Imagine a place where an Energy Specialist, trying to determine the amount
of food needed to sustain a population of deer in an oak-hickory forest,
calls for a discussion with her colleague, an expert in acorn production.
Collaboration is imperative to complete her investigation. Now imagine that
these environmental specialists are only nine years old. You have just
arrived at EarthWorks.
The journey to EarthWorks for these student scientists begins long
before the simulation experience. The EarthWorks program originates in the
classroom as a hands-on learning adventure for third and fourth grader
students guided by a knowledgeable, highly trained teacher. Children are
given opportunities through the EarthWorks curriculum to engage in direct
experiences with the natural world and to discuss these experiences with
their peers. Students begin to construct, through their own investigations,
interrelationships among the biosphere, and the physical components
necessary to make a small area of the Earth work.
EarthWorks Step One: Teacher training and planning
Elementary teachers will attend a workshop to learn about EarthWorks
theory and curriculum. During this workshop, the teachers receive support
and training on how to implement a hands-on science program, advanced
thematic learning theory and developmentally appropriate instructional
practices. They will be coached on how to tailor their own curriculum,
beyond the core lessons, to integrate math, writing, art, and reading into
the EarthWorks program.
EarthWorks Step Two: Preparing the Students
Nine Core Lessons are provided as the required preparation for students
before their trip to EarthWorks. This curriculum provides basic
introductory information about the living things of the Earth interact with
the physical components--the heliosphere (the primary source of energy),
the hydrosphere (water), the atmosphere (air), the lithosphere (earth).
The Eight Core Lessons focus on scientific methods of testing and
investigation, working together, making decisions, and communicating
information to others. The lessons begin with a survey performed by the
students to develop a picture of their school as their habitat. Each
component is then examined in depth for a greater understanding of why
living things need a clean source of water, air, enough energy, and healthy
soil. As a class team, students build a simple habitat in their classroom
to demonstrate their new knowledge.
Taking on the Role of a Specialist: The EarthWorks' site is divided
into five field stations, each connected to a representative habitat that
might be found in this area. In teams of three, students will be perform a
series of connected experiments as they travel from habitat to habitat. A
team of students will complete Job Application Forms in which they choose
their series of experiments. Teachers will assist in assigning students
specialist roles based on the Job Application Forms.
Step Three: The EarthWorks Experience
The EarthWorks site, a large cave-like area created from mining
limestone, will be transformed into an extraordinary educational center
with five EarthWorks field stations with a regional habitat connected to
each. The habitats will be a pond, a meadow, a prairie (focusing on the
soil), a cave, and an oak-hickory forest. A large interactive globe will
be in the center of the field stations/habitats. This will not only
provide orientation for the students, but will respond to the students as
they complete experiments.
- Field Stations:
- In the morning, working in teams of three, student specialists will
conduct experiments integrating clues necessary to complete a habitat in
the afternoon. For example, one team will be looking at the role of
decomposers and scavengers. This team might explore earthworms in the
prairie, crayfish in the cave, catfish in the pond, bacteria in the
butterfly meadow, and acorn weevils in the oak-hickory forest.
- In the morning, the habitats will be provide a 'stage setting' of
what a student might see if s/he took a walk along a Missouri stream. The
students will encounter a pond, a meadow, a cave, a prairie, and an
After lunch, in larger teams, students will determine the carrying
capacity of each habitat. They will determine the numbers and placement of
the producers, consumers, and decomposers in each habitat. The physical
components necessary to support the biological systems will be put in
These young scientists will begin to understand the complexity of our
natural world and the importance of understanding conservation. As the young
scientists work in the field stations, demonstrating a minds-on
understanding of science through careful observation, thoughtful analysis,
healthy skepticism, and a blending of logic and imagination, the development
of sound and coherent predictions and explanations will allow the students
to begin 'building' the habitats.
- A large (16 foot diameter) globe will form the centerpiece for
EarthWorks. The globe will be designed to visualize the relationships and
dynamics between each Earth system. The students, through their
experiences, will be slowly making the Earth work throughout the day. This
lesson will be reinforced using this dramatic visualization. Students will
meet at the end of the day to discuss the building of the habitats and
through this process they will complete making the Earth Work by activating
the rotation of the globe.
Step Four: Reflection
A successful program allows students to reflect upon what new knowledge
they have obtained. Students also learn to take on the responsibility for
their actions. EarthWorks will ask students to continue to develop strong
conservation skills upon returning to the classroom in the reflection piece.
The habitat teams of fifteen students will be given a mini-habitat that
corresponds to the one they experienced at EarthWorks. For example, the
prairie soil habitat will be given a worm garden. Students have to
determine how much food, water, air, and land the worms need. Their logs
will be maintained indicating the amounts needed of each component to
sustain this habitat. In addition, students can choose further reflection
studies such as how much soil can be produced by this amount of worms, what
is the quality of soil, etc.
Each of the lessons will be enriched by three multi-disciplinary
lessons. The supplementary lessons offer learning activities that
integrate environmental and conservation concepts into language arts,
reading, math, social studies, drama, and art. During the training,
teachers will developed a plan to use these supplementary lessons to
integrate environmental science throughout the curriculum. These can be
used before or after the EarthWorks experience.
Educators interested in EarthWorks are encouraged to contact Linda Segebrecht of EarthWorks via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Holly Hughes' part in EarthWorks will be the creation of the 16-foot globe.
Last modified by LaRoe 16 April 1996.