Our Campus as a Learning Laboratory: Citizen Science at Evergreen

The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders
— Edward Abbey

How better to engage our hearts and minds to be defenders of our Earth than by becoming intimate and familiar with it?  Citizen Science is the  means for engaging students and community in ongoing scientific monitoring  projects.  Audubon's Annual Bird Count and BioBlitz happenings all over the world may Citizen Science activities you are familiar with.  

This winter, here at Evergreen, we are working in partnership with park rangers and educators from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to designate areas in our fields and woods as ongoing study sites for Citizen Science projects.  In the spring, we will launch a number of monitoring activities, teaching students and teachers across the grades how to collect data in our plots. 

The data we collect will, over time, help us better understand the relationship between organisms and the changing climate.  This is the science of Phenology.  Students will monitor many plants and animals, collect and record data and compare past records to learn  about how organisms in our environment are influenced by seasonal  and climatic changes.  

Which birds visit our campus? When? Can we find aquatic or terrestrial salamanders near our stream? What types of macro-invertebrates live in our leaf litter?  When do the wildflowers bloom? When do the trees bud experience leaf color change and drop their leaves?  These are all examples of questions that our study plots will help us to explore.

Stay tuned for more information about Citizen Science activities on our campus and ways that you can participate.

For more information, contact Marin Leroy, Environmental Education Coordinator

 

Evergreen Earth Day of Learning & Service 2015

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Evergreen's Earth Day of Learning and Service 2015

This day is a celebration of our school and extended community.  It is a coming together of partners, parents, friends and all of our staff and students to steward the Earth and learn to appreciate its creatures.  Students and teachers engage in meaningful service on our campus, attend wildlife programs and enjoy nature-based games and music during a celebratory community picnic hosted by our seventh graders. In addition to the enormous support of parents and community volunteers who donate their time and energy to lead service groups, the following groups, businesses and partner organizations help make this day possible:

This day was also made possible due to grant funding support from Greening Forward and donations from individuals through our Piggybackr Campaign.  Without this funding it would be impossible to implement the many and various student-designed service projects we are able to complete on Earth Day.

Here's a list of our Earth Day Service accomplishments :

Diversity and Inclusion Garden:  Kindergarten & 6th Grade worked together to weed, clear and re-plant the large beds bordering our gym.  The newly created garden is a "Diversity and Inclusion" garden, conceptualized by 8th graders during a math & EE landscape design project from earlier this year.  The "Diversity and Inclusion" garden is a butterfly and bird garden, created with plants that will attract and provide habitat for a diversity of pollinators and other beneficial insects.  It symbolizes our design principle of Diversity and Inclusion, exemplifying how the differences in our community make us stronger.

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1st Grade Seed Savers: First graders did a workshop with Chris Smith from Sow True Seeds to learn the basics for why and how to save seeds.  Students planted three varieties of climbing beans that we will grow in Evergreen's Earth Garden to study, then practice the seed saving we learned in the workshop.  First graders also spruced up their backyard garden space with new mulch, a border of bulbs and flowers and four beautiful blueberry bushes.

Sky with Beans

2nd Grade Campus Stewards: scrubbed out our compost buckets and picked up trash along our forest EL trail.

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3rd Grade Garden & Forest Stewards:  Third graders worked in their crew groups to complete a number of important projects.  Chris's crew built a new bench for the garden.  Cat's crew planted our new asparagus bed.  Melanie's crew planted a selection of culinary herbs and spring brassicas and cleaned up the hoop house.  Deidre's crew worked with Marc Williams to plant wild ginseng, two species of trillium and a spice bush in our forest, adding to the local plant biodiversity of our forest ecosystem.

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4th Grade Defenders of the Birds:  Fourth graders worked alongside Marc Hopey and group of student volunteers from the Southern Appalachian Raptor Research center to build and install nest boxes on our campus.  They added eight new bluebird boxes along our driveway and built a handful of additional boxes to donate to another school in our area.

