Sixth graders are forging new territory in their new Middle School Service Learning initiative as they explore the needs and challenges of the National Park Service. After a deep discussion about the importance of our environment and how they might make an impact on our world, students collectively decided to partner with the National Park Service (NPS) and gain a better understanding of the essential question: How do we decide how land and water are used?
According to the U.S Department of the Interior, Rethinking the National Parks for the 21st Century:
“By caring for the parks and conveying the park ethic, we care for ourselves and act on behalf of the future.”
Beginning with the discovery phase, students investigated a local park of their choice; then plan to expand their exploration to Georgia’s National Parks. Integrating design thinking and service learning, this initiative is supported by and connected to their academic studies: social studies–the importance of water in early civilization river valleys; science– the water cycle; and literature– the novel Flush which focuses on the importance of clean water in the Florida Keys. Our children are becoming multipliers as they give their service to the community in a sustainable fashion.
Students continue to be amazed by their discoveries within this powerful study of human interaction with our environment. One student, Meghan Nagia, explored Brook Run Park for her preflection in the discovery phase. She shares, “Brook Run adds great value to the community. I had fun visiting the park and seeing it in a new way. I would like to research the history of the park and compare it to other local parks. Maybe I could make a difference by suggesting they add an outdoor classroom for children to study in the heart of nature.”
“I get to witness their joy as they discover solutions to everyday problems. As we make connections to our curriculum, I remain impressed by their enthusiasm,” says Mr. Tarrik Mabon. Lily Chandler adds, “I never took the time to really observe this land use near my house and I am discovering new things.” Lily Durlacher says, “I go to my neighborhood park all the time and it is like I am seeing it for the first time.” Bella Vargas concludes, “I never noticed how many people use my park, and it makes me appreciate it so much more!”
As a generation which recognizes the importance of protecting the fragile biodiversity of the natural systems around us, our young students are learning powerful lessons to carry into their future.