by Mara Goldschmidt and Kathleen Kavanaugh, Third Grade Teachers
Wilson School has great success with it’s educational approach, Integrated Learning. The crux of this method is connecting multiple subjects around a topic, challenge, or experience. Recently, our third graders had a day-long, outdoor learning activity where all of the subject matter connected around Forest Park and its Steinberg Savanna.
Although it started out a little chilly, we were dressed well and we warmed up fairly quickly. It turned out to be a perfect day for spending our whole day learning in the outdoors. So many subject areas were covered in our explorations.
In small groups, we took some mindful time to observe the beauty of the savanna in three different locations. Each student wrote some description that was then either assembled into a group poem or an individual poem. In the afternoon we had silent reading time curled up under or on our favorite mulberry tree.
The day began with P.E. Ms. Simpson joined us in the park for some warm up activities, a run around the park on some of the paths, and then some cool down stretches. We also did quite a bit of walking throughout the day.
Mr. Theo, one of the Forest Park naturalists, came to meet us in the wetland area of the savanna dressed in his wading boots and overalls. He explained how the presence of macro-invertebrates in the river signaled the healthiness of the river. With nets large and small, students collected scoops of plant and animal material from the river, emptied the contents into dishpans of water, and identified organisms such as mayfly larva, dragonfly larva, a leech, and mussels. We were surrounded by nature the entire day and made many observations of the plant and animal life. There were many different kinds of wildflowers, some gone to seed. It was amazing what a variety of seeds there are! We used field guides to identify species of both flowers and trees, including: smartweed flowers, asters, birch trees, catalpa trees, and redbud trees. We learned to recognize the difference between coniferous and deciduous trees. It was our good fortune to spot a great blue heron, a white egret, and a large frog submerged in the prevalent duckweed.
Many students took the time to sketch what they observed. They drew trees, flowers, and more.
We were even able to incorporate some history into our day. The footbridge on the trail was built in 1885, and was the main entrance into Forest Park. It is called The Victorian Bridge.
It was a day to remember for a long time to come!
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