model school program
Our Model School at Woodland Forrest Elementary
Woodland Forrest Elementary: A Discovering Alabama Model School
Integrating Studies through Environmental Education In Cooperation with Discovering Alabama/The Alabama Museum of Natural History And The University of Alabama Woodland Forrest Elementary School targeted the 2010-2011 school year for pilot implementation of a Pre-K-5 initiative drawing upon the Discovering Alabama series and Teacher Guides together with related resources, activities, and materials. This initiative reflects the educational concepts of Discovering Alabama in focusing on the study of local natural diversity and environmental topics to integrate content from science, social studies, reading, math, the arts, and other areas. The initiative incorporates relevant aspects of Discovering Alabama’s model K-12 instructional programs, “Discovering Our Heritage” and “Project Community”, to include development of a school-supportive “Community Collaborative”. Discovering Alabama/Alabama Museum of Natural History provided key resources, teacher training, and other assistance as feasible, and worked with Woodland Forrest to acquire additional support through grants from Alabama Wildlife Federation and Tombigbee Resource, Conservation and Development.
Discovering Alabama/AMNH continues to assist and collaborate with Woodland Forrest teachers as they have begun using a curriculum map developed in workshops spring, 2010. While piloting and field-testing some of the activities with students, teachers have begun generating a sequence of learning units organized to mesh appropriately with AMSTI and other pertinent state programs. A full collection of the Emmy award-winning Discovering Alabama program DVDs can be viewed in the “media room” where children can also access computers and work on media presentations.
This Discovering Alabama model school offers every child experiences in outdoor classrooms which include themed gardens, an amphitheater and nature trails. Here children worked on a watershed investigation and began work on a project to stop erosion on the nature trails. They soon discovered that their school property was part of the Hurricane Creek watershed and they took a canoe trip down the creek to explore the diversity of the region. This exploration led to more investigations and conservation efforts along the creek. Their experiences are featured on the Discovering Alabama DVD, Alabama Model School, that premiered at a Woodland Forrest PTA meeting is now shown on Alabama Public Television and other local stations.
Community members often visit the school to offer their expertise in helping children know how and where to plant or how to conduct soil samples. Children have begun labeling trees on this trail and observe plants and animals in a natural setting as part of the learning stations. They are able to observe the habitat requirements and interactions of plants, animals and people with the abiotic factors such as soil, water in this geographic region as well as monitor the Weather Station as part of the GLOBE Program. Math Centers will be incorporated next as part of a grant through the University of Alabama.
There is also an environmental science lab known as the “Discovery Lab” where children bring plants, animals and questions from the outdoor classrooms. This lab allows teachers access to a variety of resources and materials such as nature-study field guides, simple water and soil testing equipment, binoculars, maps and compasses, microscopes, mineral samples, fossil collections, and other items supportive both of outdoor and classroom investigations.
Woodland Forrest parents, teachers and students have upgraded the media room to serve as a production center where children view Discovering Alabama DVDs and work on presentations to share results of research projects with others. This area offers every teacher an extension of the regular classroom where they can work with children to photograph animals and plants that they find in the outdoor classrooms. They send their questions with photos via computer to “Ask the Expert”, another component of the Discovering Alabama website. Children are learning to investigate issues as they develop questions while interacting with the Discovering Alabama Virtual Field Trips. Under the direction of Diana Marchant, who is serving as the science resource teacher in the “Discovery Lab”, children have expressed that they LOVE SCHOOL! Many parents have come to see the lab “that their children talk about…constantly”! One parent said it was the first time her child has ever enjoyed school! This special environmental science lab is now a hub of excitement when children bring in plants, animals, rocks and ideas as they Discover Alabama’s rich natural diversity! Even when the weather is not perfect for full outdoor adventures, these children are developing an appetite for wanting to explore and learn more when they began investigations on their Discovering Alabama Virtual Field Trips!
Many parents have come to see the lab “that their children talk about…constantly”!
One parent said it was the first time her child has ever enjoyed school!