First Grade Teacher Daisy Hanney taught her students about feathers and how they help birds survive, from helping them float in water to helping them camouflage into their surroundings.
She wrote the focus statement on her board, “Birds’ feathers help them survive in many ways,” and from there, the students copied the focus statement in their neatest handwriting and made drawings of birds and feathers.
Throughout the year at Mary G. Hogsett Primary School, first graders have been learning about birds, and kindergarteners have been learning about trees. Each class is approaching lessons differently, but they’re all engaged in the same intensive study. The school is also partnering with Bluegrass Greensource to do some environmental education for preschool through first grade.
Hanney and Kindergarten Teacher Lisa Denny shared how lessons have been going in their classes.
Hanney said she’s enjoyed getting to see her students engaged and excited about learning about birds.
“There are so many birds that we are learning about every day, and so many of the students have never seen these birds before or got to experience the environments that they live in,” she said. “I think that just getting to see them excited and engaged while learning has brought me the most joy out of teaching these lessons.”
So far, her students have learned about bird beaks, feathers, feet, colors and how certain body parts help birds survive. They use bird books, which they staple together, to keep track of their learning.
“The students now get so excited when they see birds outside or they read about them in a book,” she said.
She said one of the values of learning about nature at the students’ age is to help foster an appreciation and respect for nature from an early age to help them become responsible adults later in life.
“I think it is important for students to learn about nature at this age because many of our first grade students have never experienced different places other than the town that they live in,” she said. “So, getting to experience all of these different types of birds and learn about them and their habitats gives them the experience of different places around the world,” Hanney said.
On the same day Hanney’s students were writing focus statements about how birds’ feathers help them survive, Denny’s kindergarten class completed a fact chart about weeping willow trees to add to their list of tree species. Then, they chose tree species to write about, including what the tree needs and the animals they attract.
Before the class learned about tree species, earlier this year they learned how to distinguish between living and nonliving things, about plants and the difference between plants and animals.
The students have made great connections in class to their lives — perhaps they have a certain tree in their yard at home — and what they’ve seen and learned in books, movies and TV shows.
For example, at the beginning of the school year the class read a book called “Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon,” which has a weeping willow tree in it. One student made a connection to the book during learning.
“I just think that’s amazing, and I love how their little brains make those great connections,” Denny said.
When it comes to learning about nature, she hopes students learn to value their resources, and that it will encourage a sense of adventure and a desire to explore.
“One of the things that I think is so good for them to be engaged in nature is to be able to value our resources,” she said. “Our resources are limited on Earth, and if you instill a love of nature at an early age, hopefully that will continue to grow as the children grow.”
She’s also excited about the partnership with Bluegrass Greensource.
“Anything that we have that incorporates a community partnership — I think that’s great for the kids to know that we’re not just an island, doing stuff at school,” she said. “What we can do can reach out and work with other partnerships.”
About the partnership with Bluegrass Greensource
Lesson plans with Bluegrass Greensource include tree lessons like observing tree cross sections, modeling parts of trees, life forms that inhabit trees and ecosystems they create and how trees protect local waterways. As part of the University of Kentucky's Urban Forest Initiative, students will adopt a class tree to measure and learn its benefits to the environment.
In learning about birds, students will learn about unique functions of bird beaks, make Bobwhite masks and learn about Bobwhites, learn about seeds and study Eastern Bluebirds and their habitats.
An Earth Day project funded by Bluegrass Greensource and Kentucky Division of Water will include students planting a tree on the school grounds near the stormwater flowing into the local Clark's Run watershed and installing a Bluebird nesting box on the school grounds, as well as planting native shrubs that can be used by birds for habitat purposes.
Preschool students will be working this month with an environmental scientist from Bluegrass Greensource as Junior Energy Explorers to investigate the power of sun, wind and water. Beginning this month and continuing into May, Junior Nature Explorers will discover regional animals, plants and ecosystems. This learning is sponsored in part by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet and PNC Bank.
There will also be a Junior Watershed Festival funded by Kentucky River Authority at Michael Smith Park on May 7 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. where students and parents will learn about pressing issues around the Clarks Run Watershed and how their actions impact their environment.
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