Mother Nature can be the best teacher
San Luis Valley pre-kindergarten teachers spent three Fridays in February learning how to bring nature into the classroom and their students outside to discover, learn, and experience the environment. The Adams State University Teacher Education Department collaborated with the Colorado State Forest Service Project Learning Tree and Rocky Mountain Service Employment Redevelopment (RMSER) to provide training for the preschool teachers.
Through the Adams State Title III SEEDS grant, Dr. Joel Judd, Adams State professor of teacher education, assisted by Andrea Rydgren, grant coordinator, and Barbara Kruse, retired Alamosa high school science teacher, organized the training through the Project Learning Tree.
The training included premade lesson plans, early childhood environmental educational games, and hands-on activities to use in an outdoor classroom. According to Rydgren, there was no cost to the teachers.
Teachers from Sanford, Conejos, Fort Garland, Alamosa, and San Luis attended the training, held at Boyd Headstart in Alamosa. Lisa Lucero, Alamosa, said the training was "right down my alley." She recently held a lesson where her students made bird feeders out of recycled water bottles and studied all about birds.
Rygren said all the lesson plans included everything to meet Colorado standards. "Local forest service employees are available to visit classrooms and help with lessons and exposing the young children to lessons from nature." Another component includes sending home information for parents and grandparents to become involved and learn more about our natural environment.
Jessica Cepeda, Jozette Sandoval, and Theresa Chavez, traveled from Blanca and Fort Garland to attend the trainings. "The material is easy to understand and simplifies activities to use with children," Sandoval said. Not having to buy the materials, because they are abundant in their area in nature, appeals to Cepeda. "There are great activities we can send home with parents," she said.
Chavez appreciates exposing the children to the natural environment. "They are our future keepers of the environment."
Teachers learned how to use several national early childhood environmental education curricula, and how to recognize benefits of environmental education indoors and outdoors, barriers to providing early childhood environmental education, and strategies for overcoming these barriers.