The Nature of Learning Framework Putting it all together
The Nature of Learning framework (structure) is essential to starting and maintaining a sustainable program. Listed below are the three components of the framework followed by a brief overview of each. Sites will locally develop each piece of the framework while achieving the same goals. A network comprised of existing sites is available to offer support.
- Partnership Agreement
- The Nature of Learning Leadership Team
- Common Vision
- Strategic Planning Meetings
- Content Focus
- Instructional Plan
- Stewardship Projects
- Evaluation Strategy
- The Nature of Learning Orientation
- Needs Assessment
- Site-based Training
- National Conferences and Training
Central to each The Nature of Learning program is a partnership between a neighborhood school and a natural area that is often, but not limited to, a United Statesí Fish and Wildlife Refuge or other public lands. A partnership agreement that articulates the goals and timeline of the program establishes an official working relationship between the school and the refuge. This collaboration is assisted and enriched through ties with other agencies and organizations, both public and private.
The Nature of Learning leadership team includes natural resource professionals, teachers, students, parents and administrators from the selected school, agency managers, and representatives of other partner organizations.
Partners gather to create a combined vision related to using the natural world as a vehicle for teaching science and other disciplines and for creating change in the surrounding community.
Periodic strategic planning meetings evaluating The Nature of Learning program and relationships are useful to review the goals and assess the changing needs of the team and program.
Identifying a content focus gives direction to the program and is selected based upon regional significance; such as proximity to a wetland, accessibility to an appropriate natural area, and alignment with the school's curriculum. Examples of natural resource themes include wetlands, endangered species, rivers, and migratory birds.
An instructional plan integrates scientific and other disciplinary concepts into lessons implemented in the classroom and reinforced through visits during the Outdoor Learning Experience (OLE). OLEs are designed to use a natural area in the community, such as a refuge or a park, to encourage teachers and students to bridge the gap between the content explored in the classroom and the natural environment.
Community and site-based stewardship projects are designed as a logical extension to the school-based learning and are determined by the needs of the refuge or community. Stewardship projects offer an opportunity to develop integrated research-based projects that are designed and implemented by students and facilitated by teachers and community partners. The stewardship projects exemplify how the content learned in the classroom and on the OLEs can be applied to meet a locationís changing needs.
An evaluation strategy is used extensively throughout the program to provide feedback and to give an overall appraisal of the program. Locally developed evaluation strategies have included pre- and post-visit student assessments and presentations after the completion of the stewardship project.
The Nature of Learning orientation is most effective for a team of individuals from an emerging site who have established partnerships and are in the process of developing interconnected curriculum in the schools. This training concentrates on the use of The Nature of Learning framework as a tool to develop and sustain The Nature of Learning in the community.
A meeting of The Nature of Learning team that identifies and assesses the training needs of the program leaders is useful to build content and methodology expertise on a local level. Continued evaluation of program needs is used to provide feedback during program implementation as well as overall appraisal of the program.
Site-based training is developed and implemented on a local level related to the program's needs. For example, a workshop on content focus provides the mechanism to ensure that all educators have a working knowledge of the content in the chosen theme.
The Nature of Learning team members should continually draw upon the research and expertise of the National Conservation Training Center and those in other regions. This will take place by attending national conferences and training and building local capacity by disseminating the information gathered to the national and local The Nature of Learning Leadership Team.