Principal Robbin Cooper is looking forward to Midway Elementary students spending more time with nature.
The school recently announced that its participating in Using The Outdoors to Teach Experiential Science (UTOTES), an award-winning educational program administered by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.
MES’s new experience was made possible by a $1,400 grant brought to the school though Simple Gifts Fund, which Simple Gifts Fund, which provides financial assistance to educators for unique opportunities.
“I’m always excited that they’re able to think about school students and provide the support and funding for projects that we couldn’t have done because of funding,” Cooper said. “Sometimes, we don’t think about those things outside of the classroom that can really enhance learning. I’m just excited that Simple Gifts have those funds available for schools in the county.”
After Cooper became principal of the school, one of her goals was to build outdoor learning centers for teachers and students.
“I wanted them to be more consciously aware about what’s going on in the environment,” Cooper said.
Seventeen MES teachers and volunteers are receiving assistance through the museum’s Teacher Education staff. Megan Chesser and Melissa Dowland are working with Cooper and lead teachers Christina Detwiler and Michelle Milliken to build wildlife habitats at the school. The training will be used throughout the school year. Participants plant to use native flowers, shrubs, and trees to develop butterfly gardens, wetlands or bird observations areas.
In a news release from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Dowland expressed that taking students outside creates an exciting setting for learning and gives students an appreciation and understanding of the natural world.
“By expanding the classroom walls to include outdoor learning environments, students and teachers are able to use their immediate surroundings to learn science, math, language arts and other subjects,” stated Dowland, coordinator of Teacher Education. “UTOTES gives teachers firsthand experience with living things. They can share their excitement with students and help them grow into stewards of the Earth.”
Faculty from the school participate in six hands-on workshops. One of the sessions involved lessons on how to use the school grounds as a classroom. Now, the school is scheduled to begin work on a butterfly garden in October. For the last meeting, teachers will go on a field trip related to the outdoors. A location has not been determined yet.
MES is joining more than 200 UTOTES schools statewide. The program was created in 1991.
“I’m excited that there’s so many teachers and community members excited about it and wanting to be hands-on with it,” Cooper said. “The kids are excited about it too.”
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