In Honor of Dr Jane: Every Individual Matters

Dame Jane Morris Goodall is an English primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. She was born today, April 3rd in 1934. She has been a role model to me since I was a young girl. It gives me great pleasure to write this post as part of the Earth Month blog hop and share it with you on her birthday.

2015 marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day and will be celebrated on Saturday, April 18th. It comes during a pivotal time to protect the planet and ensure that world leaders address key issues facing the next generation. There is no better time to get involved and to take action.

Every individual matters.

Every individual has a role to play.

Every individual makes a difference.

In Honor of Dr Jane @EvaVarga.net

My children and I have had the opportunity to meet Dr. Jane on several occasions. Her quiet demeanor and the strength of her conviction always inspire us to do more. In an earlier post, Service Learning Through Roots & Shoots, I shared some of the projects and activities we have undertaken through Roots & Shoots.

Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots is the youth-led community action and learning program of the Jane Goodall Institute. The program builds on the legacy and vision of Dr. Jane and places the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people.

Just for fun, enjoy this delightful poem by Jane Goodall, The Old Wisdom.

In Honor of Dr Jane @EvaVarga.net

Dr Jane’s Roots & Shoots

Through our participation in Roots & Shoots, we have always looked for ways in which we can show our care and concern for the environment, for animals, and the community. My children and I volunteer in a variety of ways – each choosing projects and service learning activities that are suited to their individual passions.

My daughter is passionate about the environment. She repurposes a variety of things and sells them at local craft sales. She donates a portion of the money she raises to charitable causes. She is also spearheading a long-term project to study the impact of non-native invasive turtles on native species (Saving the Native Turtles and Don’t Let it Loose). My son volunteers regularly at a local retirement home to share his love of music with the residents. He has also coordinated a cupcake sale to raise money for Nystagmus.

Turn Learners into Leaders

This summer, Roots & Shoots is offering an innovative online professional development course. Free and open to everyone, this course will teach participants how to identify and implement a local service learning campaign using the Roots & Shoots program model and grow the next generation of Jane Goodalls.

Complete the course and mentor young people to lead change in their communities by mapping needs, collaborating with stakeholders, and designing practical solutions in the form of campaigns. Connect young people to Dr. Goodall’s message of hope while faciliating a sense of empowerment that comes from helping others.

To join me and other Roots & Shoots leaders around the world in this wonderful course, visit Turning Learners into Leaders.

natural parenting guide and earth month blog hop
To learn more about how you can make a difference, be sure to visit the Earth Month blog hop.

You will find up-cycling crafts, ec0-friendly toys, and gardening tips. You can also enter the giveaway to win one of the fantastic prizes!

Wow! Girls in Engineering!

Girls in middle school typically aren’t interested in robotics or french fry oil.  They would rather paint their nails or text their friends.  Several organizations are working to make girls more interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, citing research that says thousands of future jobs will be in those disciplines.  My daughter was one of an estimated 400 girls who will participate in two science based workshops this spring designed specifically for girls, featuring women in a variety of STEM professions as instructors.

WOW14

Girls in Engineering

This first was the annual “Wow! That’s Engineering?” event organized by our local chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.  Currently on its fifth year, it was developed as a way to celebrate National Engineers Week while also expanding accessible science programs for young girls. The activities the girls take part in expose them to a variety of different engineering fields.

At last year’s Girls in Engineering event, the girls built bridges, an electronic circuit board, and a hydroelectric lift.  This year, the stations featured robotics, biofuels, and a build it/plan it cooperative activity. They had a fabulous time and many return year after year.

Contact your local chapter of the Society of Women Engineers to see if there are similar Girls in Engineering events in your area.  You may also wish to read my earlier post for tips on Encouraging Girls in STEM.

Nature Journaling in the Classroom

Many homeschool families engage in regular nature studies.  A nature journal is your ticket to a deep exploration of the world around you, providing a place to record your encounters with the natural world — from the everyday to the sublime. Field sketches, regardless of the degree of artistic talent with which they are rendered, force us to look closely and observe nature as it really is. Simply put, nature journaling is the regular recording of observations, perceptions, and feelings about the natural world around you.

nature journaling

The past couple of years, I have been teaching an online course, Nature Journaling in the Classroom.  It is designed to help teachers and informal educators integrate nature journaling into their K-12 art and science curriculum.  The course is offered through the Heritage Institute and optional, university credit is available.

J.L. Fottrell, a geologist who teaches drawing classes at Land Between the Lakes National recreation area in Tennessee/Kentucky and at Bowie Park in Fairview, Tennessee, recently selected my course because he had never made a systematic, concerted effort to study nature journaling.

MrB

Fottrell had this to say about his expectations at the conclusion of the course, “I expected to learn some techniques and methods for teaching the subject in a more organized, school setting.  What I learned   was what I expected to learn plus a lot more.  The reading assignments were full of good ideas and much of it was thought provoking and insightful.  I feel that I got a lot more out of the books than I expected.  The other exercises … pushed me beyond where I was, in my understanding of the subject.  I believe that I’m much better educated about nature than I would have been, had I not taken the course.”

H. Lent, a teacher in Oregon, recently took my course along with another I teach, Alien Invaders.  She spends her day between the High School, where she teaches algebra and the Middle School where she teaches 8th grade math, MAN (Math, Art, & Nature), and two art classes.  I love how she morphed the two courses together and devised a year-long study of invasive species, integrating math, science and art.

