"to inspire reverence for wildlife and concern for the natural environment"

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The Thornton Burgess Society
appreciates the support of the
Massachusetts Cultural Council

 


Project L.I.F.E. (Lessons in Field Ecology)

The need to educate the public about the region's most precious natural resources is foremost in the work of the Thornton W. Burgess Society.  We are committed to bringing an awareness and understanding of the natural world to every school child and have been working to incorporate this attitude into the science curriculum. 

One of the most successful and enduring educational programs of the Burgess Society is Project L.I.F.E.  It is a three year program whose purpose is to strengthen the science instruction in the upper elementary school level; help teachers relate the curriculum to local natural areas (i.e. forest, pond & salt marsh) and deal with important environmental issues such as preserving open spaces and pollution.

Through initial support from the Massachusetts Council of the Arts and Humanities (now Massachusetts Cultural Council), Project L.I.F.E. (Lessons in Field Ecology) was introduced into the Sandwich Elementary School in 1982. This program was later introduced in Bourne in 1984 and Mashpee in 1986.  Today it serves students in grades 4 through 7 in three school districts, Sandwich, Bourne and Mashpee, March through June and mid September through October.

Each grade involved is introduced to an important biological community:  Grade 4 – Life in the Forest;  Grade 5 – Life in a Pond;  Grades 6 and 7 – Life in a Salt Marsh.  The Society’s education staff works closely with teachers to present a sequence of learning activities:

             1.  Classroom teachers, high school students for Grade 4 and Society education staff present four classes using interactive discussions, live animals, terrarium and aquarium microhabitats, microscopes and visual aids.  The lessons for grades 5-7 review the previous year’s concepts while introducing new concepts and new perspectives.

             2.  A two hour field experience led by Society staff (and high school students for Grade 4 level) at local conservation areas relates the classroom lessons to a specific natural habitat.

            3.  Classroom teachers use follow-up activities to enhance Project L.I.F.E. lessons and relate the Project to other disciplines.

 Several important sequences are built into the design of Project L.I.F.E.  First, of course, each grade level studies a different natural habitat – forest, pond and salt marsh.  At the same time, each grade level takes a broader, more abstract perspective.  Fourth graders study forest plants and animals focusing on individual organisms, their life cycles and histories.  Fifth graders consider biological organization of a pond as a community of interacting populations.  Sixth and seventh graders examine the salt marsh as an ecosystem – the interaction of communities of organisms and abiotic factors.  Finally, the methods applied at each grade level are sequential.  From simple sampling and describing in the fourth grade through quantitative methods in sixth and seventh grades, each student will have mastered a sequence of increasingly sophisticated study methods in the natural sciences. 

Every classroom lesson is linked to the Massachusetts Science and Technology Frameworks.  Enrichment activities allow teachers to expand the learning from Project L.I.F.E. to the language arts, creative arts, math and drama.  A package of follow up activities is provided and is revised annually to help expand the impact of Project L.I.F.E. on the curriculum.  Participating teachers are asked to evaluate the program each year in order to keep it viable.

In 2011 we anticipate Project L.I.F.E. programs will involve 8 schools in the 3 partnering school districts and reach 800 students in 34 individual classes.  Because of its success in past years, Project L.I.F.E. has received two awards, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs Secretary’s award for Excellence in Environmental Education and an Award of Commendation from the Massachusetts State Senate.

The collaboration with the high school students was the brainchild of the Society’s Director of Education, Mary Beers.  Up to the mid 1990’s Burgess Naturalists and adult volunteers led the culminating two-hour field experience.  When volunteers who could make the time commitment became harder to find, the Education Director asked Gilbert Newton, Science Teacher at Sandwich High School if he would be interested in partnering with the Society on the Project.  Mr. Newton had 23 seniors enrolled in his new Environment Technology Course in 1997.  Burgess naturalists trained these seniors to teach 3 of the classroom lessons (for grade 4 Life in a Forest) in all 3 Sandwich elementary schools.  These high school students were also trained to lead the culminating field lessons.

The following year the Burgess Society was invited to make a presentation to CESAME (Center for Enrichment of Math and Science Education) at Northeastern University.  Students from the debut class at the high school helped with the presentation and funding was provided for the development of high school curriculum packets.  Each year since 1997 the students in grade 4 have been extremely excited to have the high school students teach in their classroom, occasionally asking for autographs of their young teachers.  The elementary teachers continue to be excited and eager to have the program return every year.    Until 2006 the segment of Project L.I.F.E which involved the high school students was run without any funding.  That year, help from Keyspan Foundation (now National Grid Foundation) enabled the Society to cover educational costs for training both teachers and the high school pupils involved.  An additional Keyspan grant in 2008 enabled the Society’s educators to start a pilot program in the town of Bourne and eventually involved the Upper Cape Technical High School.

In 2011-2012 over 121 high school students will be involved with Project L.I.F.E.  Each of these participants will receive specialized training in the natural sciences from the Society’s education staff.  Meeting several days each week during the regularly scheduled class period, the high school students learn about and add to their knowledge about Cape Cod.  They practice constructive-teaching techniques and design lesson plans for the grade four students. The culminating activity is the two-hour field experience led by the high school teaching teams and Burgess naturalists.  High school student teams work with the same group of elementary students throughout the three-month program.  

      Supported in part by a generous grant from
NATIONAL GRID FOUNDATION

 


Project LIFE


Pond Scoops


Field Class

 

 

 

 

info@thorntonburgess.org

Thornton W. Burgess Society
6 Discovery Hill Road
East Sandwich, MA 02537
508.888.6870