When I began teaching environmental science, my lessons focused on single topics. Children would learn about skunk cabbage or water striders. They’d study tree rings, bluebirds, or moss. As I grew as an educator, my lessons took flight, too. Formerly freestanding themes began to merge into more intricate relationships, like the individual food chains that make up a complicated web. A lesson on riparian buffer zones, those green ribbons of foliage that surround waterways, is not complete without digging into runoff, soils, and native plants. Meadows are no longer just meadows: they represent an early stage of ecological succession, hide the dens of foxes, and were once kept in check through periodic burnings by the early Native Americans who used them for hunting grounds.
Beginning in April, homeschool students ages 8 to 12 will have an opportunity to explore the complex environmental interrelationships between wild animals, the plants they depend on for food and shelter, and humans in a six-week “Wild Connections” program. Each week will spotlight a unique environmental connection, from the causal relationship between acorn yields, white-footed mice, and Lyme disease to how an increase in ethanol production has led to a decrease in the monarch butterfly population. As always, the academic approach will be “feet wet, hands dirty,” since the best way to learn about the environment is through firsthand experience.
Click here for more information about Science for Homeschoolers: Wild Connections and other Arboretum programs. Wild Connections meets Fridays, April 3 to May 8, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator