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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
VENTURA FWO: SCALE Project Fosters Children’s Connections With Nature Through Spatial Literacy
Region 8, October 2, 2008

Members of Jeff Foote’s 6th grade class made the most of their chance to get wet! (Photo: Jeff Foote, Kermit McKenzie Junior High School)
Members of Jeff Foote’s 6th grade class made the most of their chance to get wet! (Photo: Jeff Foote, Kermit McKenzie Junior High School) - Photo Credit: n/a
The Nature Conservancy’s Rich Handley shows Ventura 6th grade students where they are located in the field on an aerial photograph (Photo: Kate Eschelbach, USFWS)
The Nature Conservancy’s Rich Handley shows Ventura 6th grade students where they are located in the field on an aerial photograph (Photo: Kate Eschelbach, USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a
The Nature Conservancy’s Rich Handley shows Ventura 6th grade students where they are located in the field on an aerial photograph (Photo: Kate Eschelbach, USFWS)
The Nature Conservancy’s Rich Handley shows Ventura 6th grade students where they are located in the field on an aerial photograph (Photo: Kate Eschelbach, USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a
Josh Bader (UCSB), Rich Handley (TNC), and Kate Eschelbach (FWS) with Ventura 6th grade students looking for pond turtles to mark their locations with GPS units (Photo: Diane Noda, USFWS)
Josh Bader (UCSB), Rich Handley (TNC), and Kate Eschelbach (FWS) with Ventura 6th grade students looking for pond turtles to mark their locations with GPS units (Photo: Diane Noda, USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a
Ventura Open Classroom teacher Jeff Zimmerman helps his 6th grade students with mapping trash locations on the TNC property (Photo: Diane Noda, USFWS)
Ventura Open Classroom teacher Jeff Zimmerman helps his 6th grade students with mapping trash locations on the TNC property (Photo: Diane Noda, USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

  “Yesterday we were sharing stories of what we and our families value......This was followed by a pretty passionate agreement that they don't get to do unsupervised play, and little time outdoors.... except some get to ride their bikes around.”    Jeff Foote, Science Teacher Kermit McKenzie Junior High, Guadalupe, Calif.

 

Kate Eschelbach, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office

Providing opportunities for children to explore their natural surroundings is more important now than ever before.  Many of the students in Jeff Foote’s 6th grade class in Guadalupe, California had never seen the ocean before, even though it is located less than a half hour away from their school.  Not unlike many other 6th graders nationwide, their days are usually full of structured activities and technological temptations, with little time left to experience the curiosities of the environment around them.

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been diligently working to connect people to nature, especially children, in order to fight a phenomenon Author Richard Louv has termed “Nature Deficit Disorder”.  The Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (VFWO) is pitching in to this effort in many ways, but also through a new project called SCALE (Spatial Connections Around our Local Environment).  The project is lead by VFWO biologist Kate Eschelbach in partnership with a team of geographers at the Spatial@UCSB Center at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB).  SCALE is underway in two VFWO area pilot classrooms this spring: the 6th grade classroom in Guadalupe, CA at Kermit McKenzie Junior High lead by science teacher Jeff Foote, and the Ventura Open Classroom 6th grade class lead by science teacher Jeff Zimmerman.

 

The goal of the project is to provide experiences for students in their local environment through instruction in spatial literacy, or the understanding of geographic concepts used in map creation and map reading, such as scale, resolution, and pattern recognition. The pilot curriculum will be based not only on spatial principles but also the connections these tools provide to understanding nature. The classroom activities focus on spatial theory and techniques with local species, habitats, and land uses in their watershed as the theme for application.  Activities include: map reading, aerial photography interpretation, pattern recognition across landscapes and scales, cartographic principles, way finding, and Global Positioning System (GPS) data collection. 

 

The curriculum was compiled from existing lesson plans developed by National Geographic, ESRI, U.S. Geological Survey and others by the Spatial@UCSB team of Dr. Michael Goodchild, Dr. Fiona Goodchild, Dr. Don Janelle, and PhD graduate Andrea Nuernberger.  Andrea’s successor, PhD candidate Josh Bader, is now the lead for the project at UCSB, and has been helping to implement the curriculum in both classrooms this spring.  The UCSB team brings specific expertise to the topic of spatial literacy.  They recently launched the new Spatial Center dedicated to projects across campus and in the community that promote spatial thinking and its application to a variety of topics, including incorporating spatial literacy in to K-12 classrooms.

 

VFWO and UCSB team members all feel that a field component is an essential part of the curriculum in order for the students to visit the areas they see on the maps, understand connections between people and habitats and wildlife, and use spatial techniques first hand.  In Ventura, the Open Classroom students took their field trips to a property recently acquired by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) along the Santa Clara River, lead by TNC’s Ventura Project Land Manager, Rich Handley.  Rich, along with Josh and VFWO biologists Connie Rutherford, Kirk Waln, Ray Bransfield and Kate Eschelbach, taught the students about the wildlife on the property as well as the human interactions that impact the property on a local and watershed scale.  The students gathered data with their GPS units on a variety of projects, such as the locations of observed insects, amphibians and reptiles and the location of trash on the site, and brought the data back to the classroom for evaluation.  The students created maps with their GPS data in Google Earth and prepared power point presentations for TNC, UCSB, and the VFWO with their findings and recommendations.

 

The students all agreed that The Nature Conservancy property was special and that it should remain protected – and that they would like to get outside more to explore their watershed in other places like this one, too.

 

The students in Guadalupe have been busy exploring their watershed and collecting GPS data in the neighborhood around their school.  This summer and fall, Josh will be working with the teachers and VFWO to improve upon the curriculum based on the results of classroom pre- and post-evaluations, lessons learned, and California curriculum standards, as well as building partnerships to grow the program and investigating how best to expand to other schools in the winter/spring of 2009.

 

The SCALE curriculum provides opportunities for students to understand their local watershed, how their neighborhood relates to it, and how changes in the landscape affect them and the plant and wildlife species that live there as well.  It also gives them the chance to tap into their technological prowess and learn spatial concepts that will serve them well into adulthood.  Yet, at the same time, the SCALE activities provide the students with the opportunity to be outside, explore something new in nature - - and just plain have some fun!

 

“The trip was wet & wild.  In other words, a good trip… one kid said 'we don't need to go to Disneyland if we can play like that'.  I'm guessing Josh was a bit surprised when I let the kids play in the outlet creek...... most were head to toe wet for about 40 minutes. Teaching them how to wring out clothes, air dry, and then get back to photographing plants, animal sign, and landscapes was great... All agreed that it was 'better than science camp'....... because at 'science camp you knew what was going to happen..... and this was just more free'.” – Jeff Foote

 

Contact: Kate Eschelbach, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003, kate_eschelbach@fws.gov, 805.644.1766 x259

 

Contact Info: Kate Eschelbach, 8056441766 x259, kate_eschelbach@fws.gov