Review: This book has the subtitle, "Reading, Writing and Science Beyond the Classroom Walls." It comes from the work of a group of teachers connected with the University of Maryland. It focuses on science as motivation for reading, research and writing and on ways that conventional subject matter can be integrated to make a more useful whole for students. Chapter authors include eight classroom teachers from preK to grade eight.
Other Information: Taking Inquiry Outdoors ($17.00) is available from Stenhouse Publishers, PO Box 1929, Columbus, OH 43216-1929. Call 800-988-9812, fax 614-487-2272. Online at www.stenhouse.com
Officially, Norms Island is part of the city-county public parks system of Yellowstone County and the City of Billings, Montana. However, in 1995, Canyon Creek School (CCS), a nearby K8 public school where I was principal, adopted the sixty-plus acre island in the famed Yellowstone River. Since then, with the help of volunteers, Norms has also served as an outdoor science classroom for elementary and middle school students. Among the many lessons students have learned there is that most plants and animals are adapted to their environment while others are able to adapt to the environment in which they find themselves.
My fourth-grade science students enjoy learning about animals. So teaching the basics of animal structure and even classification has never been a problem. Prior knowledge, trade books and video clips are sufficient. But helping them grasp the concept of adaptations takes a more studied approach. The first step is making sure they are seeing and saying, adaptation, not adoption. My goal is that they can explain that an adaptation is any change in structure or behavior that helps a living thing meet its needs for survival.
This profile of effective student practice is the result of teachers and administrators applying the knowledge and methods of the Vermont Elementary Science Project, and then reflecting upon their classroom experiences with each other. This collaborative view of "ideal" student outcomes is particularly relevant to the development of new programs and to the assessment of inquiry-based, elementary science.
Most teachers would love to have a rich, lush, green space around their schools, but those of us in urban settings can only dream of such luxury. As a science teacher at an inner-city school, my yard consists of an alley between two brick buildings, with three scraggly maple trees in concrete squares of heavily compacted dirt. I am fortunate, however, to have a National Park across the street! The Tsongas Industrial History Center, in Lowell, Massachusetts.
We were thrilled! For twenty-five years the students at The Neighborhood Schoolhouse in Brattleboro, Vermont, had been hiking, snowshoeing, camping, tracking, playing, and learning behind our school in the many acres of forest owned by a separate non-profit organization. Finally, a local cartographer was going to map "our" woods. Having a pictorial representation of all those best-loved places to take inside with us sounded great!
When the classroom extends to the outdoors, students' engagement and understandings are maximized. There are multiple opportunities for the children to make important conceptual connections. These understandings are evidenced across the disciplines, through the application and practice of both student knowledge and skills; for example, outdoor observations are guided by our senses.
We do our best to celebrate the natural world, in part through our celebrations of the change in seasons and with daily rituals. What follows are two accounts by teachers of how we make nature an integral part of each child's school life.
As the science resource teacher, I use outdoor education to deliver focused instruction. What I've seen as a consequence of spending time in the outdoors is that children develop their understanding of their world as well as a sense of ownership and belonging.