Sunday, April 7, 2013

Seeking Wonder: Linking Literature to the Landscape

Louisiana Educators Seeking Wonder at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Workshop funded by 2012 Louisiana Environmental Education Commission Grant
Literacy is a vital part of any kind of education.  Nature literature blended with life & environmental science is a good combination.  On Saturday, April 6, I had the privilege of sharing books about Louisiana’s natural world with a group of outstanding educators and librarians.    The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission funded this professional development workshop called “Seeking Wonder:  Linking Literature to the Landscape” through their 2012 Environmental Education Grant Program.  This program also funds individual teacher grants and research grants and it promotes environmental education programs across the state and in the classroom.  It is a fantastic program.  I conducted the workshop on Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge with U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ranger Nova Clarke.

Someone can learn about the bottomland hardwood ecosystem by reading and looking at pictures, but experiencing the environment and observing some of the interactions in the ecosystem makes the learning come alive.  Doing both is even better. The workshop provided educators the chance to see what is happening out there in the environment after reading and learning some information about it.  What did we see?  We saw the food web in action.  We saw a big black ant tackle a damselfly and watched as the damselfly tried to escape.  One teacher made this great remark, “damselfly in distress.”   We spotted a bronze frog perched on a log over the water, and then someone shouted, “Look there’s a snake!”  The snake, a broad banded water snake, was closer to us than the frog.  Later we saw another frog and there was another snake.  Then we noticed:  damselfly-frog-snake.   Someone said, “see a frog, see a snake”, which is a good rule of thumb in this food web.  A green anole was displaying on a twig and we watched a turquoise ribbon snake glide from one branch to the next.  American coots walked on mats of aquatic vegetation and the pied-billed grebes dove under the water.  An alligator snoozed in the sun and red-winged blackbirds were busy defending breeding territories with their trills.   Cypress trees were in flower and we noted the difference in the condition of cypress trees trapped in the lake and the trees along the edge that experience the normal wet/dry cycle.  The trees out in the lake are slowly dying and the trees along the edge are thriving.  We experienced spring in the swamp with birds calling all around, everything turning greener by the minute, and the pungent way the swamp smells in the spring – wet and alive.  We jotted our observations in little notebooks, so we could remember what we saw when we returned to the classroom.  Then we could use our notes to create poems, essays, sketches, food webs, etc.

I want to thank all the educators who gathered at the refuge to experience the swamp spring with me and Swamper, the swamp rabbit.  And thanks to the Louisiana Environmental Education Commission for the great work that they do.  Remember:  Nature is out there waiting for us all.

No comments:

Post a Comment