By Susan Ipri Brown, Hope College – Center for Exploratory Learning
“Nature is our kindest friend,” said the famous British scientist Michael Faraday.
Place-based environmental learning is a powerful tool for improving students’ knowledge of the world around them and sustaining their natural curiosity. Summer is the perfect time to put this natural curiosity into play as families and students explore and visit new places.
Help your student grow this summer by making a place of wonder of each place you visit to hike, bike, camp, or swim.
Foster that learning in students by just asking questions. “How does that work?” and “Where does that come from?” can start the mind running, and the students’ imagination will take off.
While you can look up many resources online ahead of time, often the best questions and most fun come from not knowing the answer and not programming every minute of the adventure. Ask the simple question and then guide the student to use online resources to answer them and delve further into the material.
In another way to foster summer learning, the Hope College Summer Science Camp program (hope.edu/explore) is developing a hands-on, nature-based camp – Exploring Ecosystems – to enrich students’ understanding of the ecology of their local area.
Two camps will be developed based on appropriate Michigan Science Standards for grades 3-5 as well as grades 6-8. The camps are being developed with funding from the Environmental Education Division of ASME, International.
Through observation, data collection and analysis, students will gain an understanding of how organisms interact with other organisms and the abiotic environment to form an ecosystem. Students will gain hands-on experience with watershed monitoring. Additionally, they will incorporate environmental
engineering topics such as water filtering and green roofs.
A biology educator is writing the program and will be mentoring college education majors as they staff the camp. Involvement of our Hope College science and education majors is a critical component of the program.
Through learning to develop and deliver environmental education programs, the student-teachers will be inspired to embrace such activities in their future career. Education majors report that camp staff positions give them confidence to take on their own classrooms and provide them the opportunity to explore new ways to teach and create inquiry-based lessons. Science majors will gain valuable experience communicating about science and participating in impactful outreach programs.
Exploring Ecosystems provides a more in-depth experience for interested students. Many science-themed camps provide students that opportunity to see the spark of wonder that nature provides. Students
are naturally curious about the environment and the interactions within nature.
But while camps are one option, casual family activities are a perfect place for learning, too. Whether it’s a camp, a camping trip, or a long walk on a beautiful summer evening, make your outdoor adventure the spark of learning and science exploration.
Susan Ipri Brown is director of the ExploreHope program and instructor of engineering at Hope College.
The Holland area offers a long list of opportunities for summer exploration. Here are a few ideas:
Holland State Park
Ottawa County Parks
DeGraaf Nature Center
Outdoor Discovery Center
Hope College Summer Science Camps
Windmill Island Gardens
Riley Street Trails
Window on the Waterfront
Holland Farmer’s Market
Saugatuck Dunes State Park
City of Holland Parks
Hudsonville Nature Center
This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Environmental Awareness/Action: Environmental education and integrating environmental practices into our planning will change negative outcomes of the past and improve our future.
ABOUT THIS SERIES
Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.