My 16-year old brother is President of his high school class. He thinks it’s fairly common when his science class goes on a field trip or takes place outside. His high school has a Water Quality Monitoring Team, a Climate Action Club and an environmental outing club.
Middle and high schools around the country have similar clubs and others have adopted a local wetland for class projects. This time of year, there’s a surge of news stories about school programs that make use of local wetlands for class projects with students K-12 throughout the U.S. Even while facing budgetary constraints, schools are showing an interest in teaching kids about the environment. The National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-School program offers ways for schools to “green” their curriculum. But what does a “wetland classroom” look like? It would make sense that they would vary because wetlands are diverse. For example, here’s a “school wetland” in North Carolina, not far from the Great Dismal Swamp: http://library.thinkquest.org/J003192F/our.htm
Wetlands and streams are valuable teaching tools for teachers in elementary, middle and high schools. The concept of “wetlands as classrooms” has broadened to include student-led wetland restoration projects, which have received some press coverage over the past few years. For example, the Hardy Middle School in Washington, D.C. is creating a wetlands classroom, and a new environmental outdoor classroom has been created in New York. At the Maumelle Middle School in Arkansas, 7th graders are learning about how wetlands “saved the school” during floods and how to test the water chemistry.
In addition to school-based programs, there are a number of wetland organizations that provide a “wetland classroom” experience to school children. For example the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, operated by the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks in Maryland, offers activities led by staff naturalists for kids (K-12) as well as college students. Students learn about species diversity, classification, impacts of wetlands on water quality, plant and animal adaptations, ecology, stream morphology and climate change.
In other communities, a wetlands reserve such as the Heckrodt Wetland Reserve in Wisconsin has programs geared for educating kids. See also Exploration, education by the estuary: http://theworldlink.com/sports/outdoors/article_24975834-e621-11e0-a951-001cc4c002e0.html
In addition, science teachers at some schools have incorporated the ‘wetlands as classrooms’ concept into their curriculum. In particular, one organization created a program called Project WET (Water Education for Teachers). Right now, teachers are excited because Project WET 2.0 curriculum software has recently been released.
Project WET is a nonprofit water education program and publisher. It “promotes awareness, appreciation, knowledge and stewardship of water resources through the dissemination of classroom-ready teaching aids and the establishment of internationally sponsored Project WET programs.” The program has an international reach and has been applied in schools throughout the U.S. Watch a video about Project WET here. Learn about what teachers are doing for Project WET in Arizona or Project WET in Georgia. If you’re on Facebook, check out Maine Project WET’s page. The program is active inWisconsin, Michigan, —well, all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For more about Project WET in the U.S., visit: http://projectwet.org/where-we-are/usa-project-wet/
There has also been some recent press about the 7th grade class in Illinois for their wetland-based class project. Mrs. Fran Wachter’s seventh grade class at Creal Springs School won the national middle school grand prize in Disney’s Planet Challenge, an environmental and science competition for 3rd-8th grade classrooms. The competition expanded this year to include middle school grades 6-8. To read full article, click here. To view their winning video, Wetland Warriors: Restoring Health to Our Wetlands, click here.
Throughout the year, I get updates from Tom Biebighauser, U.S. Forest Service, who maintains a photo album of wetland restoration projects and some of these projects have involved students from schools in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. Tom also works with the Center for Wetlands and Stream Restoration in Kentucky; the Center provides training for educators. They have a list of wetland classrooms and school-created wetlands along with other training resources on their website.
In other instances, students have opportunities to help with a larger wetland restoration project run by a state park or other organization, like the one in California last May:Pitching in: Students part of wetlands restoration project.
Environment Concern also maintains a list of school-based wetland projects, mostly in the Mid-Atlantic region, with brief “success stories” for each school:http://www.wetland.org/education_success0708.htm
Mid-Atlantic Environmental Education – Schools in the News
Need ideas for an environmental project to get students interested in ecology, energy conservation and saving the Earth? The EPA Region 3 Environmental Education Program‘s ‘Schools in the News’ website offers press articles of successful environmental projects undertaken by students in mid-Atlantic region schools that are making news. Visit http://www.epa.gov/region03/ee/school_news.htm to learn more.
If you have news or links to information about “wetlands as classrooms,” please let us know so we can feature other schools and similar programs on our I am an Educatorwebpage.