Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Looking for a little nature?

El Dorado Nature Center

There are many exciting places to experience science with your classroom. I decided to enjoy my fun filled science field trip at the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, CA. At $5 a vehicle, one can walk along the three mile trails surrounded by streams, two lakes and beautiful plant and animal life. Not only is it open to the public, but the center is learning friendly. Schools are welcomed to bring their students ($27 per bus).

What special benefits could my students gain from visiting this site?

There are many benefits for my students to visit a Nature Center like this one. Visitors obtain a sense of appreciation for nature once they walk in. Students will be surrounded by bustling animal and plant life. The nature center believes that "through education, citizen involvement opportunities, habitat restoration....the community cultivates a sense of respect, understanding and stewardship for the natural world." At the beginning of the trails students will receive a pamphlet of animals and plants that they will be expected to see. By touring the El Dorado Nature Center they will gain knowledge of a large variety of habitats: oak woodlands, forest, coastal sage-scrub, grassland, chaparral. In addition, there are several different aquatic habitats: two large ponds, a stream connecting them, plus their fringing wetlands.

What would I need to do to adequately prepare my students before the visit(consider adaptations for English learners and students with special needs)?

Before beginning our adventure at the Nature Center it is important that my students become familiar with the rules that they must follow:

1. Students must stay on the trail, they will be assigned a field trip partner. They will work together and responsible for each other. They are not allowed to feed the animals or collect any plant life.
2. Students will need to bring sunscreen and water because the trails will be long and tiresome. They will be exposed to the sun for a long period so it is important that they protect their skin and stay hydrated. It is important that students also pack a lunch because we will take a break and leave the center to the park across the street and have a picnic.
3.A lesson will be necessary before going to the center as students learn about the plant kingdom, animal kingdom, nonliving and how they all interact. Students will also learn about the variety of habitats that they will experience. Using SDAIE strategies, like visuals, will be helpful so that all students with multiple learning styles will benefit.

What resource materials (including online materials- provide links when possible) are available to assist my preparation, teaching?

Here are a few resources that I found helpful to discuss the nature center and animal/plant life:

What will you do to debrief students after you have attended the field trip?

After my students return from the field trip we will discuss as a class the most interesting moment that they experienced at the Nature Center. Students will then write their moment down in their science journals and accompany it with a picture. I will allow students ten minutes to list as many living and nonliving items as possible. The students count the number of items that are from the plant kingdom, animal kingdom, and those that are nonliving. They are then going to be challenged to choose three items from each category and describe what habitat did they come from. Students will work as a group during this activity.

Field trip photos and Insights

This field trip was wonderful. Not only is it calming and relaxing, but the very interesting. The variety of wildlife is extraordinary there was never a dull moment. Whether it was the smell of the Sticky Monkey Flower or hopping over a Western Fence Lizard I know that my students will truly enjoy the scenery. The Nature Center also has a visitor center with all sorts of displays and activities for children. They get to have experience educational displays (insects, reptiles, birds) and a small gift shop offering environmentally themed books and gifts!

Nature Center Activities

I was surprised to find that the center includes programs that include tours that focus on the California Science Framework. They also have a "Movable Museum" outreach programs. The "Paws and Jaws" program is a hands-on look at North American mammals. The "Acorns, Sea, and Sage" program is a discovery lesson about the first people of Southern California. Also, the "Protect our Watery World" program is an exploration of non-point-source pollution and how action at home can protect aquatic wildlife. There are teacher workshops and even science classes/camp provided during winter/spring/summer break!