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Showing Joan Krohn

First Place

PreK | Science & Tech | Hands on activities

Station None in None

My Classroom Innovation

Our Head Start/Early Childhood program serves the low income and special needs three, four and five year olds of Merrill Area Public Schools. We are a rural district in Northcentral Wisconsin. As a staff we have found that many of our students suffer from what Richard Louv calls "Nature Deficit Disorder". These young children have a diminished or even absent sense of wonder. A sense of wonder is the foundation of science. Our staff began a project called the Outdoor Explorers where we took the children "Into the Outdoors". These field trips were great experiences and full of environmental education, not to mention fun. We wanted to extend this experience so that our students would have encounters with nature every day. In the fall of 2008 I began our Natural Playscape project. I was proud to be awarded the Neale Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point and that got the project snowballing. Families, staff members, students, Boy Scouts, community members, businesses, service organizations even the Merrill Street Department all worked together to create the Natural Playscape. We have a sod pile to dig in (worm habitat!), a boulder field, shrubs, trees, bridge, rough-cut lumber playhouse, gathering circle, garden, water trough, and outdoor music room. It is still a work in progress. It has truly been an amazing honor to be in charge of this project.

How Students were Engaged

The children have responded with curiosity, exploration, experiementation, teamwork, purpose, pretend play and enthusiasm. There has been learning in all content areas. Five students were playing along the length of the water trough. They were working together to try and dam up the water. Hauling sand from the sand box was fun to watch get swept away but it didn't work. Woodchips and sticks same thing. Then some one brought over a rock. This did the trick and stopped the flow of water. The students were using the scientific process. They were also comparing and sorting materials which is a math skill. They were turn taking, encouraging each other, and working as a team which are all social/emotional skills. The children were also engaging in meaningful exchanges of conversation and planning together which are language skills. Their bodies were moving purposefully and they were using their senses as they made observations. This is engagement on all levels and totally student led.

PBS Program/Content Used