Spruce Mountain Elementary School in Jay has added a weekly Nature Ed class for some students to learn about STEM subjects. Isaac Groomes, a student in Mrs. Anctil’s class, holds a salamander found during a recent class. Submitted photo

JAY — In the summer of 2019, several Regional School Unit 73 teachers participated in the “Nature of Teaching” course on STEM lessons.

Fourth grade teachers Tammy Deering and Nancy Anctil, third grade teacher Kristyn Wiles and pre-kindergarten teacher Amanda Ready took the course.

According to livescience.com, STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.

As a result of the training, the importance of the relationship between nature and all aspects of education and social and emotional health have been added to lessons, Spruce Mountain Elementary School Principal Pat St. Clair said in an email Thursday, Sept. 17.

A student holds earthworms discovered during a Nature Ed class at SMES in Jay. Submitted photo

“While the training focused primarily on science and STEM activities, there are ample opportunities to integrate these lessons with reading, writing, math and art,” St. Clair said. “For example, animal tracking in the snow led to measurement, identifying, researching and sculpting the track.”

Students designed a mini park using a list of criteria for a creature the size of their thumb and then found the area and perimeter of the park in another project, he said. Others found a rock, identified the type of rock, then decorated or painted it to have a personality and wrote a first person account of what they saw in the woods, he added.

Weekly nature education classes are held at SMES.

“We go outside as long as the temperature is above 15 degrees, even in the rain! Examples are worming in the rain, tracking in the snow, building shelters to provide protection from the wind, noting differences in the environments throughout the changing seasons,” St. Clair said.

Students hold juvenile salamanders found during a Nature Ed class at SMES in Jay. Submitted photo

With the new protocols in place from the coronavirus pandemic, some reading and writing activities with whiteboards and clipboards are being held outdoors, he said.

The biggest challenge is to make sure that each child has the appropriate gear for weather conditions, but the SMES clothing closet has helped, St. Clair said.

There are too many rewards to list all of them, he added.

“Team building, friendships, love of nature, love of learning while doing it hands-on and then following up in the classroom at later dates,” St. Clair said. “The kids come to school daily asking if it is Nature Ed day.”



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