Fontenelle Forest Provides Important Environmental Education for our Community

For the past 8 weeks, educators from Fontenelle Forest have gathered materials, sometimes including a live animal or artifacts, always including games and activities, and headed off in the afternoons to visit students at King Science Middle School and Spring Lake Elementary. After a full day of school, the students in these afterschool programs are provided with a last learning opportunity for the day….to gain an experience of nature in their classroom. Their hush can be heard down the hall as they begin to dig into owl pellets to uncover what creatures the owl might have eaten. What started as a chorus of “Gross! I am not touching that!” gave way to the quiet hum of curiosity taking over and small skeletons of mice or voles being recreated as student scientists get to work.

We here at Fontenelle Forest have a mission, “To inspire current and future generations to care for the natural world.” We are fortunate to have the opportunity to bring so many students out to experience the forest as a classroom, but we also don’t want kids to think this is the only place to experience nature.

Through our Nature On the Go programs, we have been able to meet students where they are….to come to their schools, to their classrooms, and show them that nature exists all around us. Our educators are able to connect with them in their everyday world.

By bringing a red-tailed hawk into their classroom, they have the chance to make observations about this creature, to connect with this bird that may be their school’s mascot, and follow that connection to the bird they saw out on the playground at recess today.

By bringing in artifacts and items from our collections at the Forest, we encourage students to begin making observations of the items they may find on their walk to school, in their backyard, on the playground.

Our On the Go programs inspire students to be scientists in their everyday lives; no matter what those lives look like or where they take place. Instead of students being casual observers of nature in one special place, they begin to see that they are an integral part of the natural world, and the natural world is a part of them and exists ALL around them!

By going into the schools, we are able to establish a relationship with these students and build on that relationship over the years. We are also able to engage classes and teachers who may not be part of our established visits to the Forest, and who may not be able to afford to come out to the Forest for a field trip. Whether we are helping reinforce science concepts that the students are already learning in class, or providing a safe, fun space to explore science after school, our On the Go programs are one more avenue we have for helping “inspire current and future generations to care for the natural world.”

Elizabeth Chalen,
Director of Education

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Fontenelle Forest is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit.

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