Learning Landscapes is capturing national attention as a model for kid-centered community conservation that can be replicated in other communities.
Last summer, the national Land Trust Alliance (LTA) featured Learning Landscapes in its Saving Land magazine. Read the article: Nurturing a Conservation Ethic One Classroom at a Time
After leading several workshops at LTA's national "Land Trust Rally," Learning Landscapes coordinator Rob Wade is helping to lead LTA's national K-12 Community of Practice, as well as coaching other land trusts interested in our model. This year he has led two Webinars, is a regular contributor to their weekly blog, and this October he will have the distinction of leading a full-day seminar at the Rally in Pittsburgh.
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While our focus remains local, you can be proud that your support is inspiring communities across the country to create similar programs that grow young stewards. Thank you.
Growing “Mountain Kids” who Love, Understand, and Steward this Place
“We have a saying at our school--You’re a mountain kid,” says 2nd grade teacher, Aletha O’Kelley. “You’re a mountain kid if you’ve interacted with local plants and animals. You’ve seen them in the wild, you understand their ecology, and you’ve done projects to support them.”
Ms. O’Kelley and her colleagues at Chester Elementary School are using Learning Landscapes to pioneer Next Generation Science that’s rooted in mountain culture—Outdoor Core.
Across the curriculum, each grade learns ecology and stewardship through the eyes of a different organism: the garden, “creepy-crawlers” (invertebrates), reptiles and amphibians, mammals, trout, and birds, culminating in 6th grade with the Feather River Watershed “Plumas to the Pacific” experience. Next year, schools across the watershed will adapt Outdoor Core to their Learning Landscapes.
“Whether our kids stay or move away, they will understand things like, Where does our drinking water come from? What affects that resource?” says 4th grade teacher Nicholle Crowther. “My kids will never forget these experiences. Outdoor learning fosters critical thinking, creativity, fun, and a real-world context for learning.”
In 2015, schoolchildren and teachers in Portola, Loyalton, and Quincy gathered to dedicate new Learning Landscapes outdoor classrooms as special places for learning and land stewardship.
On the Portola High Tierra de los Venados Learning Landscape, students in Dave Valle’s 7th-12th grade science classes have been building trails, installing water guzzlers and wildlife cameras, hanging bird nesting boxes and monitoring them, designing and installing interpretive signs, and planting native plants.
“Kids spend way too much time inside. I involve them in the construction and maintenance of the place so that they feel a sense of ownership and will take care of it and the creatures that live here. The kids love it," says Mr. Valle. That love of place and ownership seems to be growing.
Christina Silva and Mikayla Quesenberry volunteered to map and design a sign for their Learning Landscape’s 1-km Manzanita Trail, noting points of interest like the amphitheater classroom, benches, and butterfly garden. The girls “like being outside and doing schoolwork at the same time.”
Seventh grader Jaden Bok mountain-bikes the trail with his friends, while 8th grader Margaret Canseco hikes the trail with her family. “It’s really peaceful,” she says. “I like how it has lots of nature and people don’t disturb it and want to keep it.”
We think getting kids outside is a great idea (we bet you do, too), but what do kids think? Lucas of Loyalton High School says this about learning outside: “I like learning first-hand. It’s interactive. You can look at it, touch it, feel it, hear it, and smell it. Using all of your senses implants it in every part of your brain.”
In Mark Fisher’s biology class, Lucas and his classmates are diving into final projects. Each will choose a focus question, observe and track changes in a field journal, and present their conclusions in an illustrated book. Mr. Fisher’s quest is “getting kids interested in science and enjoying it. The outdoors is the connection to make that happen.”
With your support, teachers like Mark are teaching on Learning Landscapes properties throughout the watershed to enhance learning, a love of place, and a culture of stewardship among the Feather River region’s children.
Learning Landscapes is the Feather River Land Trust's conservation and education program designed to greatly enhance children’s contact with the natural world, place-based learning, and hands-on stewardship experiences. Founded in 2000 by local residents, the Feather River Land Trust has conserved more than 47,000 acres of private lands that support outstanding biodiversity, waterways, working ranches, recreation, children’s outdoor learning, and spectacular scenery.