Friends School of Minnesota 7th and 8th graders go on monthly field trips to Crosby Farm Regional Park on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Paul. This interdisciplinary exploration combines math, science, geography, writing, and art with a focus on environmental education.
Each month, they gather by the Mississippi to take river notes, measure the air and water temperature, current rate, wind speed, and river height. Students record and discuss phenology – observing the natural changes in their environment over the course of a year. Often we are faced with floods, droughts, high winds, and, of course, ice.
Each student chooses a 5m x 5m plot to which they return on every trip. Plot sites include the river, floodplain, forest, lake and bluff environments. At their plots each month, students:
• record their observations about plants and animals and notice how these change with the seasons – making these phenology notes about their plot
• do reflective writing
• gain a sense of natural place within our urban setting
These plots become a safe and memorable place for many students – alumni often talk about visiting their plots from years back
At the end of the year, the 7th and 8th graders host an environmental education day at the park for the entire school. They plan, prepare, and teach a variety of “workshops” to help kindergarten-6th grade students share the experience of their eight months of study.