District Teachers and Students Learn From the Outdoors

District Teachers and Students Learn From the Outdoors photo

The district worked with the Intercounty Teacher Resource Center to secure funds for science professional development of kindergarten teachers at both Deasy and Gribbin schools. Thanks to this partnership, they were able to bring Adelphi University professors Mary Jean McCarthy and Dr. Emily Kang to lead ecology workshops with the Greentree Foundation.

A number of teachers across the district applied last year and were accepted to the Greentree Teachers’ Ecology Workshop for a yearlong program to provide school teachers with the knowledge and techniques to better teach Long Island students about the natural world. The workshop provided participants with familiarity with Long Island’s geological history, general knowledge of local ecosystems, tools for using the outdoors as an extension of the classroom, exciting curriculum to connect students to nature and a forum to share challenges and successes with peers to create an online dialogue about nature-based teaching. As a result of this intensive workshop, teachers have brought a wealth of knowledge about outdoor science education into their classrooms. 

The district believes that outdoor science education should be emphasized in the science curriculum to initiate science lessons with natural phenomena that students can observe and wonder about. These phenomena will effortlessly lead to inquiry hands-on science lessons. To this end, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Technology Dr. Michael Israel and Coordinator of Science Alexa Doeschner, along with teachers Antoinette Hatzopoulos, Jessica McKenna and Giselle Taylor, coordinated with building principals Melanie Arfman and Francine Santoro to reach out to Professor McCarthy and Dr. Kang to develop professional development for the district.

Professor McCarthy and Ms. Doeschner co-lead a professional development session for kindergarten teachers. The focus of this initial meeting highlighted research that documents the positive impact of outdoor learning and reviewed strategies for engaging outdoor learning using literature as a springboard for student observations to record their noticings and wonderings. The professional development that is being implemented with kindergarten teachers is a series of constructive co-taught lessons with the Adelphi professors that allow teachers the opportunity to learn more about incorporating outdoor education while doing outdoor science education. Teachers from Deasy and Gribbin enthusiastically participated in the professional development and brought their own zeal for education to the co-taught lessons. Lessons became a true collaboration between the professors and teachers that highlighted each teacher’s particular passion.

At Deasy, the students headed out to the garden’s perimeter with their magnifying glasses to look for seeds to compare the plant life cycle with animals’ life cycle. Teachers connected this to what students had just observed about the life cycle of ducks. At Gribbin, students used their magnifying glasses to notice and draw shapes in nature, which the teachers connected to students’ current math work. Building on students’ interests, students from both Deasy and Gribbin also became detectives, looking for insects and engaging in a conversation about the interdependence of plants and animals in their schoolyard community. Through the act of exploring the outdoors, the diversity and unity of life is emerging as they observe that their own schoolyard is home to a marvelous multiplicity of life.