Upon completing the coursework, Lent shared with me, “I did not realize that nature journaling was such a powerful tool in life and can be integrated into any curriculum and any grade level. The sooner the better obviously to train kids and make it a life-long endeavor.  I learned the important items to include in the journal daily: how to label; to include date, place, weather, colors, feelings. Drawings and/or writing are each valuable and students can develop their own style to document their observations.”

 

Girls in Engineering Workshop Captures Her Imagination

For my daughter, the best part of a Saturday spent crafting a paper bridge, creating a water-powered crane, and making her own electric quiz game was, “everything.”  Ten years old, she joined about 60 other girls for the fourth annual Wow! That’s Engineering! program coordinated by the local Society of Women Engineers earlier this year.

girls in engineering hydroliftThe outreach program encourages girls in engineering by engaging them in hands-on activities.  This year, the girls constructed devices representing various engineering fields.  The girls were separated into small groups, those who knew each other well were put into different groups to encourage bridges of friendship in addition to the paper bridge design contest in which they took part.

“I really enjoyed the electricity game we made,” Sweetie shared.  “We made these circuits and if you get the right answer, a light will come on.”

My daughter wants to be an engineer one day and with many adult friends who are engineers themselves, she has a lot of mentors.  A day spent with peers exploring her area of interest, however, was a special opportunity.  She most enjoyed creating the paper bridge.  She went into the activity with confidence because she had previously built a very strong toothpick bridge for a homeschool science fair years ago. At the Wow! That’s Engineering! workshop, however, the set up was different.  Each girl was given a few pieces of paper and a handful of paper clips to build a bridge that could hold 100 pennies.  Having experienced a similar scenario, Sweetie was convinced her design would win.

When it came down to the test, the girls were presented with a problem.  Thy had been told they would be spanning a gap of about 8 inches, but when they measured the test site found that the estimate was 2 inches too small.  “We threw in that twist to make it more real,” the volunteer said. “We’ll go out to a site, and it’s different than what we were told.”

Sweetie’s friend also attended the Wow! That’s Engineering! workshop. She was proudly holding her Hydrolift, a wooden crane the size of a tea kettle that used two syringes as pumps to raise and lower rocks, when my husband came to pick up the girls.

“I want to come back ’cause it’s fun,” the girls said. “I love it.”

The Society of Women Engineers offers outreach programs for girls interested in engineering all over the country.  Visit their website and find a workshop nearest you.

 

Entomology Unit Study Wrap-up

The past six weeks have been a lot of fun!  I am throughly enjoyed teaching the online Introductory Entomology Unit Study course.  As it is a self-directed course, the participants are continuing to work through the material at their own pace.  Access to the online materials shared via Google Docs will remain until the end of September (some for longer), so do not feel pressure to get through the material quickly.

entomology unit study

Entomology Unit Study eBook Now Available

I am excited to share that I have compiled all the activities and lessons I shared through this online course into one comprehensive unit study.  The Introductory Entomology Unit Study eBook includes all the lessons, notebooking pages, reference pages, and printables that were used in this course along with several bonus notebooking pages, handouts, lab activities, and a list of resources.  This eBook is available for only $9.90.

praying mantisImplementing the Lessons

Along the way, I have shared numerous posts providing glimpses into how I have implemented the lessons with my own children.  I have also shared links to samples of student work and other resources available in hopes of inspiring you and your children as you undertake a study of insects.

Entomology Course Outline

Week #1 – Insects in Art

Week #2 – Insect Collecting

Week #3 – Insect Survey for Kids

Week #4 – Insect Projects for Kids

Week #5 – Integrated Pest Management

Week #6 – Insect Inquiry

Many families will be continuing their entomology unit study through the summer. As always, I encourage you to share your own insect discoveries and student projects with us.  We would love to see your work!  Simply upload to our Flickr group or post a link in the comments. 🙂

 

Entomology Week #5 – Integrated Pest Management

I love this activity.  Not only does it provide a great opportunity to engage the kids in a cooperative learning activity, it also provides me with a fascinating glimpse into their world – how they think about things and how they have processed previous lessons.  Titled Integrated Pest Management, the lesson begins with a mini-lesson on the life-cycle of the mosquito.  We have observed the mosquito larvae on a nature outing in the past, Mosquitos: Summer Nature Study, so they had a great deal of prior knowledge.

Integrated Pest Management activity for kidsI then introduced the simulation … a local farmer has a problem with the mosquito population and needs their help to control the species using Integrated Pest Management techniques.  I share what that means and provide a few examples.  I then give them a map of the farmers property and ask that they work together to generate suggested strategies.  As they record their ideas, we discuss the pros (why this strategy could work) and cons (what other harm could this strategy cause) of each strategy.

It is amazing to me some of the ideas they come up with and the ideas they toss out of contention because of the potential harm it could cause other species.

Here’s a partial list of their ideas:

  • Install bat nesting boxes
  • Put a net over the pool when not in use
  • Install a filter system on the live stock water troughs
  • Get rid of the invasive blackberries

How about you?  Did you all come up with other ideas?  Why would removing invasive blackberries be beneficial?

If you are looking for more hands-on ideas and lessons about insects, I have compiled a number of my favorites in a unit study approach, Introductory Entomology. Through hands-on activities, real life simulations, and multi-media presentations this six-week unit incorporates more than 10 entomology lessons and suggested extension activities.