For the second year in a row, third and fourth grade scholars from Uplift Williams Preparatory in northwest Dallas took their learning from the classroom to the natural ecosystems of the Trinity River Audubon Center thanks to the Kids On the Land (KOL) environmental education program.
The program incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts and was developed to reconnect children to the place where they live and to reinforce state curricular standards, including the STAAR test. During the day, scholars rotate through a variety of STEM activities, led by area volunteers, who are conservation and ecology experts.
“It’s been so great for the scholars to have direct interaction with nature and learning through hands-on activities. It makes them more curious and excited about learning, so when they leave they have a greater interest in science and are eager to ask questions,” said fourth-grade teacher, Sara Brandenberg.
In addition to being a resource for direct preparation for the STAAR test, the program provides numerous other benefits. In 2010, National Wildlife Federation research found that outdoor education “usefully employs all of a child’s native intelligences, ranging from math and science smarts to interpersonal communications,” and “is particularly effective at helping under-resourced, low-income students perform measurably better in school.”
Another component of the program is an internship for Uplift Williams High School juniors and seniors who have an interest in environmental science. The interns work with KOL to research the ecosystem, and help create and run the activities for the elementary students alongside other volunteers. Senior Crystal Trevizo is an intern this year and has been accepted to Texas Christian University to study environmental science.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved being in nature and always had a lot of pets. My dad taught me the importance of caring for the land and all its inhabitants from a young age, and I’m very grateful for being able to help teach those lessons to younger students,” Ms. Treviso said.
Since the KOL began in 2003 it has educated over 3,000 students across the state and will serve 800 in 2014. The KOL program was created and continues to be updated by Executive Director Peggy Maddox.
“We have an incredible group of volunteers who we call LINKS (Learning In Nature with Kids). Our hope is that as we grow the program we can continue to build investment by local volunteers in each ecoregion to make the programs more sustainable. ” said Angie Dickson, Kids On the Land board member.
The Trinity River Audubon Center program volunteers included Dr. Paul Martin, a conservationist, scientist and entomologist and Bryon Haney, a Geospatial Specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Both consult for KOL and serve as instructors. The Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Texas Forest Service, The Beginning Women Farmers Of Texas, and the Texas Honeybee Guild also provided volunteers to support the program.
For more information please visit the Kids On the Land website kidsontheland.org or facebook page https://www.facebook.com/KidsOnTheLand.