Thanks to funding from the Norton Foundation and through special partnerships with Kentucky Waterways Alliance and Jefferson County Public Schools, KAEE recently facilitated four in-depth outdoor experiences for teachers and students at the Louisville Nature Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
“We were so pleased to be able to collaborate on this project that provided environmental education professional learning sessions for more than a dozen educators and a memorable field trip for 120 eighth-grade students from Farnsley Middle School,” said Katherine Bullock, outreach director at KAEE. “Bringing both educators and students out to a local park and highlighting Beargrass Creek through such an immersive experience was truly special for all involved.”
As part of the program, students and teachers had the opportunity to search for macroinvertebrates in Beargrass Creek, experience a riparian zone with multiple senses, play aquatic wildlife games, hike through the woods, and more.
Katherine was joined by Olivia Kaiser, Education Programs Manager at Louisville Nature Center, to co-facilitate the professional development sessions, and the two were joined by Louisville Nature Center staff and executive director Rebecca Minnick to lead the field trip events. All programs included Project WET and Aquatic WILD activities around and in Beargrass Creek in Louisville. The experience, in addition to some pre- and post-work, certified the 13 participating teachers in Project WET and Project Aquatic WILD curriculum programs, which offer more than 100 activities with correlations to the three-dimensions of science and the Kentucky Academic Standards for Science.
Because of the funding from the Norton Foundation, there was no cost for educators to participate in the experience. Transportation for the students was also covered, which helped make it possible for the students to have such an immersive, engaging experience.
"It was wonderful to see and hear students laughing and calling out with excitement as they found their first crawdad in the creek,” Katherine said. “Learning about macroinvertebrates by turning over rocks and fishing critters out with a net versus seeing them on a worksheet or Chromebook was incredibly special. Many students said it was their first time exploring a creek ever, and some did not want to leave. These are the kinds of days students will remember for a long time.”
The program and curriculum, one teacher said, were “very engaging, very accessible, and extremely interesting. I can't wait to take some of what I learned back into the classroom!”
The students and fellow teachers agreed that the program was invaluable. “Environmental stewardship and proactive change start with getting people to care about the environment,” Katherine said. “And I believe the experiences the teachers and students recently had in Beargrass Creek planted many seeds of curiosity and care in the hearts of participants.”