Our goal was to learn basic ecological and biological principles. What is the food web? Who are the players? In particular, who are the players in OUR environment? Each week was spent reinforcing the class room knowledge by spending our time outside looking for living examples. Sometimes our explorations led us off into a completely different direction than intended but those were the lessons that stuck with the children the most. For example, one day we came across a dead mouse out in the church yard. We were at the beginning of the food web, discussing herbivores, when David stumbled across the mouse. This gave us a real life example of the decomposers that we wouldn't be covering for weeks to come yet we jumped into the topic anyway. Although our journey was never quite linear, we met all of our learning objectives for the semester in a fun, hands on way.
My personal goal for the class was to awaken the sense of wonder and awe that each child naturally has towards this wonderful world we live in while teaching them to be respectful to all living things (yes, even the bugs). I believe that this personal goal was met if their enthusiasm and excitement for our class was any indicator. Our field trip to Weyanoke Sanctuary helped deepen their love of nature and solidified the lessons being learned in class. The weeks that followed were filled with exclamations of "Oh!! Remember we saw that at the sanctuary?!' You could see the lightbulb turning on above their heads as they made the connections. There are no words to describe the excitement that this brought to all of us in the class room.
Just because class is over doesn't mean that this journey must end for the children. You can continue to foster this love by encouraging them to do just a few simple things. One of the most encompassing activities that can be done is nature journaling. Let them choose their own journal and pen. Follow the ideas that the blog author gives such as writing their observations of the seasons changing. Another way to connect with nature in your own yard is to hang the bird feeders we made in class and have the children pick a time of day to maintain and observe the feeder. Have them write their feeding observations in their journals. The Great Backyard Bird Count starts February 12, 2010 and is a wonderful living example of how the food web works. Finally, here is a good link to some free life science resources that will reinforce what we covered this semester.