Science and Teaching for Field Instructors

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The BEETLES project can help outdoor science programs, schools, and districts more fully use natural settings to teach science and environmental education. As consultants, we have provided a range of support from short-term coaching to comprehensive program visioning. Contact us if you are looking additional expertise to advance your program to the next level.

Here are some examples of the kind of collaborations we love.

With NGSS implementation a top priority for San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), BEETLES worked alongside the SFUSD Environmental Science Center team to design four field experiences: an Adaptations themed hike for 4th graders, an Ecosystems themed hike for 5th graders, a beach exploration for both 4th and 5th, and a night hike for both 4th and 5th.  These were designed to support the vision of the Framework for K-12 Science Education and NGSS, while taking full advantage of the resources of the site’s natural setting. The Environmental Science Center provides free day and overnight programs to SFUSD teachers, students, and families to help them understand human impact on local ecosystems and to empower them to become responsible stewards of our environment. The Center’s focus on creating science-based outdoor experiences made them a natural fit as a BEETLES partner.

Our collaboration started with an informal needs assessment to identify areas of strength and the components that could be leveraged to better support NGSS. After a series of observations and meetings, BEETLES staff created curriculum for four new site-specific programs, one focused on Ecosystems, another on Adaptations, one a beach exploration, and a also a Night Hike. The programs were tested by BEETLES staff with students, and revised with input from Environmental Science Center staff. Finally, BEETLES staff observed and coached while Center staff first used the new materials, culminating in some final tweaks. These materials are now in continuous and permanent use at the Environmental Science Center.

As founding members of ChangeScale (the Bay Area Collaborative for Environmental Education), Lawrence Hall of Science (including BEETLES) enthusiastically endorses ChangeScale’s commitment to expand access to environmental education to more Bay Area students. Together ChangeScale and BEETLES recently launched the School Partnership Initiative to help Bay Area school districts to create district-wide environmental literacy plans that take advantage of the convergence of Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and the recently released California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy. BEETLES staff has extensive experience supporting districts to develop NGSS Implementation Plans. Developing Environmental Literacy Plans is a natural extension of that work. Our work with ChangeScale and our partner districts will produce the first comprehensive District Environmental Literacy Plans in California (we haven’t found any in other states yet, either!). We hope they will serve as models for districts across the country who choose to make environmental literacy a priority.

Education Outside offers programming that directly links classroom education and outdoor science, as they build school gardens and other schoolyard science learning spaces. Education Outside instructors are each stationed in a different school in San Francisco Unified School District, and work repeatedly with the same students in an outdoor classroom throughout the school year, positioning them perfectly to support learners’ development of science practices and a love for nature. Education Outside contacted BEETLES when they sought to improve the pedagogical content knowledge of their instructor corps and the capacity of their permanent mentor staff to support the instructors.

BEETLES got to know their program, then developed a series of daylong workshops, each with a different pedagogical focus (questioning strategies, discussion-based learning, etc.), that included time for reflection and implementation support. In the first year of the partnership, BEETLES staff conducted these professional learning sessions, then worked with Education Outside leaders to refine the sessions to use again for the next class of corps members. Education Outside continues to use BEETLES-developed professional learning materials (along with BEETLES student activities) throughout their program.

When Pueblo Vista Elementary School, Napa, California, approached BEETLES, they specifically requested help bringing the magic of environmental education to their schoolyard and school garden. We were hooked. The principal and lead teacher made it clear that Pueblo Vista had strengths to build on–all of their 5th graders attend 3 days of residential environmental education, there is administrative and teacher buy-in for a schoolwide focus on environmental science, there are opportunities for inquiry-based projects, and they have a rich school garden. The missing link, however, was teachers comfort building in the “connective tissue” to make these multiple environmental education experiences more cohesive. Teachers needed more support to take students outside more often on their site, and to connect their outdoor experiences with those they were having in the classroom and on field trips.

To meet this need, BEETLES staff is developing a series of teacher workshops focusing on the logistics of taking students outdoors in their schoolyard, and how to maximize the effectiveness of those experiences, along with their many other outdoor learning opportunities. Then we will build on that foundation by developing teachers’ capacity to fully integrate outdoor learning with their standards-based curriculum. Each workshop will address NGSS science practices and reinforce how three-dimensional environmental learning experiences can serve as the context for addressing many of their existing language arts, social studies and science goals.