Classroom Earth: Teach Conservation By Going Outside

If I had one wish for the classrooms of the world, it is that we would all leave the four walls and enter Classroom Earth. In Classroom Earth, we will study nature in nature. We will be citizen scientists taking measurements that matter as citizen scientists. We will study and record history. As a result, we can train young leaders who appreciate the awesome stewardship they will inherit.
This post is part of Cathy Rubin's Global Search for Education. This month's question is “Our Planet has a Plan – Climate Change and the Depletion of Natural Resources Presents a Global Challenge.  What is the Role of Education?” The top global teacher bloggers will weigh in. This post is my reflection on this topic.

You can't teach conservation in a book. Well, maybe you can, but not in a memorable, life-changing way, I think.

As a farmer's daughter, I grew to love the land. As my hands worked the soil, I noticed the seeds growing. As my toes wiggled in the mud from Dad's drip irrigation on dry, dusty days, I appreciated the water supply from the underground aquifer. A heart for conservation is best born outdoors. For this reason, the Flint River Project was the best project my school ever created.

Students took water samples at a variety of locations on the river and presented their results at a community meeting.

Students took water samples at a variety of locations on the river and presented their results at a community meeting.

The Flint River Project: A Whole School Studies a River for Four Days

In this 2009 project that I helped organize along with curriculum director, Betty Shiver, students got on the river. Some of them collected and counted macroinvertebrates. Others took water samples. Some visited and documented historical sites, while others wrote poetry and read literature.

As I consider this project, I'm struck by the incredible results. One of the students, Casey Cox, moved back home to Camilla, where she went to school. Casey is now the Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts.

When she was a student on the project, she wrote,
By opening up the river to the students of Westwood, we are not only creating a unique learning opportunity but also a burgeoning appreciation for the natural resource we are so very lucky to have here in south Georgia. The river will be an integral part of my future, as I intend to double major in business and conservation at the University of Florida, and I anticipate returning to this area to preserve the beautiful Flint. I hope my fellow high school students now recognize the importance of the river to our local economy and ecosystem.
Community experts were interviewed as part of the Flint River Project.

Community experts were interviewed as part of the Flint River Project.

These students come back and often say it was the most meaningful project of their high school years. While many of them go outdoors, the Flint River Project was a true outdoor classroom experience. To learn conservation, we must not only dig our hands in the dirt, we must join hands to protect the earth.

Farming is in the DNA of our community here in Mitchell County, Georgia, USA. Our work as stewards of Earth's resources might be celebrated on one day of the year, but every day is Earth Day. Additionally, every single classroom can attend Classroom Earth– we only need to go outside and start teaching and learning.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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1 comment

Dicksy Hinesley March 26, 2018 - 10:09 am

Great job, Cool Cat Teacher! As citizens of an agricultural based economy in Southwest Georgia, USA, we all have a responsibility to be stewards of our beautiful part of the state. Indeed, as citizens of the world, we have a global responsibility as well!


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere