In their study of living organisms, kindergarten and first grade students learned to identify different tree species on the nature trail behind their school. The students wanted to share what they had learned with other students and community members so they met with staff from Portland Trails (the local land trust) to learn about community needs related to environmental awareness. Portland Trails staff indicated that not many people in the community know about or appreciate all the different trees in Portland. The students decided to address this problem in a service-learning project, working with Portland Trails and local and state forestry experts.
The students began by learning more about types of trees from direct observation of different trees along the nature trail. They also learned about the characteristics of various living and non-living things, and how organisms depend on their environment to survive. Their teachers related the project to other parts of their curriculum as well, such as understanding physical properties of objects (color, shape, size, etc.), and knowing that systems are made up of smaller parts.
After learning about neighborhood trees, the students considered how they could raise awareness and appreciation of the community’s trees. The students ultimately decided to “adopt” trees on the nature trail and place informative plaques beneath them. Each student adopted his or her own tree and worked with the teachers to create an informational plaque for that tree. With help from area high school students and parents, the students mounted their plaques. Now everyone who uses the nature trail can read the plaques and learn more about the different types of trees.