Out in the Field: Connecting Real-World Experiences to Curriculum  

Young children are naturally curious, especially when it comes to the outdoors. The simplest discoveries, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, spark instant wonder and amazement. Young children are also naturally compassionate. They care about the places, people, and animals that make up the natural and built environments that they call home.
Curiosity and compassion. These are the building blocks of environmental stewardship and a lifelong love and appreciation for place. Like a plant, they must be nurtured, consistently, over time. K-12 educators can play a significant role in fostering stewardship and a love of the land in their students by giving them opportunities to get out of the classroom and into the "field." Your definition of fieldwork will likely vary, depending on where your school is located. It may consist of visiting an on-campus outdoor classroom or a city park. It may involve visiting a nearby field, forest, or stream. Wherever you go, the purpose of authentic fieldwork is to connect your classroom curriculum to the natural and social environments that make up your community. It gives students tangible opportunities to interact with and study their surrounding environments, from testing water quality and tracking the life cycles of insects and plants to interviewing community members to understand the history and culture of a community. From these opportunities, students gain valuable insights into the issues and challenges encountered in these environments, which help them propose solutions to make these environments better for everyone, human and non-human alike.
This month, GreenNotes featured articles that highlight how educators are incorporating fieldwork into their curriculum, from redesigning an outdoor classroom and connecting more deeply with nature to learning how to survive outdoors in the winter and partnering with state park rangers to create deeper learning experiences.
Fostering a deep, abiding love for the land in young people won't come from reading picture books or watching YouTube videos on a tablet, phone, or computer. It's only when they are knee-deep in a creek, surrounded by the quiet beauty of a forest, or exploring the untapped potential of an urban park that students can truly begin to connect with, appreciate, and want to protect our natural world.
Feature Articles

School of Environmental Studies Winter Unit Fosters Stewardship, Deeper Appreciation for the Natural World

Notes from the Field: An Elementary District Describes Three Shifts in Supporting the Practice of Fieldwork

Bridging the Gap between Experiential Education and Environmental Advocacy with Outdoor Field Experiences

Field Experiences Spark Stewardship and Citizen Science Engagement at Ivy Academy

Stewardship in Appalachia

Reprinted with permission from Green Teacher magazine. 
Learn with Green Schools National Network

Embedding SEL in School Climate and Culture

When: 4:00pm - 5:00pm ET on February 10, 2020
Cost: Free!

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is recognized as a critical component of student learning, fostering skills and dispositions in students that are critical for their success in navigating an increasingly complex and ever-changing world. This webinar will feature two New Mexico schools that are actively deepening their SEL practice and tracking impact. Zuni Middle School in Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico will discuss how they are combining SEL development with A:shiwi Core Values to further traditional Indigenous culture. Vista Grande High School in Taos, New Mexico will share how SEL practices are enhancing Crew structures and daily lessons. Both schools will discuss actions that participants can take to integrate SEL into school culture.

2020 Green Schools Conference and Expo

When: March 2 - 4, 2020
Where: Hilton Portland Downtown, Portland, Oregon

Don't miss this opportunity to learn from and network with educational leaders, green building professionals, nonprofit partners, and others who are passionate about the future of green schools. Five tracks of programming will be offered:  

Track 1: Healthy School Environments
Track 2: Driving Cultural & Behavioral Change
Track 3: Kickstarting Sustainability Programs in Schools
Track 4: Designing Schools for the Future
Track 5: Engaging & Empowering Students

Make plans to attend today! Both full and daily passes are available. You can take advantage of special room discounts at the Hilton Portland Downtown until February 17, 2020.

Become a Green Schools National Network member and receive discounted registration pricing! Learn more about becoming a member.

RSVP for the Green Schools Friends and Family GatheringThe event will take place on Sunday March 1, 2020 from 6:00 - 8:00pm at Cerulean Wine Bar and Bistro ( 1439 NW Marshall St, Portland, OR 97209 ). 

Sustainability Leadership: A Road Map for Driving Innovation Through the Triple Bottom Line

Who: Executive Level and Building Level School Leaders
When: March 30 - 31, 2020
Where: Old Donation School, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Cost: Catalyst Network Members: $100
          GSNN Members: $200
          Non-Members: $250

Register at this link.

Join Green Schools National Network and 2018 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Award recipient Virginia Beach City Public Schools for a 1.5 day exploration of
Sustainability Leadership: A Road Map for Driving Innovation Through the Triple Bottom Line . This site seminar is designed for Executive Level and Building Level leaders who are interested in learning how sustainability can help their districts reduce expenses while decreasing their ecological footprints; improve the health and well-being of those who work, learn, and play in their schools; and prepare students for college and careers in a future that will require new ways of thinking and learning. The site seminar will highlight how sustainability leaders, informed by Harvard University's Executive Education in Sustainability Leadership program, have developed purpose-driven ideas to drive innovation in organizational culture, operations and management, and teaching and learning.

Preparing Students for Green Careers

When: 4:00pm - 5:00pm ET on May 11, 2020
Cost: Free!

Growth in careers within environmental and sustainability fields is expected to trend upward for the foreseeable future. It's vital that educators prepare students to be leaders and innovators in these fields by equipping them with the skills needed to ideate, design, adapt, take risks, learn from mistakes, and collaborate with others. This webinar will feature two school districts that are giving students opportunities to hone these skills. Whitefish School District in Montana will share how their Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship offers students a fast track to a green future. Carson City School District in Nevada will discuss their strong CTE program and how it connects to many of the district's and city's sustainability initiatives.

Exploring the Legacy of Wangari Maathai in Kenya

Who:  K-12 Educators
When:  July 14 - 27, 2020
Where:  Kenya, Africa, including stops in Nairobi, Nyeri, Nakuru, and Masai Mara
Cost:  $5,575 (based on a minimum of seven participants). Cost includes meals, accommodations, and activities as indicated in the itinerary; in-country transportation; full-time guide for the duration of the program; bottled water on the bus; and carbon offset. Does not include international airfare, estimated at $1,625 from Orlando, gratuities, or items of a personal nature. Other departure cities are available.

Exploring the Legacy of Wangari Maathai is a 13-day adventure designed for educators that follows the footsteps of the 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate. This field-based learning experience incorporates themes of cultural exchange, service-learning, and sustainability. Participants will receive transdisciplinary learning experiences that will deepen their understanding of the complexities that surround global environmental issues and inspire action. This professional learning experience provides the following opportunities:
  • Learn about Wangari Maathai by visiting her birthplace and the foundations, institutes, and programs that continue to advance her work;
  • Live and work with members of the Green Belt Movement;
  • Design curriculum for your classroom that integrates Wangari Maathai programs and ideas; and
  • Explore one of the world's most important and unique natural resources - the African Plains.
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