Friday, March 28, 2008

Awakening and Nourishing a Passion for Learning

Fifth graders from Bonham Elementary School at Selah for 3 day science program:

For many children in the 5th grade a three day, 2 night trip to a ranch is an adventure unlike any school trip they have experienced before. They will sleep in dormitory rooms with their friends, and eat delicious food. They will learn about science and nature by hands on experience, have time to play, fish, hike, meet owls and hawks, and look at the stars through a big telescope.

We now have four different schools that come here for Fifth Grade Field Studies. We have only one class here at a time, so there is individual attention given to each students.

Subjects relate the fifth grade level Texas Elements of Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Because the students have learned a lot of skills and concepts in this "outdoor classroom" and are excited by their experiences here, they have been doing well in their TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) test. In some cases their improvement is remarkable.

The following pictures offer examples of their activities and experiences during their 3 days here, including evening activites.

The Bamberger Ranch as a "working ranch"
Because we are a working ranch, the students are introduced to Scott Grote who is the ranch operations manager. He tells them about the domestic animals, cows, and goats, and how he manages them.

Scott introduces his horse, who helps him round up and move cattle from one pasture to another.

Introduction to water, watersheds, aquatic organisms, and water quality.
Steven Fulton runs the rainfall simulator which has tall grasses in one tray and bare ground and a "cedar" or Ash Juniper in the other. Hollow needles in the trays above allow water to fall like rain on the trays.
  • On the CEDAR side (right) most of the water flows into the bottle marked RUNOFF and is dark and muddy because because the topsoil is picked up and carried away with the water. Little or no water enters the groundwater bottle.
  • On the GRASSES side (left) almost no water runs off into the runoff bottle, and the bottle marked GROUND WATER fills up with clear water.
Students wear water-proof boots and net aquatic organisms that live near the shore of a shallow tank. They find many of the larvae (young before they go through metamorphosis) of the flying insects that live near water, such as dragonflies, mayflies, and damselflies. They also catch small fish, sometimes a tadpole or two, and swimming beetles.

Fishing at Madrone Lake
Fishing is also on the agenda, and it is sometimes the first time a student has had the opportunity to try their hand at it.

Journal keeping
A special Journal was created for this educational program, and each student has one. After each segment of the day time is scheduled for writing up their experiences and thoughts. Sometimes they are required to do a drawing or diagram of what they've seen.

Stargazing with the Austin Astronomical Society (AAS).
After dinner one of the members of the Austin Astronomy Club gives a slide show of some of the features seen in the sky. When it's dark they go out to the area where the AAS has set up. Students and teachers take turns visiting the 3 telescopes, and any questions are answered.

Understanding Soils
Steven talks about the components of soil, which include air, and water, as well as sand, silt and clay, and organic matter.

Steven and Justin show examples of some different kinds of clay, silt, and sand. Students learn how to test for different components, and learn about weathering and erosion.

The Bluebonnet trailer goes to dinosaur tracks and fossil beds
During the Cretaceous Period this area of Texas was a shallow sea, and fish, oysters, clams, snails, and ammonites lived there. Some of their fossilized remains remain here.

Dinosaurs walked across a limey mud flat and left their footprints which became limestone over a long period of time. Bones of Acrocanthosaurus, a meat eater have been found in Texas and there are many examples of their tracks in Texas too. Some of our tracks are excellent and you can even see toe-nail marks on several of them.

Fossil Hill has many thousands of fossil oysters and clams.
A student shows his fossils, the oysters being the most common ones.

Learning about some plants, leaf characteristics, flowers and pollinators.
Tree characteristics are discussed.

Bees are important pollinators of plants, both wild and domestic. Students look at a demonstration hive to see how they live.

After a discussion about birds adaptations to different life styles, and how foot and beak shapes indicate habitat and food preferences, students construct a bird house.

Sallie Delahoussaye shows an Eastern Screech Owl, and describes how she cares for injured birds during their rehabilitation. Birds that can't be released into the wild sometimes become her Education Birds like the owl she is holding.

Ed Somes is holding a Mississippi Kite. The curved beak shows that it is a bird of prey, and though it is doing well, its broken wing will keep it from being released.

This beautiful bird is a Harris hawk and she has been a teaching bird for years.

Night Hike
Students take a night hike with flashlights. A highlight is when Steven does a Screech owl call and gets one of our resident owl to answer him.

In order to play the Lewis and Clark Adventure students must learn to use a compass.

Students are divided into two groups and go on the trail. Each group must create a map using their compass, and note directions and signs (such as a large tree, a special plant, rocks or sticks making an arrow to indicate direction) that will allow the other group to go the same way and not get lost. It is fun as well as educational.

After eating lunch, packing, and getting ready to leave, there is a final stop at Hes' Country Store where J. David Bamberger talks with students about heritage conservation and the importance of family. He encourages them to interview their grandparents and find out how things were when they were children, where they grew up, and what they remember about their own grandparents.

Thanks to the Bonham students that were here recently. I hope you enjoy seeing the pictures of your adventures here, and that you share them with your parents. Many thanks to Ms. Madrid for putting her wonderful pictures on disc so I could use them for this chapter of my blog.

1 comment:

David said...

Margaret - this is fantastic! Thanks for sharing all of this. David Ribble