Tag Archives: environmental literacy

A Wonder Walk

First graders are naturally filled with wonder. It doesn’t take much to get them to look closely, to pay attention to details that many others miss.

Our school has the most amazing librarian. Last week I asked her about a book–a book I know I own, but cannot find in my classroom. And she not only found me a copy of that book, but she also suggested another that was new to me…and just what I needed today when I found it in my mailbox.

#writeout is a collaboration between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service that urges all of us to get outside and find inspiration in whatever nature is around us. We started #writeout yesterday with time in the school garden. Students learned about weeds, donned child-sized gardening gloves, and dug and pulled and delighted in seeing roots break free of the dry soil.

Today we read Wonder Walkers, that book our school librarian left in my mailbox. It was perfect for setting the stage for a wonder walk, time on our school grounds looking for interesting things (think leaves, seed pods, sticks, etc.) from nature that we collected using our collection tool (shout out to Little Pine Learners). Before we headed out we talked about what items we could collect and what we should not (living bugs, picking flowers and plants)–and students were excited to get started.

They looked carefully and their collectors began to fill. Some were exuberant and filled their spaces quickly, crowding dried roots and pine droppings with sticks and crunchy leaves. Others were more selective, leaving more spaces between the items collected. A child with sharp eyes found a dandelion puff that didn’t have to be picked, truly a treasure that her classmates envied!

Before we headed back into the classroom, I gathered students close and encouraged them to hold out the collectors so they could see each other’s collections and also so I could take a few pictures.

Once back in the classroom, students used their iPads to take a photo of their collector for future use. Then we settled to read another book. An old favorite, Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, is a wonderful mentor text for students to use as a structure or frame for their writing. I loved the gasp when students realized that this book was non-fiction, yet so accessible with beautiful illustrations. They also remembered their experience with weeds from yesterday and the conversation with the garden teacher about how weeds are not “bad,” they are just not the plants you want in a particular space.

After comments and observations about the book, we tried on using the Weeds find a way… frame with objects from our collectors. “A red leaf finds a way to swish and swoosh through the air,” was one example that got us started.

We ended the day by starting a Zine to showcase our nature items through writing and drawing. We used a single sheet of copy paper to fold a small booklet (with a single cut and no tape or staples) that will soon become tiny treasures worthy of #writeout. More about that in another post!

Growing Advocates and Activists: SOL22 Day 12

I love writing project work and the ways that teachers are the driving force behind proactive change. A conversation with a colleague a few years ago–about the need for climate/environmental education to become “ordinary,” something that students experience regularly, in all their classes, throughout their education career–has stuck with me. And as a result, this year in our local writing project, we convened a group of SDAWP educators to explore that very idea with an added twist: how can we make environmental literacy and justice both ordinary and also have writing at its center?

Today was our celebration and the opportunity to hear details about the work that teachers in this group accomplished. Each put together a 5 minute overview of the work, highlighting student engagement and involvement through writing.

Wow! I felt like I could see these young people growing into advocates and activists right before my eyes. They wrote and spoke with passion about our world, recognizing its beauty AND our need to take better care of it for their future. There were letters, informational pieces, persuasive essays, narratives, poems, artwork, speeches and more. I felt my heart grow three sizes just witnessing this incredible work facilitated by my writing project colleagues.

Our next step is to figure out ways to take this work beyond our group, to and beyond our larger writing project community, and to establish this as something students can expect throughout their schooling. The beauty is that these teachers did not take away anything they were required to teach, instead they worked this content into the learning the students were expected to experience anyway.

There will be more to come…

Surfing Pelican; @kd0602