Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pottstown Takes the Classroom Outside

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottstown School District

This school year will feature an exciting twist on STEM learning for Pottstown fourth graders thanks to a new program being offered in a partnership between the School District, NorthBay, a premier outdoor education center, and Natural Lands Trust, the regional conservation organization.

The program emphasizes exploration in nature, authentic scientific investigation, and character development in order to improve essential academic skills and help students understand that the choices they make have the power to transform the planet, their community, and themselves. And it will all happen outside.

“The fate of our environment and our communities ultimately depends upon the decisions we make on a daily basis,” noted Molly Morrison, President of Natural Lands Trust. “Those choices, and the impact they have on ourselves and the world around us, are at the heart of this curriculum. It is a unique approach that helps children to identify issues in the environment, their community, or in their own lives and empowers them to act.”

The program kicked off on Monday, Sept. 12, when all fourth grade students conducted a study of the natural habitats on their school grounds.

Later this fall, students will visit Memorial Park in Pottstown where they will assess the quality of Manatawny Creek and consider how the way land around the creek is used impacts the stream. Next spring, the students will take a field trip to Natural Lands Trust’s Crow’s Nest Preserve in nearby Warwick to learn about water quality in a more natural setting. At the end of the school year, the students will develop an action project designed to address an environmental issue on their schoolyard.

Here is a video of the program in action:

Pottstown - Schoolyard Assessment from NorthBay Media on Vimeo.

Keith Williams, Executive Director of NorthBay said, “NorthBay is thrilled to partner with Natural Lands Trust and Pottstown School District to serve Pottstown students through the delivery of NorthBay’s unique environmental and character education curriculum. Students will become champions of their environment as they engage in authentic investigations that will help to reconnect the Schuylkill River and Manatawny Creek with the community.”

The organizers of the program plan to extend it into 5th and 6th grades in the coming years, providing a rare opportunity for students to participate in a long-term outdoor education curriculum.

“Many of our students are not exposed to the glorious and beautiful environment which surrounds us,” said Stephen Rodriguez, Acting Superintendent of the Pottstown School District. “In a day and age where man's impact on nature is increasingly felt, it is vitally important for students to understand environment, natural habitats, ecology, and the effect we have on our own world. To that end, our new partnership with NorthBay and Natural Lands Trust is so exciting and vital to our education of the whole child. As the future leaders of tomorrow, our students need to know about the place they live as well as have opportunities for positive character education and teambuilding exercises. We are grateful for this excellent opportunity and look forward to the positive outcome in the next generation."

Support for the partnership program is being provided by J.P. Mascaro & Sons, the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation, NorthBay, and the members of Natural Lands Trust.

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