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The Nature of Learning

Organizations interested in initiating or continuing refuge-based environmental education programs have until June 16 to apply for the Nature of Learning Grants for 2008, sponsored by the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and National Wildlife Refuge Association. To apply, go to
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Logos of three Web site partners, the Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Keystone Center and the National Wildlife Refuge Association

Promoting Education and Stewardship in the Community

The "Nature of Learning" is a community-based National Wildlife Refuge System conservation education program that uses national wildlife refuges as outdoor classrooms and seeks to promote a greater understanding of conservation issues while enhancing student academic achievement. The "Nature of Learning":
  • utilizes field experiences and student-led stewardship projects to connect classroom lessons to real world issues; and

  • involves a partnership among local schools, community groups, natural resource professionals and local businesses.
Children crouching at stream bed looking at the water The "Nature of Learning" is a new refuge education initiative that evolved out of the smaller program previously known as Earth Stewards. This new initiative is based on a framework methodology (structure), not an activity-based curriculum. Young boy looking through a telescope while another boy looks on.

The "Nature of Learning" framework (structure)
  • Partnerships: Central to each "Nature of Learning" site is the involvement and partnership between a national wildlife refuge and a local school(s), community group(s), natural resource professional(s), and/or local business(es).

  • Integrated Learning: "The Nature of Learning" outlines a process by which a community-based curriculum is developed utilizing formal and non-formal education expertise at the site.

  • Standards-Based: Using the standards-based curriculum from collaborating schools, teams of teachers and resource specialists blend the resources from the classroom with existing activities and programs used on public lands. The framework guides educators in a standards-based instructional process that encourages an interdisciplinary approach.

  • Stewardship Projects: Community projects are planned and implemented as a culminating activity of this initiative. After building an understanding of conservation issues, students are encouraged to identify tasks that put their awareness into action and enhance their community.

  • Professional Development: The "Nature of Learning" framework assists site teams build local site workshops to meet professional development needs. Partnerships with organizations who have similar missions are highly recommended. In addition, the National Conservation Training Center and The Keystone Center offer many courses that can be directly applied to The "Nature of Learning".

  • Funding
The "Nature of Learning" Highlights:
  • Project Site Links: The "Nature of Learning" establishes a network of educators and resource professionals from around the country who are actively involved in using the Framework to enhance learning in their community.

  • Education on Refuges: Through a partnership with public land managers, local educators have access to research data, wildlife samples, management issues, staff and a beautiful setting to use while teaching.

    The development of The "Nature of Learning" site is just the first step in the learning continuum. Additional professional development is available through the National Conservation Training Center and The Keystone Center.

  • Community of Learners: The "Nature of Learning" is a partnership initiative. The Learning Network provides a tool by which site teams can identify community needs and are efficiently matched with materials and activities that meet their needs.

Three children looking at insects in a basin on a classroom table
How do I become involved in the "Nature of Learning" ?

Public Lands: Identify a national wildlife refuge in your area and ask about the types of education programs they offer for schools.

Volunteers or Friends: Over 230 Friends groups associated with our national wildlife refuges are in existence. Education on public lands is the central focus of these nonprofit organizations. Contacting these volunteers or other community volunteer groups will help you build a "Nature of Learning" team.


For additional information, contact Deborah Moore at or 703-358-2386.


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Last updated: October 7, 2008
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