On May 29, 43 Faculty of Education students voluntarily participated in a Project WILD and Below Zero workshop.
Project WILD is an internationally recognized program, sponsored by The World Wildlife Federation, and its goal is to increase the awareness, knowledge and skills of teachers in the areas of wildlife and the environment. The Below Zero portion of the workshop focuses on wildlife during winter and in frozen environments. Student educators who are interested in wildlife education can attend workshops to run through lesson plans and activities for students from kindergarten to grade 12.
Robert Kelsey, the science education lab instructor with the Faculty of Education, organized the outing in conjunction with the staff of the Salmonier Nature Park, and believes that it will help increase the healthy living aspect of education in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“The impetus for offering this program came from a discussion I heard on Howard Gardner’s theory of nature deficit disorder,” said Mr. Kelsey. “It stems from the fact that children are changing from beings that have a lot of natural wonder in the world to beings that are becoming more sedentary and are sitting in front of video games and television and losing that ability to respond to the wonder in their environment.”
The excursion took place both inside and outside on the St. John’s campus and was led by Michael Blackwood, an Environmental Education Technician with the Wildlife Division of the Department of Environment and Conservation. Students from both the bachelor of education primary/elementary and intermediate/secondary groups attended.
Throughout the half-day session, students had the opportunity to review the Project WILD and Below Zero activity guides which feature 121 complete lesson plans about wildlife and the environment. They broke into groups, went outside to practice some of the activities and came back to present to the group how they would adapt the activities for their particular student grade or subject. The students pictured above are participating in an activity that shows how everything in nature and life is interdependent and how a small upset in the process can lead to catastrophic results.
The student teachers enjoyed the chance to get active with science education. “I love the outdoors and I have a strong appreciation for hands-on learning,” said intermediate/secondary pre-service teacher Matthew Ingram. “Today I attended Project WILD which brilliantly combines these basic notions with the idea that youth are inherently motivated to study their natural surroundings. We were provided with great resources and skills through this program, I will certainly use them in my future classrooms.”
Victoria Woodman believed that the program was directly related to her future career teaching young children. “As a primary/elementary student teacher, I feel as if Project Wild/Below Zero was more of a benefit for us than for the high school group,” said Ms. Woodman. “I think that everyone should do the program because you learn so much and it is a great help for anyone teaching science. I was worried about teaching science, however, with the resources and activities that we did today I feel more positive.”
Project WILD is not just for science teachers, it can benefit educators and students in any field. “As an English/technology education student, I am thrilled that Project WILD had so much to offer,” said Ashley Gosse. “Knowledge of wildlife and wildlife conservation is increasingly more crucial as our world grows and expands. As our students are informed about the importance of habitats and which local species may be endangered, we are fostering future generations who will think critically about what is being done to the world around them, and how it impacts wildlife.”
All students received a copy of the guide as well as a certificate of program completion, allowing them to use the lesson plans with their future students. For more information on Project WILD, visit www.projectwild.org.