By Hazel Stark
Beals Elementary students did not stay inside to read about science on September 14 and 15; Maine Outdoor School took Beals students in grades K-8 to the Great Wass Island Nature Preserve to learn geology and natural history through games, acting, exploration, art, and observation. On the first day, students in grades 5-8 focused on geology by identifying mineral types along the trail and observing the impacts of glaciers on the landscape. On the second day, those 5th-8th-graders buddied with students in grades K-4 to share what they learned and build new knowledge about the landscape together.
“Education doesn’t just come from textbooks and lessons,” says Beals Elementary Principal Chris Crowley. “A good education is one where connections are made, connections that are relevant to the students’ lives.” One such connection students made was between the amount of time a rock cooled during its formation and the relative texture of the rock itself. Through playing a game where they acted out the four mineral types found in granite and how they crystallize, students were able to point at and feel rocks and describe whether they had cooled quickly or slowly based on the mineral composition. As they continued the 4.5-mile hike, they identified minerals in the variety of rocks they saw and pointed at “glacial erratics”--big rocks left behind by retreating glaciers.
On the next day, all Beals Elementary students made art to illustrate the living, nonliving, and human factors that shape the landscape. In their buddied groups, they were challenged to create art using found objects on the shore that represented “what we can learn from the landscape.” Students built turtles, butterflies, and a lobster boat to illustrate just some of the many landscape features with which we coexist.
As they hiked, many students opted to become part of the “Green Team” by carrying an old grocery bag to collect any trash found along the trail. Not only did Beals students get outside to observe, play, and learn about the geology and natural history of their local preserve during this two-day program, but also they built collaborative relationships with their peers, developed a sense of appreciation and stewardship for where they live, and left the preserve more litter-free than when they arrived.