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Earth awareness

Students consult the field guides prepared by John José, standing, to determine which animals have left footprints in the mud in front of the Stourbridge Primary Center in Honesdale. Assisting them at left is principal Paula Brennan.


April 21, 2011

New programs launch at Stourbridge
HONESDALE, PA — Lucky students at Stourbridge Primary Center in Honesdale are having real-life learning experiences that allow them to explore the natural world and their relationship to it, thanks to new programming developed by John José of Otter Creek Environmental Education Services.

José has begun offering “Schoolyard Habitat Evaluations,” which are followed by the establishment of on-site environmental education programs based on his findings.

First to try the new offerings were the enthusiastic Kindergarteners who participated in José’s wildlife tracking and sign interpretation program last month. Stourbridge principal Paula Brennan, a former science teacher, was aware of José’s environmental education work with local camps and other organizations and invited him to prepare a proposal for several programs at the school.

“What I was hoping to achieve with these programs was to enrich our curriculum, provide the students with a positive, meaningful, hands-on learning experience and create an excitement for learning and an appreciation for the fact that learning takes place everywhere, not just in the classroom,” said Brennan.

The programs offer many benefits by providing an immersive, experiential educational opportunity on-site, thereby eliminating transportations costs and connecting students more intimately with their own schoolyard or backyard. In addition, students learn skills such as gardening and gain knowledge of local flora and fauna.

José began with an introductory lesson on wildlife tracking for the Kindergarten classes and provided books for the teachers to read to students prior to their walk in a forested area of the school property. He also made age-appropriate field guides for the students to use on their tracking day and a copy to take home and share with their families.

“The feedback from the Kindergarten teachers was very positive,” said Brennan. “The experience achieved its objective and beyond. Our students absolutely loved it. The word “awesome” was used a lot in their feedback. I also had many parents tell me how much their children enjoyed it. And more importantly, how what they learned carried over into their homes. The experience not only created rich conversation between child and parent, but the children wanted to take their parents for a walk in the woods to share what they had learned.”