PDI-6: The Outdoor Classroom: A Natural Path to Science and Literacy (First Hand Learning
Date: Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Location: Boston, MA—Boston Convention and Exhibition Center; Room 254207
Recommended Pathway Sessions
First Hand Learning, Inc., in collaboration with the Boston Schoolyard Initiative, at Massachusetts Audubon’s Boston Nature Center.
Mark Baldwin, Director of Education, Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History (RTPI)
Kristen Gasser, Vice President, First Hand Learning, Inc. (FHL)
Diane Miller, Vice President for Community Science Programs and Partnerships, St. Louis Science Center
E. Wendy Saul, Professor of Education and International Studies, Univ. of Missouri, St. Louis
- In what ways can the environment around the school be used as a resource for linking science and language development?
- How does investigation of the natural world lead to engagement in reading, writing, and talking?
- What strategies can teachers employ to introduce students to the different literacy genres used to communicate about science?
- How can field guide development contribute to best practices in science education and language development?
- What is the evidence that demonstrates student achievement in science and literacy?
Are you searching for meaningful ways to integrate the development of students’ science learning with literacy? Would you like to make science inquiry an engaging and site-specific experience for students, but need practical suggestions for how to use a school’s outdoor environment to do it? In this day-long workshop participants will practice naturalists’ techniques to record observations and communicate findings, identify and use different genres of science writing, and learn how to structure outdoor investigations that will provide on-going and varied opportunities for firsthand learning that promotes skill development.
Research on environment-based education has demonstrated that programs that connect students to their surrounding communities can result in improved standardized test scores and the development of skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making (Lieberman & Hoody, 1998, 2005; Athman & Monroe, 2004). However, many teachers and administrators are uncertain how to take advantage of their local natural resources to meet these educational goals, even as the research focus and testing pressures of NCLB legislation are creating a growing imperative for teachers to understand how to employ science instruction to promote language development. This PDI will provide both specific strategies and conceptual structures to support environment-based inquiry and the integration of science and literacy.
Held at the Boston Nature Center, an educational resource located near downtown Boston run by Massachusetts Audubon, the Institute will offer practical approaches for using the outdoors and nonfiction science texts to spark curiosity, increase content knowledge, develop and hone inquiry skills, and communicate ideas and facts verbally and graphically. Participants will focus on key vehicles for literacy: collecting data in journals, facilitating meaningful science discussions, and crafting field guide templates to present data publicly. They will examine and critique an array of published field guides and learn how to use them effectively with students to help them improve their abilities in observation, classification, reading for information, deductive reasoning, and communicating using specific genres of science writing.
Participating teachers, administrators, informal science educators, and professional development leaders will experience firsthand the process of recording observations in a field journal and creating a field guide to a local habitat. Examples of authentic student work will be reviewed and practical methods for assessing student achievement identified. Participants will reflect upon their own classroom experiences and analyze the numerous possibilities that keeping a journal and creating a field guide provide for strengthening their students’ skills in these areas. After discussing how they could transfer the strategies they experience at the PDI to their own teaching situations, participants will develop their own plans for integrating science and literacy seamlessly.
Participants should dress comfortably, with weather-appropriate footwear and outerwear, in preparation for exploring the Boston Nature Center’s outdoor areas during short-distance forays.
Mark Baldwin is a practicing naturalist and Director of Education for RTPI who trains teachers in the use of field journals and “ecological literacy.” Kristen Gasser is a co-author of the recent Heinemann publication “Outdoor Inquiries: Taking Science Investigations Outside the Classroom” (2007). Diane Miller is nationally recognized for the highly successful community-based science programs that she has developed at the St. Louis Science Center and elsewhere. For the past 15 years Dr. Wendy Saul has been professionally engaged in exploring the relationship between science and literacy; her recent publications include “Crossing Borders in Literacy and Science Instruction: Perspectives on Theory and Practice” (IRA/NSTA, 2004) and a revised edition of “Science Workshop: Learning to Read, Write and Think Like a Scientist” (Heinemann, 2003).
This PDI is presented by First Hand Learning, Inc., a nonprofit organization founded in 1998 to promote inquiry-based teaching, learning from direct experience, and closer links between cultural institutions and schools. First Hand Learning's work in professional development and curriculum design has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the John R. Oishei Foundation, among others. See www.firsthandlearning.org.