Friday, December 20, 2013
Post by Pat Weathers, Ed Fenn School, Gorham, NH
Dr. Tom (named that because he’s from Georgia) Howick taught the session this summer focused on using Nature Notebooks. I have used this idea with my class this year and have been pleased with them for several reasons. First, they look cool. We painted the covers by doing the leaf printing that was done during our night gathering in West Virginia (before Zack and Bob starting singing “Dirty Quarters”). We gathered sticks and bound pages together, giving them the natural look, only we don’t have any beaver sticks like Tom’s notebook. The second reason I like the Nature Notebooks is it sets the tone for our outside classroom.My students know they have the responsibility of completing 2 pages of the notebook whenever we are outside learning. They have to observe and listen just like being inside, and be accountable for their learning. My third reason is the evaluation piece. The first page the students fill out has specifics such as date, weather, site, and also a spot for the Big Question, the focus for that day’s learning. Some Big Questions we have had are: What place can you find on the trail which you’d like to teach others about? What are specific details you notice? What can you learn about early Gorham settlers? I can tell from the observations and data collecting in the Nature Notebooks who understands the assignment and who needs additional help, both understanding concepts and ability to work outside. I have been particularly impressed with ideas students have for data collecting, improved observational skills, and the retention of the outing. My last reason is the amount of authentic writing my students have done, and outside!