Integrated Learning is the process of building a curriculum that combines the school's standards and the refuge's natural resources and scientific expertise.
For example: Learning about wetlands, one 5th grade class: defined words about the different features of the wetlands, read several articles about the biological and historical significance of wetlands and marshes, and visited the refuge and played Wetland Metaphors (Project Wet).
The following are suggested steps in creating a useful and long lasting curriculum guide for your program.
Utilize Formal and Non-Formal Education Resources:
Blending formal and non-formal lessons is a long-term process and in time will build a comprehensive program that can be evaluated both internally and externally. Creating a site specific curriculum guide may seem like an overwhelming task however many sites have been able to compile a draft "guidebook" in the first year simply by being strategic and organized.
'Don’t reinvent the wheel!'
Divide the Content Focus into sub-topics and begin collecting specific lessons and activities. For example: Watersheds can be broken down into: water quality, geographic features, habitat types and flora/fauna. Begin by:
Things to think about:
Are there refuge management issues that can be integrated into your curriculum?
Are there environmental issues in the community to investigate?
Collecting lesson plans already used in school
Identifying activities and programs taught by resource professionals
Researching other organizations teaching this type of material (i.e.: State Department of Natural Resources, University, State Parks, Garden Clubs, Bird watching groups, etc.)
Compiling a library of environmental education resources like:
Environmental Education Activity Guide Project Learning Tree
Project WILD – Council for Environmental Education
Project Wow! The Wonders of Wetlands
Going places, making choices – National 4-H Council
Review and Revise Objectives:
Planning a meeting to determine how educational objectives can blend into a comprehensive learning progression connecting the classroom to an outdoor learning experience culminating in a Stewardship Project.
Align to State and District Standards:
Public School curriculum is closely tied to state and district standards. It is highly encouraged to have all lessons in the curriculum guide aligned to the state or district standards.
Many programs have correlated standards by:
Soliciting the assistance of local educators who are not currently teaching full time or have retired from education
Work with a local Friends group or association to build a standards based curriculum
Written grants from which to pay teachers
NOTE: Private schools often do not use a standards-based approach in the same way as public schools.
Suggested Extensions to your Curriculum Guide:
Once a baseline of activities is established and clear objectives are in place, educators are encouraged to:
Make connections to other disciplines math, language arts, visual arts, history and geography to name a few.
Add in-depth research and monitoring options
Explore community and site-based issues
Formalize Curriculum Guide:
The creation and format of a local curriculum guide depends on the unique characteristics where the curriculum is developed. Based on other education programs, here are some suggestions:
Standards alignment is essential, as noted above,
Creating a "guidebook" format for your program provides a model for new teachers and one that can be added to each year
Leave copy at your local refuge where it can be modified by other teachers and/or resource professionals
Make clear connections to stewardship projects and evaluation
Build a workshop or training around the use of the local Instruction Plan so that everyone is familiar with the activities and features of the program