2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 13-6
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


SCHMIDT, Peter1, LUDMAN, Allan2, JAKIM, David1 and LEOU, Mary3, (1)GLOBE NY Metro, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Boulevard, Flushing, NY 11367, (2)School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Queens College (CUNY), 65-30 Kissena Boulevard, Flushing, NY 11367, (3)Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, 239 Greene Street, New York, NY 10003, peter.schmidt@qc.cuny.edu

An inner city concrete and asphalt environment offers little of the experience of the natural world that motivates children to pursue geoscience careers. Attempts to expose students to nature in urban green spaces are impeded by (1) educators’ perception that field trips are “frivolous extras” unrelated to the science curriculum on which their students will be tested and (2)the lack of experience of nearly all elementary teachers in outdoor field-based activities. “Into the Woods” is an initiative supported by a NOAA Environmental Literacy award designed to help Grade 2-5 teachers find ways to incorporate exploration of the natural world into their existing curricula.

Our strategy includes several interventions: (1) improving elementary teachers’ notoriously poor basic earth science background; (2) helping teachers identify where outdoor activities fit best in their curriculum, wherever possible using authentic scientific research to enhance learning in mathematics, social studies, and language arts; (3) offering positive outdoor experiences for the teachers as models for what they could do with their students; (4) training in outdoor class management and pedagogy; (5)working with teachers to identify sites and topics for place-based student research and stewardship projects near their schools; (6) helping teachers move from dependence on professional outdoor educators to enthusiastic practitioners of outdoor pedagogy.

Participants select a research topic and receive instruments needed to carry out that research with their students during the school year. At the end of each year, students present their results at a symposium modeled after professional poster sessions. Two years into the NOAA project, the symposia have attracted 600+ and 850+ student researchers from 33 schools. As a measure of success, we had hoped that outdoor research would lead students and/or schools to become interested in taking an active role in preserving the local natural environment. Our hopes have been exceeded, as collaboration with the NYU Wallerstein Collaborative, NYC Urban Park Rangers, the Bronx River Alliance, and the Cornell Ornithological Laboratory has led more schools than we had anticipated to start stewardship programs including school composting, creating butterfly gardens, and monitoring water quality.