Supporting Local Schools with Hands-On Science

Have you ever rolled over a log and found salamanders or “roly poly” bugs? Or have you ever noticed the way the sun and shadows change on a favorite tree at different times of day? Or maybe you have stirred a compost pile and been awed by the almost magical transformation of food scraps into rich soil? These types of experiences help us connect with the natural world around us. They can help us feel grounded, or astonished, or curious to learn more. They are activities that we all should have equal opportunity to witness and wonder about, and yet many youth in particular do not spend the time outdoors enough to have these classic outdoor moments.

We are excited to share that all K-5 students in Brunswick will now be having these experiences at school throughout the year, as part of their new science units being piloted in 2023-2024!  

Exploring the wonders of compost together!

As part of a collaboration with the Brunswick School Department, educators from Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) were invited to partner with two teachers from each grade level K-5 in Brunswick, to help map out new science units that use hands-on activities to align with federal science standards. The teams met multiple times over the course of the past year or so, identifying ways to bring these new science topics to life at each grade level K-5. All of the units are full of hands-on activities and interwoven with “how to be a scientist” skills, and CREA was particularly excited about the chance to support students getting outdoors – exploring, discovering, making observations, collecting data, and connecting with the natural world around them. CREA educators supported K-5 teachers in SAD75 (Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Topsham, and Harpswell) in a similar project in recent years, supporting them in meeting the new federal science requirements in a hands-on way. This month kicks off the first full year of piloting the new science units in Brunswick, and we’re eager to hear from students and teachers!

BTLT School Programs Manager Sarah Rogers showing a slideshow presentation to local teachers about the science kits.

At the Land Trust, we strive to connect people of all ages with the natural world around them. We provide free public opportunities like stargazing nights and solstice lantern celebrations and bird and wildflower walks to encourage community members to look more closely at the world around them. To observe, to ask questions, to be inspired by moments spent in the beautiful forests, fields, and farmlands where we live. By working together with local school teachers, we are supporting them in providing these very same sorts of experiences for all of their hundreds of students, day after day, year after year. To know that all students in our local towns will experience these nature-based explorations during their youngest years is so exciting, and we have been honored to join the teachers doing this great work.

Local teachers outside doing one of the activities they’ll be doing with their students.

During October, all teacher teams K-5 in Brunswick received their new science kits, and teachers are just beginning to pilot these units. As of this blog posting, first graders are tracing their shadows at different times of day to notice patterns of sunlight. Fourth graders are grinding rocks into sand to see weathering and erosion in action. Fifth graders are collecting soil samples and searching for decomposers as they explore nutrient cycles.

The subject line of a teacher’s email this week captured the simple joy of hands-on learning: “We’re having so much fun!!” We can’t wait to hear more feedback as teachers dive into the new units!

Curious to hear BTLT’s School Programs Manager Sarah Rogers talk more about CREA’s work with local schools? Listen to this podcast episode of the Brunswick Buzz!