Dear Waters Family (ies),Welcome to a new school year at Waters, one unlike any in memory. Waters Ecology has developed over the past 25 years as a K-9 strand of field ecology that intertwines with the school curriculum: science, yes, but also art, math, music, social studies, etc. For those families new to the school the general organization is like this:
Kindergarten ~ explores the huge Waters Garden, planting potatoes, learning about the compost creatures, the Legend of Snake and Turtle, etc.
1st Grade ~ a year long study of the trees of our neighborhood
2nd ~ the Chicago Riverbank community, with trips to Riverbank Neighbors Natural Area
3rd thru 5th ~ Mighty Acorns exploration and stewardship in the Forest preserves at Sauganash Prairie Grove
6th ~ the Chicago River System, chemical and biological testing of water, how the river the Lake and the sewer system work together,
7th ~ Lake Michigan ecosystems, dunes and glacial geology at Montrose Point
8th ~ Waters Garden maintenance, harvest and food preparation.
This is a very elaborate, well developed, nine year exposure to the natural history of our area, based on field experiences. How will it look this Fall? The idea that we are working on is to be part of the on-line teaching with every class in the school, in collaboration with the teacher. To this end we have been producing video segments on site: in the school gardens, the Riverbank, the Lake and the Forest Preserve, to bring the field experience to life. These videos will be part of our ecology lessons, along with on-line narrations (by myself and the classroom teachers), participation by the students, and perhaps most importantly, an invitation to parents to bring your child into the field. We will give instructions about how to get there, what to look for, how to use a science field journal, and we will ask students to report back to the group, to share what they have discovered in their explorations. We will try to use best practices, like allowing time for small group conferencing, and sharing. As usual, ecology will include alot of songs, alot of art, and alot of fun. Teachers will make video clips available for parent and teacher re-viewing. One side effect of these new procedures will be an enhanced role for parents: as co-learners, co-explorers, and as teachers. This has always been an essential part of the ecology program: parents leading students in exploring the natural world. It is new for me, too. But the extensive archive of videos that we are producing, will become rich documentation of the ecology program in the future. The ability of parents to accompany their children on field outings also means that these trips can be scheduled at will: when parents are available, when the weather is favorable, without the logistic worries about buses, and weather, and scheduling.
So join us in this adventure.
The Ecology Online guides, links, and videos are located here.