Group educators keep busy throughout the year with a varied collection of worthwhile activities and programs. We teach classroom lessons and field trips, coordinate habitat restoration projects and beach cleanups, conduct week-long field ecology sessions in the summer and winter, lead indoor and outdoor community explorations, and prepare education newsletters and blog articles.
This past Thursday, November 14th, was an especially productive day for Group education. The day began at the Grace Estate in Northwest Woods. Missy Weiss, Anita Wright, Christine Tylee and I met at 8:30 to begin preparations for a school field trip focusing on the forest ecosystem. Soon thereafter, three excited fifth-grade classes from John Marshall Elementary School arrived. Over the next ninety minutes, each Group educator took his/her subset of students on an information-packed tour of the woods. Children compared the leaves of red and white oaks, rolled logs looking for pill bugs and earthworms, sniffed the pleasant aromas of bayberry and wintergreen, put their hands in the rich woodland soil, and learned about the forest’s vertical plant zones.
Following the field trip, Christine headed directly to the North Fork. She had a one o’clock engagement at the Downs Farm Preserve in Cutchogue with an energetic band of pre-school children. It was time for the Group’s monthly Storytime book-reading and craft activity. This month’s theme was the fall colors, so Christine read a book about autumn leaves and then guided the families in making a decorative craft with the Preserve’s fallen leaves. Storytime ended in usual fashion, with the young volunteers helping to fill the many feeders around the Nature Center with birdseed.
Meanwhile, Anita, Missy and I followed up our morning field trip with another in the afternoon. This trip took place at the ocean beach in Napeague. One fifth-grade class from Springs School met us for a ninety-minute immersion into the beach ecosystem. Students measured ocean salinity and water temperature, determined wind direction and wind speed, observed the minerals in beach sand and collected magnetite with magnets, studied beach plants and their adaptations, and combed the beach for seashells and skate egg cases.
As soon as the beach field trip ended, Anita high-tailed it to John Marshall Elementary School in East Hampton Village. The clock showed 3:15, time for the Group’s weekly after-school program, “Mad Scientists Club”, with fifteen lucky third-graders. In previous weeks, these children had experimented with dry ice, made slime and “elephant’s toothpaste”, launched alka-seltzer rockets, and acted as chromatography sleuths. On this Thursday, they learned about density by separating six different liquid layers.
And so, as the clock struck 5 p.m., the busy day came to an end for Group education. I suspect that most, if not all, of the participating children had memorable days on November 14th. They had fun out-of-doors or in an active setting indoors, and learned several things in the process. Speaking for my colleagues, I would confess that Group educators had a good day, too.