By Margaret Borchert, Principal
This year, thanks to funding provided by our generous PTL, Allendale Elementary School in West Seneca was able to expand upon its Earth Spirit Science Program. Students in grades K-5 are receiving an enriched science program that integrates beautifully with social studies and language arts through nature journaling.
Children are more content when they are more connected to the natural environment. These benefits are long-term and are significant in contributing to their well-being and to the contributions they make to the world as adults. When children become more connected to the natural world around them, the learning experiences cross multiple domains. The children are learning to listen to the songs of birds and to find clues as to what sorts of animal habitats exist around our school.
Last week, I grabbed my camera and accompanied them on their hiking adventure. They learned to listen to the welcoming call of the chickadee and the warning call of the alert blue jay. They saw the rectangular shape in an ash tree which was made by a pileated woodpecker. The woodpeckers are searching for the dreaded ash bore. They learned about the devastation of the ash trees in our wooded area and speculated about which types of trees may be an integral part of re-forestation.
Their time outdoors seemed to speed by, and as the majority of the class gathered to debrief about their sightings and lessons learned, one student remained by the edge of the woods. I stood beside him and waited. “Look,” he whispered. “I see movement at the top of that tree. What is it?” We both stood in silence and watched. Then, ever so slightly, we spied the movement of the bird’s wings. We saw just a slight little flutter. The gray color of the bird blended in with the gray bark of the trees. A perfect example of camouflage. Suddenly he said, “I see some red,” and I was able to see it too. A downy woodpecker teased us with its presence.
To me, as principal, these types of teachable moments are priceless. The children will talk about what caught their attention and interest on this hike. They will do some nature journaling as well. They may choose to write a poem or a narrative. What the teachers and I have noticed is the joy the children feel while developing an awareness of their surroundings. Their writing has improved markedly. They are using more descriptive language and are demonstrating increased vocabulary skills.
Hopefully, they will share this experience with their family and forever grow in having a love of nature and the world around them. If they learn about nature, they will learn to protect the environment.