FIRST HAND LEARNING E-NEWSLETTER

Vol. 4, No. 1

IN THIS ISSUE:

1. CREATING AN OUTDOOR CLASSROOM

2. TEACH USING THE OUTDOORS - PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES SHOW YOU HOW

3. READY AND SET FOR SCIENCE

4. THE FREE, DOWN-LOADABLE “MINI JOURNAL” IS BACK!

1. STARTING FROM SCRATCH

Have you considered creating an outdoor learning center at your school? Maybe you’ve assessed the potential of the land around the school buildings, thought about activities to do outside, or perhaps even designed a plan for developing spaces specifically for outdoor learning.

A junior high school located in Mexia, Texas has just taken up the challenge to turn a 13-acre tract of land behind its campus into an outdoor classroom. Students have already begun investigations, testing soil pH and identifying animal tracks. In the future they will be able to explore three different ecosystems that make up the acreage – woodlands, native grasslands, and a wetland area. Seventh grade science teacher David Hayes is seeking grant funds, local support, and donations of science supplies and equipment in order to transform this asset into a working Outdoor Learning Center. Read more about Mexia Junior High School’s project at: http://www.mexiadailynews.com/local/local_story_337122923.html

Seeking more information on how to transform school grounds into outdoor learning centers? Download a pdf of the “Schoolyard Habitat Project Guide” put out by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for suggestions on how to start: http://www.fws.gov/chesapeakebay/schoolyd.htm

If you are looking for funding to help support your project, check out Lowe’s Outdoor Classroom Grant Program: www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=pg&p=
AboutLowes/outdoor/index.html
Teachers may apply for grants up to $2,000, while school districts with major outdoor classroom projects could be awarded up to $20,000. The next deadline for online submission is February 15, 2008 – however Lowe’s will only consider the first 1,500 submissions, so apply soon!

There are lots of other grant and funding opportunities to pursue when developing plans for your outdoor areas. For instance, Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality offers suggestions about funding and more for outdoor classrooms at their Virginia Naturally site: www.vanaturally.com/outdoorclassrooms/about.html

2. REGISTER NOW TO ATTEND OUR NSTA PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE

First Hand Learning will present a day-long professional development Institute (PDI) on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 as part of the NSTA’s national conference in Boston. Hosted by the Boston Nature Center, this workshop is entitled “The Outdoor Classroom: A Natural Path to Science and Literacy” and will offer participants strategies for teaching and learning using the local environment and demonstrate how to integrate science inquiry and literacy. To learn more about the content and presenters, and to register, go to http://www.nsta.org/pd/pdi/2008pdi06.aspx

There are eleven PDI experiences to choose from at the Boston conference. Read more about all the great options at www.nsta.org/pd/pdi/default.aspx.

If you must miss NSTA or just can’t wait until March, your district can apply to host its own “Outdoor Inquiries” workshop. First Hand Learning has received funding from the National Science Foundation to offer daylong sessions around the country. (Workshops in Fort Worth, TX and Arlington, VA are next in line.) Contact us at inquiries@firsthandleaning.org to discuss the possibilities.

These professional development opportunities support the recent publication of FHL’s new book, “Outdoor Inquiries: Taking Learning Outside the Classroom,” issued by Heinemann. Find out more at http://books.heinemann.com/products/E01120.aspx

3. A NEW RESOURCE FOR TEACHING SCIENCE

“What types of instructional experiences help K-8 students learn science with understanding?” This is the overarching question that a recent publication from the National Academies Press attempts to answer. A synthesis of the most recent research combined with real-world case studies, “Ready, Set, Science!: Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms” has plenty to offer the thoughtful practitioner.

See for yourself: the complete book is available for free online review at http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11882#toc. You can also choose to purchase the publication, either as a pdf download or in print.

4. TOOTHPICKS TO TOPS – A MINI-EXPLORATION

Looking for something with which to engage kids when the weather is frightful? Visit First Hand Learning’s website to download a free “mini-journal” that will lead kids to investigate how and why tops spin. Using common household items such as toothpicks and card stock, they will be making hypotheses and testing out theories with each spin.

Get it at http://www.firsthandlearning.org/minijournal.html- where you'll also find directions for folding the paper, as well as lots of other mini-journal activities.

The First Hand Learning Catalog offers nature journals, hands-on science kits, posters, and more. Take advantage of 2007 pricing until January 31, 2008. Go to www.firsthandlearning.org/catalog/catalog_frameset.html

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We hope you found this edition of the FIRSTHAND E-NEWSLETTER informative. Please contact us with any comments, suggestions, or questions you may have by emailing us at: inquiries@firsthandlearning.org.

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