By Hazel Stark
Given some schedule changes, Blueberry Harvest School students enjoyed three bonus days of longer blocks of our Outdoor Explorations classes during the fourth week of August 2017. This week began with the “Great American Eclipse” of August 21st, which offered an ideal outdoor learning opportunity. From eclipse observation to mosquito science to nature art, students experienced a fitting conclusion to Blueberry Harvest School 2017.
Just as the sun is the center of our solar system, it served as the center of learning on Monday, August 21st. Students learned about how eclipses happen, observed the partial solar eclipse occur, and wrote legends about what happens during a solar eclipse. While observing the eclipse, one student said “The sun could be a snowshoe hare and the moon could be a lynx, and the eclipse could be when the lynx eats the snowshoe hare.” Surely those students won’t forget that solar eclipse anytime soon!
In addition to the obvious presence of the sun on Monday, the other notable presence during Outdoor Explorations this summer was mosquitoes! One group of students began the week by reading Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin, a book written from a fly’s perspective about wanting to be a superhero and learning to value its uniqueness. This led seamlessly into listing everything they know and wonder about mosquitoes, making mosquito traps, and developing hypotheses about how well the mosquito traps will work. The next day, one student arrived to Outdoor Explorations and immediately asked “Can we go check the mosquito traps? Can we make some more?” Despite their recent itchy and irritating battles with mosquitoes, the interest and enthusiasm about them was certainly building. Their mosquito traps were effective, giving students a prime opportunity to observe them with magnifying glasses and draw them. They even counted their own mosquito bites and graphed the number of bites they had! To round out this mosquito-centric week, students wrote their own “Diary of a Mosquito,” using what they’d learned that week. They even discovered that a parking lot puddle held mosquito larvae! “I’m naming him Wiggle because that’s how he moves,” said one student about one of the larvae. He then went on to create his own dance of how larvae move. By the end of the week, that group of students’ respect for mosquitoes was palpable.
Meanwhile, the oldest students were making plans for teaching the youngest students in an effort to conclude Blueberry Harvest School’s 2017 theme of “learning from each other.” After an enthusiastic brainstorm session, the oldest students decided that teaching the youngest students about making land art and building shelters would be a fun and informative way of working with each other and further engaging with the outdoors. Taking a step back, MOS’s Outdoor Educator Ellie observed a notable increase in engagement and responsibility by these oldest students--they were even nervous right before their time to teach came! Even though they were focused on teaching students about art and engineering through hands-on nature exploration, the oldest students automatically included a focus on safety: “It’s important to teach the younger kids about how to be safe in the woods, too.” The oldest and youngest students truly learned from each other.
Just as our hearts sink each time the monarch butterflies and thrushes leave the area for the winter, we’ll miss these students and hope to see them again next year! For more on Blueberry Harvest School 2017, check out our articles on week 1, week 2, and week 3.
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