Fairfield Elementary School: A group of Kindergarten students are coming to the college to do a field unit on Natural History. Students in Biology and Environmental Studies will take them on a field trip in natural areas on the college campus to discuss forest and pond life.
During the January Term two Biology/Environmental Science students designed and taught a four-week winter ecology program at a Waterville elementary school. Twelve students participanted in the program, all of whom were fourth and fifth graders. The program was called "Twigs and Tracks," and it consisted of two and one-half hour sessions twice a week. A grant from the Colby College Special Projects Fund, provided materials, so that the program was offered at no charge to the participants.
Twigs and Tracks originated from the interest of the Colby Students in ecology and teaching, and the experience of one student running an outdoor education program during one summer. They focused on developing the observational skills of the participants through engaging hands-on activities. Each class consisted of an outdoor component in which lessons were taught, observations were made, and activities completed. An indoor component was also included, in which they would talk about what was seen outside and the lesson was supplemented with activities involving construction projects and creative games. A few of the outdoor activities completed with the students included animal tracking, snow and temperature measurements, and a nature walk on the Oxbow Nature Trail. The indoor activities included comparing various crystal types (using magnifying glasses), drawing birds focusing on a medley of features, and constructing ecosystem-specific shelters with various building materials.
This program was an enormous success, both for the Colby students and the participants. The children were excited for each session to begin, and in the final class when the material learned in the first five classes was reviewed, the amount of knowledge the participants had retained was amazing. Designing and implementing "Twigs and Tracks" allowed the Colby students to experiment with a nontraditional curriculum, which public school teachers are often reluctant to employ. It is hoped that the lesson plans designed for this outdoor winter ecology course will continue to be used by the local school system, and updated periodically by Colby students interested in pursuing a career in education. The two students have already been invited to present a special "Twigs and Tracks" workshop at a local junior high school-- a true indicator of this program's success!
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