Students try teaching to learn

November 09, 2008|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Students at Edgewood Middle School face the task of teaching adults.

Using games, charts, maps, balloons, posters, golf balls and putters, the children will give presentations about birds, migration and conservation issues to about 450 members of the corporate community, and conservation and government organizations.

"The idea behind this program is to teach children, by having them teach others," said Thelma Redick, director of conservation, education and outreach for the Wildlife Habitat Council. "They will go from being learners to leaders."

About 25 students who are members of Edgewood Middle School's SEA (Student Environment Awareness) Club are going to be presenters at a "Bird Festival" at the 20th Annual Symposium, 20/20 Vision: Celebrating the Past, Looking to the Future, of the Wildlife Habitat Council.

During the event Nov. 17 and 18 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, the children will present lessons inspired by the Flying WILD curriculum ( www.flyingwild.org). Produced by the Council for Environmental Education, the curriculum stresses the "learner to leader" model in keeping middle school students engaged in learning about science, Redick said.

The teachers helping with the project were trained during the summer, and the students began working on their projects shortly after the start of the school year. The Edgewood teachers involved with the project are Carolyn Swift, and Kathleen Conroy, who teach life sciences, and Sarah Bernhofer, who teaches language arts.

Conroy saw the program as a way of pulling the environment into the curriculum and hitting the science standards, she said. And Bernhofer, who has an affinity for the environment, helped start the SEA Club, she said.

Divided into small groups of four or five students, the students are assigned to work on one of five different projects.

One project, called "Aiming to Save," teaches participants about the challenges of endangered and threatened species by having them putt their way through a golf course to find the things they need to survive. Each putt represents success or failure in finding food, water, shelter, and space.

The project gives people a look at what birds go through when they are seeking the things they need to survive, said sixth- grader Bradlee Gibson.

"We want people to know they have to take better care of our environment, so the birds and other animals can find what they need," said Bradlee, 11, of Edgewood. "You should recycle and do what you can to help."

Habitat Match teaches people how to analyze clues provided in riddles to help them figure out what bird is being described and where it lives.

Brittany Brooks, an eighth-grader, volunteered to participate in the project because she loves animals, she said. But she also wanted to teach people how different birds use different habitats, she said.

"I hope that we can show people that there are many birds out there" said Brittany, 13, of Edgewood. "They live in different habitats, but they all come together somewhere, somehow."

The students also will have stuffed birds on display and will wear shirts with birds on them.

Megan Roegner saw the activity as a way to connect with her father, she said.

But the project has taught the seventh-grader a lot more than how many teams have bird mascots, she said.

"Some people think birds are creatures that don't do much," said Megan, 11, of Abingdon. "But actually they are colorful and very creative."

Swift, a seventh-grade life sciences teacher at Edgewood Middle, signed on to help with the sports trivia project because she's a big sports fan, she said. But she also plans to use the projects in her classes.

"Every science concept we teach can be taught using birds," she said. "This program enhances teaching, enhances science education, and enhances the ability for the children to be leaders. Who knows, maybe one of these children participating in the project will be one of the great science teachers of the future?"

At another station, students will be presenting a lesson called "Avian Antics." To participate, visitors will play charades to learn courtship rituals for birds who are seeking mates.

Danae Mars, a seventh-grader, has learned all about chirping, she said.

"Birds do all sorts of things - strut, dance, and bring treats, when they are mating," said Danae, 12, of Edgewood. "When the birds chirp, it's usually the males trying to get the females attention."

The final project, called "Just Ducky," involves completing a successful migration by tossing rings over soda bottles set up in a chosen corridor, on a migration map.

The project has taught Madison McCall, a seventh-grader, about the flight patterns and migration of birds, she said. It also has helped her understand what teachers go through every day. She has developed a new appreciation for educators, she said.

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