If you are a teacher, whether or not you’re a Cambridge teacher, I hope this section of the Cambridge Outdoors site will enable you to take kids outdoors and the outdoors in a bit more, or in ways you had been imagining. I welcome feedback about how this site can help you get what you want, as a teacher, out of your students’ explorations in parks, nature reservations, and school grounds.
Since 2011, I’ve been involved in various projects that connect kids in Cambridge to the wildlife habitats within the city limits, sometimes as a parent volunteer, sometimes as an OST coordinator, and sometimes as an outdoor STEAM program developer. In the process I’ve built the collection of links, ideas, and resources you see here.
Regular and frequent experience with, and in, urban wildlife habitats, both in school and after school contributes to the wellness of students. Such practices support the viability of the open spaces in our city as habitats to important wildlife—the birds that eat mosquitoes, the trees that contribute to air quality, the fungi that support soil health and thereby plants, trees, and megafauna. Kids’ true engagement with science via place-based learning begins where they already are—at school, at home, in their own places.
I hope you find this collection of resources useful for yourself and your students.Share your own story of connecting your classroom or school to urban wildlife.—Julie Croston, Cambridge Public Schools parent
Here is a sample page of the Tobin Montessori School Children’s House phenology guide for the habitat at Fresh Pond, a collaborative effort of parents at the school. While it is keyed to a particular open space, many of the same species are found in other large open spaces and even in some parks in the city and elsewhere in Massachusetts and New England. Request a PDF of this document.
Here is the current (in progress at this time) menu of resources for teachers related to plant and animal species in Cambridge, Massachusetts and to Environmental and Outdoor Learning in general.
- Botany Resources and a special page about Moth and Butterfly Host Plants
- Energy Cycle Resources
- Phenology: See Project Budburst
- Environmental Education and Outdoor Learning: BioKids
- Environmental Education and Outdoor Learning: Top Twitter Chat (Weds. 9 pm EST HT #EnviroEd)
Selected Curricula & Educational Models (for reference only)
- Discovering Nature With Young Children: Junior Kindergarten Curriculum, Cambridge Public Schools. Science concepts include
- Plants and animals have their needs met in particular ways in particular places.
- Living things have basic needs including, for most: water, food, light, air and space.
- Organisms: Kindergarten Curriculum, Cambridge Public Schools. Science concepts include
- Plants and animals are two kinds of organisms.
- There is a wide diversity of living things on earth.
- Organisms have basic needs, such as food, water, air, space and shelter.
- Living Things: Grade 1 Curriculum, Cambridge Public Schools. Science concepts include
- Living things have similarities and differences.
- Living things grow and develop over time.
- Living things have needs that they meet in a variety of ways to survive.
- What about Place-Based Education? Two pages pointing the way, by David Sobel of Antioch University.
- Montessori Education and the Outdoors A short essay
- Forest Schools (Wikipedia entry)
- Forest Kindergarten (Wikipedia entry)
What’s the Big Deal about Kids and Nature?
Interested in reading more about the whys and hows of connecting and reconnecting children to nature? Start here:
Children’s love of nature is essential to any progress to be had on climate change:
Children need natural environments for refuge, independence and the invisibles of wellness:
The San Diego Children and Nature network’s manifesto on nature play
Environmental illiteracy is rampant: