At the recent CoSN conference, I attended a spotlight session presented by Dr. Milton Chen that focused on outdoor, experiential learning opportunities, mostly through the national parks. Sadly, Dr. Chen had, along with many others, resigned from the National Park Service education advisory board after being ignored in their efforts to engage with the new administration.
But, he remained passionate about the possibilities of outdoor education and describe Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard program. The farm-to-table approach to gardening means that kids learn to both grow AND cook their own food.
I firmly believe that raising even a small amount of your own food is good for the soul: some leaf lettuce, herbs, spring onions, and radishes are all easy crops to grow in a pot in a sunny warm place. There is a simple joy to adding a bit of fresh rosemary or chives to your potatoes or salting and crunching into a freshly pulled radish (better yet, dip it in melted butter).
But, connecting to nature can be as simple as keeping a bird feeder. While we have lots of birds who stick around all year here in south central Virginia, we also have migrants.
My favorites are the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. April 1 is the traditional day for me to put up my first hummingbird feeder. We had our first siting today, April 4. It was a male–it usually is–and I added our siting to the hummingbird database. It took just a moment or two to submit and I was able to see my entry immediately and see that we were very much on the northern edge of reporting.
These kinds of migration tracking projects have been around for almost as long as the Internet. While they are certainly wonderful ways to have students experience collaboration and scientific discovery, they are also moments for students to connect with the natural world, to stop for a moment and wonder at the joy that is a hummingbird.