Environmental Education for Kids Internship Report
This internship was a big success. I found it both personally enriching and educational for the kids. I learned more about working with a group to develop lesson plans, teach classes, and schedule meetings. I also got to make friends with fourth graders, raise their awareness about a variety of issues, and make a positive impact on the Walla Walla community. I consider these worthy fulfillments of my goals for the program. Until midway through October, however, I was very disappointed in this internship. Our Wednesday 4-week group wasn't scheduled to go to Mr. Crouter's fourth grade class until October 24, so a lot of time at the meetings before that was wasted. EEKfest was a good experience; I learned several environmentally oriented games there that we used with the class on November 7. The EEK notebooks filled with lesson plans were invaluable-looking through them gave us many ideas that we either incorporated into our own lesson plans or used relatively unadulterated. It was also good to know that the EEK people were there to fall back on in case we ran into trouble. The weekly meetings, however, were not very helpful after our group was formed and we had a teacher contact.
Our teacher contact was Todd Crouter at Edison Elementary School. Our Wednesday EEK group consisted of four first year students named Anna, Erica, Zoe, and Christie and Michael Brasunas and me. None of us had been involved with EEK before, but we formed a good group and because we had six of us for a class of 24 we could spend a lot of class time working with small groups. We met on Monday nights at seven in the Environmental Studies room to choose and modify our lesson plans. Because our group was so large these planning sessions could take a longer amount of time than was necessary, but I think that our lessons improved in quality because the variety of speakers helped keep the kids attention spans and we could spend more time in small groups or one-on-one. We also usually had short meetings on Tuesdays at lunchtime to review the lesson plans we had made the night before and to make changes and remind each other to bring the necessary supplies. On Wednesdays Michael would pick us up at 1:10 and we would drive to Edison, check in, and teach from 1:30-2:30. The kids were very well behaved and enthusiastic; it was a joy to teach them.
Our first class was great, our lesson plan was an amalgam of several but its focus was appreciation of the earth. We started with a short video, “Powers of Ten,” which we played with the sound off and narrated ourselves. This was probably the weakest part of the lesson plan in terms of learning, but it did a good job of getting their attention. Then we sat in a circle on the floor, EEKers interspersed among the students, and each gave an example of one thing we appreciated about the earth. Responses ranged from pets to bike riding to math, but we generated a lot of good discussion and thought. After talking about the uniqueness and beauty of the earth, we passed out paper that had been used on one side for each kid to make a small drawing of one aspect of the natural world that they liked. Some of the kids were self-conscious about their drawing skills, but when we went around and encouraged them one-on-one they all did a great job. Then we got back in a circle on the floor and had each kid present their picture to the group and then tape it to a felt globe that we brought for them to hang in their classroom. My personal favorite among their drawings was a scene repeated four times, each in a different season. It's simplicity and creativity really struck me.
The second class we showed the kids how to make resource web charts and had them break up into groups to make web charts of their own (this activity is taken directly from a previous EEK lesson plan). Once again, they had a great time drawing and were very enthusiastic, despite the distraction of Halloween. To make the web charts the kids first chose one thing that they either ate for breakfast, were wearing, or had in their desk. Then they made diagrams showing the various resource components that went into that product, be it a bowl of cereal or a pencil. Each EEKer had one group of students, which worked well, but we didn't always know where things came from, which was hard, since they looked to us for all the answers. We also didn't all finish at the same time, so the faster groups had to be distracted until the others finished. The kids were also too antsy to listen very well to their classmates presenting their web charts, but that is to be expected on Halloween. Despite those minor setbacks, I think we got our point across well, which was to get them thinking about where the components of their everyday items come from. At the end of class we gave them all candy and presented them with a box to put paper in instead of the trash, so that we could take it back to the Outhouse and recycle it, because there is no recycling program at Edison.
Our third class focused on oil spills and the Indian Ocean. We took the Ocean in a Bottle activity from the EEK book, as well as some of the discussion topics for oil spills, but we also talked about the Indian Ocean based on research we did ourselves earlier that week. We also brought in pictures that we found on the Internet of oil spill damage to wildlife and habitats. Mr. Crouter had specifically suggested that we talk about the Indian Ocean, since their class was following a boat race that would be crossing the Indian Ocean soon. Since we had no interactive activity for the kids this time, we kept the lesson short so that we could go outside and play. We taught them two fun games from EEKfest, Predator/Prey and the Bear/Fish/Mosquito game, both of which were big hits. It was fun for them to get to play with big kids, and I know that we had a great time playing with them. We played rounds of Bear/Fish/Mosquito until they had to go in.
To wrap up our four-week program we took the kids on a field trip to Whitman
Campus. I had a meeting with my advisor and couldn't walk them over, but I met
them at the Outhouse and explained the recycling center and compost heap to
them. Then we went down into the Glen and ran around in small groups looking
for species diversity. After a short discussion about that activity, we took
them into the science building to look at the geology displays. They made a
valiant effort to be quiet for the classes going on there, but they were too
excited about the crystals and dinosaur footprints and such to be completely
silent. We got the basic plan for this field trip from the EEK notebook, but
changed most of the details. When we walked them back to Edison I think that
even the leaders were pretty beat, and some of the kids were definitely lagging.
It was a fun day.
This internship was very rewarding. The established presence of an EEK club on campus made the program very doable, the lesson plans in the notebook really helped to direct us without limiting us to any concrete plan so that we could tailor each class period for them and us. The kids were so enthusiastic that teaching them really made me feel good about what we were doing. Anna Taft was a very valuable on campus contact; she is the one who connected us with Mr. Crouter to get the whole thing started.