NWT LTER has carried out a K-12 outreach program from 1998 through the present time by collaborating with existing programs for children in the Denver/Boulder area and by working specifically with the Boulder Valley School District. The conceptual theme of the outreach is the connection between the alpine systems in the mountains and the communities of the Rocky Mountain Front Range. These communities are located at the intersection of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, and have been expanding in population and development. We have found that in elementary and middle school years, children are particularly receptive to environmental education that emphasizes discovery, exploration and empathy with their local environment.
NWT LTER has an outreach program to elementary and middle school students in the Boulder/Denver area through a collaborative effort with Science Discovery (1998-2000) a local program based at the University of Colorado, Bixby School (1999-2000) in Boulder, and Wild Bear Science School (1999-2000) in Nederland, a mountain town located near the Mountain Research Station (MRS). The age range of the children is 5-12 years and the group size for summer field trips is 12-18 children, with 4-6 scientists and student teachers as leaders. Each of these programs and schools serves children with different backgrounds and interests. Science Discovery offers a wide range of summer science programs for children, including one-day programs, one-week classes based in Boulder and one-week field trips within the Rocky Mountains.
The program with Science Discovery offered two Saturday field classes in conjunction with our NWT LTER program, one for elementary and one for middle school children. Bixby School is a private elementary school that uses an experiential theme for all their classes during the academic year and the students attending Bixby School in the summer have been in an informal experiential learning environment. Bixby teachers integrate the students' experiences from the field trips to the MRS into subsequent activities during the school year. The Wild Bear Science School has a two-week session for elementary students on an ecological theme, and a one-week session for middle school students. These students are primarily from the mountain communities. The field trip to the MRS is integrated into the middle of the program for each week of these classes, as a component that emphasizes observations and recording by sketches and note taking.
All of these field trips are coordinated with a MRS summer course- "Alpine Ecology and Experiential Learning". Five-15 students have taken this course each year, with about half of the students being in-service teachers. The course is taught by NWT LTER scientists (e.g. Diane McKnight, Susan Sherrod and Hector Galbraith) and by Dr. Jane Larson, an expert in science education from the College of Education at the University of Colorado. Hector Galbraith, Diane McKnight, and Jane Larson will teach the class this summer.
As the service learning aspect of the summer course, the undergraduate and graduate students, along with the course instructors, lead the field trips described above. In some cases, the instructors from the school programs participate as well. Prior to leading the field trips, the undergraduate students lead "practice" field trips with children of friends and colleagues at the University of Colorado.
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #DEB-1027341. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necesarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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