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2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium-Restoring Connections

Presentation Title: “Re-storying Connections: Developing Place-Based Environmental Education”

Presenters: Selena Blick Nicole Ferer, Josiah Hamovitz, Ryan Mitchell, Adrian Swain, Graham Talaber
Early childhood experiences in nature are vital in nurturing children’s health, creativity, and learning abilities, as well as motivating children to care for natural places. However, opportunities for these experiences have dwindled as technology and standardized education have increased. As the Restoring Connections team, a project of the Environmental Leadership Program at the University of Oregon, we are working in collaboration with Adams Elementary School and Mount Pisgah Arboretum to combat this problem by developing a place-based environmental education curriculum. The Restoring Connections project provides elementary school students with three opportunities to visit Mt. Pisgah throughout the year. As they progress from kindergarten to fifth grade, students will focus on a different ecosystem and ecological concept each year. The curriculum utilizes inquiry-based education and moves from awareness to action throughout the day, year, and finally, the entire six-year program. This year, our team developed the curriculum for second graders, focusing on the Douglas-fir forest and the concept of biodiversity. By giving children repeated opportunities to participate in journaling, interactive learning games, species identification, questing, and stewardship projects, we are helping to restore their connection to the natural places where they live. This year, we will reach over 200 students over the course of nine field trips and in-class lessons. These experiences also help us grow as environmental stewards and educators as we work to cultivate a lasting connection between the children and the land, changing the story to one of reciprocity and respect.