Out of School Environmental Education

If you are an AmeriCorps Member, click here for more information about Everyday Explorers including program-specific documents, upcoming trainings, etc.

Hands-On Science Education in After School

As a network, BYEN brings together over 100 of the best public and private sector organizations delivering quality environmental and science education programs for youth. BYEN provides a central coordinating function that helps schools and after-school programs to build valuable relationships with EE providers so that “science is brought to life,” as one teacher described.

Outdoor environmental education is a vital component of STEM. Students learn about the natural world around them, particularly through hands-on learning experiences that get them outdoors. Kids from pre-school up through high school need to spend time playing in the mud, catching frogs and planting gardens. EE’s approach of getting kids outdoors, discovering the world around them is inherently fun and engaging. Making science fun, relevant and less intimidating, EE is the hook that sparks an interest in the sciences and the process of inquiry.

Partnerships between science-rich institutions and local communities show great promise for structuring inclusive science learning across settings, especially when partnerships are rooted in ongoing input from community partners that inform the entire process, beginning with setting goals. Programs, especially during out-of-school time, afford a special opportunity to expand science-learning experiences for millions of children. These programs, many of which are based in schools, are increasingly folding in disciplinary and subject matter content, but by means of informal education. As a report by the Place-based Education Evaluation Collaboration (PEEC) states, “The findings are clear: place-based education fosters students’ connection to place and creates vibrant partnerships between schools and communities. It boosts student achievement and improves environmental, social, and economic vitality.”

BYEN and its network especially focus on environmental and science education in the outdoors. Outdoor environmental education by nature offers the kind of project-based and hands-on learning time and venue that sparks their interest, passions and creativity. Partnerships between schools and nature centers, institutions of science, and EE programs provide students with an opportunity to not only learn about science but to do science in the real world, oftentimes right in their own community. Through these hands-on, outdoor experiences, science learning outcomes can last longer, too, as a Boston principal states, “It’s one thing to teach children through books, but it’s another thing to do hands-on with them so they can actually see these life lessons. They seem to stick with them a lot quicker and a lot longer than the actual book knowledge.” When coupled with service learning projects, as EE programs often are, after-school science programs become more meaningful, as one Boston schoolteacher noted, “I think that’s how stewardship starts. Kids are connected to this place so they’re taking care of this place. Maybe as they get older they’ll understand that they’re responsible for their neighborhood and their city.”

City leaders do recognize the importance of drawing upon the strength of partnerships to support the academic achievement and personal growth of Boston’s children, as Mayor Thomas Menino states, “We are using our city’s assets to their full potential to help all children learn and grow. Schools simply can’t educate our children alone. Around every corner must be a place that helps prepare them for college and beyond.” Similarly, Superintendent Carol Johnson points out that, “A six-hour day is simply not enough for many of our students. Our community partners can help us offer additional learning time to engage and motivate students and reinforce the lessons of the school day.”

Everyday Explorers: Bringing Science Alive in After School

BYEN’s Everyday Explorers AmeriCorps Program places 15 AmeriCorps members trained in Environmental Education and service projects in after-school programs to facilitate science learning opportunities in Boston. Everyday Explorers aims to encourage community service for its program participants, and use that as a forum for environmental learning and stewardship. Through environmental service learning projects and after-school activities, Everyday Explorers provide program participants with opportunities for hands-on, experiential learning that foster school success and greater engagement while allowing youth to form close, informal relationships with adults who can act as role models.

 

Participating After School Program Sites

Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, including:

• Sumner Elementary School

• Orchard Gardens Club

• Condon Elementary School

• Mattahunt Club

• Franklin Hill Club

 

Zoo New England, Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo

Interested in becoming an Everyday Explorers AmeriCorps member for the 2012-13 school year? Contact Emily Shaer at eshaer@environetwork.org for more information.

The WOW Initiative, introduced by Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, is a statewide public awareness campaign designed to engage, educate and “wow” Massachusetts students into realizing the opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. Click here to download a PDF of the WOW poster featuring 15 STEM professionals in Massachusetts.