islands in the mouth of Tampa Bay, Fla., are a perfect habitat for nesting sea turtles, so when co-worker and recent Florida transplant Susan Camp suggested that the two of them volunteer to walk the beaches looking for sea turtle nests, she agreed. It was fun, which is what led them to think they could get kids out to the island and run a service learning program. Swosinski and Camp work for Knowledge Learning Corporation, a childcare provider with programs in 24 states, and so the germ of the idea was nurtured in the sands of Anna Maria Island and hatched into a successful, award-winning afterschool and summer camp program. "It was one of those chances you take," says Swosinski, "where it turns out really well."

The 17% solution: The program, according to Roger Dearing, superintendent of the School District of Manatee County, is part of what he calls "The 17 percent solution." "We only have them for six hours a day," he says. "If you figure there are 365 days in a year and 24 hours in a day, that six hours is about 17 percent of a child's life. We have to stretch learning beyond that 17 percent."

Work hard, have fun: Good service learning programs are "structured organized educational endeavors that fortify and enhance what is being learned in class." Turtle Watch has all that, plus sand, sun, water and wildlife. It's all part of Dearing's Work Hard, Have Fun philosophy. As Swonsinki acknowledges, older elementary-age students "are bored, they don't want to go to afterschool" with the little kids. "We had to do something to get them involved and wanting to come."

Stealth learning: The original plan had the kids working in the Turtle Watch store, talking to customers and doing everything that a shopkeeper does. "It was fun--they didn't even know they were learning," says Swosinski, when they calculated accounts, made change, or explained the purpose of the Turtle Watch organization to a visitor.

More than just turtles: There's an excitement to hands--on programs like Turtle Watch; the kids never get bored with it. …

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