My name is Adam Leiterman, and I am Teacher Naturalist at Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center. I teach 3rd graders from the Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot School in Mattapan, MA. I have been involved with this partnership for 3 years. This year two groups of 30 students each will have 2-3 week units on: seed structures, properties of water, and animal adaptations (with a focus on New England wildlife). I teach 15 of the students in each group.
Each lesson is comprised of approximately 60 minutes of indoor lessons and 60-90 minutes of outdoor lessons. This varies depending on weather and topic.
This year we are focusing on seed structures, properties of water, and New England wildlife and adaptations. I like to teach using sense of place and serendipitous learning. In other words, I believe that learning about nature is more effective when you help the students form a personal connection with the natural world. There is a lot of nature in an urban setting, you just need to know where to look. I encourage students on the trail to find something they have never seen before and ask me about it. That way their interests are focused, and they are taking responsibility for their learning.
Over the years there have been many success stories and challenges. The most common of both can be seen in the arc of the experience. A high percentage of the students are reticent to go outside, get dirty, or engage in nature when they first arrive. Once they – begrudgingly – go outside, they find it’s better than they thought. The challenge to convince them to go outside is eventually replaced by the challenge to get them to leave on the bus. They gain a sense of ownership over their experience and learning that is becoming more and more rare.