500 Students Participate in ‘Science in Nature’ at the Larsen Sanctuary

Eighth-graders from Bridgeport’s Barnum School check the wind speed at the Larsen Sanctuary. Photo copyright Connecticut Audubon Society.

November 2012 – If you find yourself on the trails of our Larsen Sanctuary in Fairfield these days, keep your eyes and ears open for unusual activity. You may see movement in the distance and, with leaves falling and covering the ground, you’re likely to hear feet scuffling loudly (or maybe not if there’s snow). You may also hear voices.

The sounds and sights are those of elementary, middle and high school students from Bridgeport, Trumbull and Fairfield, participating in the first two weeks of our new Science in Nature education program.

Almost 500 students will be at the Larsen Sanctuary several times this school year, collecting and analyzing life and environmental science data and, not incidentally, experiencing a day in the woods, something that many of them probably don’t do very often.

For those students, Science in Nature may well be pivotal – an interlude designed to help them connect to the natural world.

For us at Connecticut Audubon Society, Science in Nature is pivotal as well.

The pilot program taking place now is our way keeping the promise we made with the release earlier this year of our Connecticut State of the Birds 2012 report, Where Is the Next Generation of Conservationists Coming From?

It is also the key to carrying out our mission of conserving Connecticut’s natural habitats through science-based education.

[For a full account of our Science in Nature program, click here.]

Students from Trumbull High’s AP Environmental Science class learn about native habitats and invasive species at the Larsen Sanctuary. Photo copyright Connecticut Audubon Society.

What’s in it for the kids?

They will get two to three days in the field pursuing hands-on, inquiry-based science education that is fully integrated into their curriculum and designed to close Connecticut’s well-known academic achievement gap.

They will get personal instruction and attention from our team of first-rate teacher-naturalists, led by Education Director Michelle Eckman and including Colleen Noyes, Tricia Lombardi, Claire Iwanowski, Mike Pagliaro and Caitlin Holmberg, all of whom are trained as educators and expert in the natural world.

And probably just as important, they will get the the chance to poke around in a marsh, scan the surface of a pond for ducks, and walk through the woods and fields.

In other words, to be outdoors, enjoying nature.

Our pilot program kicked off in October with visits from the 6th grade at Bridgeport’s Park City Magnet School and 8th grade at Bridgeport’s Barnum School; and the 7th grade at the Unquowa School, in Fairfield.

About 20 AP Science students from Trumbull High also participated. In preparation for research projects they will design and execute at the Larsen Sanctuary later this school year, the students became familiar with the Larsen Sanctuary’s various habitats and discussed ecosystem processes unique to those habitats, species interactions, and the numerous conservation issues we face, including non-native and invasive species.

Science in Nature is the only program of its kind in Connecticut. To learn more, contact Education Director Michelle Eckman: meckman@ctaudubon.org or 203 259-6305 ext. 107.

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