April 22nd is Earth Day. I’ll be spending it in my daughter’s elementary school, helping to coordinate an all-day “Science Day” for a building full of eager kindegarteners through third graders.
It wasn’t until I had kids and started looking at their curriculum that I began to wonder how key ideas and concepts could be relayed to some of our youngest learners. Earlier this academic year, I marveled at how my daughter’s third grade teacher was able to make science (astronomy in particular) come alive for the class, while using it as a strong, teachable moment to reinforce the Common Core. Imagine that, being able to teach students science, while also teaching to our expectations around English-language arts, teamwork, critical thinking, and the like.
When it comes to the environment, my kids sorta get it. They understand that recycling is important, and will begrudgingly help as we both place our trash in the requisite bins in our garage and then haul them out to the curb each week. And in past years, as previous Earth Days have rolled around, they’ve been quick to come home with new lectures to preach at us. But it has never really gotten at the issue of how one can take a concept like the environment and Earth Day and really make it an integrated part of a student’s learning path.
Regardless of the subject matter, we know that, to be most effective, classroom lessons have to be tied to student interests. This is particularly true with younger learners. One can’t just get up in front of a class of second graders and begin to lecture them on the environment, the causes of World War I, or cell biology. No, we have to find ways to link content to the student. This means both what is taught and how it is taught....