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Understand Nature through the Eyes of a Child

During this Fall school semester, Catamount Institute’s Catamount Outdoor Schools program worked with District 11’s Adams Elementary 4th and 5th-grade students. This opportunity was offered in conjunction with the GOCO Generation Wild grant received as part of a coalition to serve residents in southeastern Colorado Springs.  The purpose of the grant initiative is to get more people outside.  The students at Adams Elementary School learned about ecosystems, biotic and abiotic factors, dissecting a grasshopper, macroinvertebrate survey, water pollutions issues, map and compass skills, paleontology, and archeology.   The comprehensive lessons gave students a glimpse into understanding what it takes to make our environment prosper.

The 5th graders ended their program with a cleanup of Memorial Park as part of Fountain Creek Week.  It appeared to the Catamount Institute staff that the students were enjoying learning outdoors, but what the staff took away, more importantly, is that many students do not go outside. They have limited opportunities to explore and wonder.

A classic example happened on the first day.

A student asked if we were going to sit in grass every week.  She was surprised by the answer that we were going to sit in grass each week! She did not feel comfortable sitting outside as she had really never spent time just sitting in grass.

Another time, we were categorizing biotic and abiotic factors at Prospect Lake and the students were able to observe the shoreline and excitedly list what was happening in this ecosystem.  A lightbulb went off as they realized the interconnectedness of our world.

The last day during the cleanup, many students were shocked by the trash leftover in the park.  As you glanced around the park, it looked relatively clean.  As you got down and sat in the grass and you will find lots a micro trash that is going into the lake and our water system.  The idea that cigarette butts are taking over the park was disgusting to them. During the cleanup, over seven large bags of trash were removed.  In addition, one fifth grader wants to  organize a cleanup for  their community.

I know many will try their best not to litter. At the end of the program, the staff reflected on their experiences and understand that the students from Adams taught them to slow down, observe and take time to sit in the grass.

Blog by: Beth Austin – Catamount Outdoor Schools

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Catamount Institute
740 West Caramillo St.
Colo Spgs, CO 80907
Phone: (719) 471-0910
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