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5th Grade Stream Stewards and Garden Pathway Builders: Fifth graders worked with Riverlink and Asheville Greenworks to do a stream clean up in Haw Creek.  They also did the hard and heavy job of moving loads of wood chips up to Evergreen's Earth Garden to spruce up our garden's pathways.

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6th Grade Solar Cooker "Bake Off": In addition to assisting their kindergarten buddies with the installation of the new Diversity and Inclusion garden, sixth graders educated others about the power of the sun and how to use it's energy to cook food.  As part of sixth grade's energy expedition, they learned all about passive solar technologies and designed and built their own solar cookers which they set up on Earth Day to share with our community.

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7th Grade Global Village, Foods Tasting & Community Picnic Hosts:

A small group of seventh graders worked with Buzz Durham to build a Haitian Tire Garden, a series of twelve inverted tires, filled with soil and planted out.  This project is an extension of the Global Citizenship expedition and presents an example of the resourcefulness and techniques necessary to feed families in areas where food is scarce and soil and seed are valuable commodities.

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Seventh graders also worked in small groups to help host the community picnic. These kids are the backbone of the Earth Day event, helping to create a fun, playful, learning-filled atmosphere that runs smoothly and engages everyone. Seventh graders facilitate all of our picnic activities (face painting, adopt-a-worm, sack races, touch and feel boxes, seed tag, etc.) and put on our Global Foods Tasting table that highlights foods and flavors from around the world.

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8th Grade Campus Stewardship Projects:  Traditionally, eighth grades have been charged with proposing solutions to stormwater management issues they observe around our campus as an extension of their Stormwater Studies expedition.  This year these projects included: clearing out our bioswales and rain gardens, planting six new fruit trees along the field, planting 10 new forest tree species to stabilize the hillside behind the gym, forest EL trail clean up, fixing drainage problem in the garden, and clearing the garden fence line to increase light and decrease weeds in our garden.

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Our Earth Day event culminated with a community wide picnic where our community enjoyed games and music, as well as a presentation of the Wild South Nature Writer awards, acknowledging students who use their voice to advocate for the enjoyment and preservation of wild places.

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Thank you to all of our partners for helping make this amazing day happen.

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Happy Earth Day!

Living in a Global Village

Last Friday our seventh grades took their science and math classes outside in Evergreen's Peace Garden.  Community partners Buzz Durham, Price Hulin and Bob Anderson helped us to better understand the resourcefulness and hard work many people must employ all around the world to grow food and access clean water to support their daily nutritional needs. Students learned to make biochar and how it is used to enhance the nutrients of soil.  They flipped old tires to make container gardens, then mixed soil (native soil + compost+ sand + biochar) to fill the containers.

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Sawdy

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Students built raised beds, cleared the garden of debris and prepared potatoes for planting.

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Why today matters? by Luce Mele

 "Today was a lesson in what it takes to use what you have to survive in a resourceful way. To be a Global Citizen you must your knowledge to selflessly help people around the world.  I feel that today's skills are very useful to know even for our own  homes.  Another lesson of today was recognizing the great privilege we have. I was surprised how much you can accomplish with some tires, cardboard, mulch, corn and an old melee oil  drum." 

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Thanks to these AWESOME community partners, Price (check out Price's farm at Terra Preta Farm), Bob and Buzz!

 

 

 

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And to these incredible parent volunteers, thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindergarten Sees With Different Eyes

Kindergartners practice using their sense of sight to explore nature with "super power eyes".  Hand lenses are a tool of science that can be used by anyone, big or small, to notice and explore things they might not otherwise be able to with just their naked eye. Something else that happens when you put a hand lens in the hands of a kindergartner is that they SLOW down.  It was amazing to watch them go into the woods and explore, to see where they went, where they stayed, and what they found.  Ant hills became complex cities to study and ordinary branches turned into a wonder of color, texture and form.

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"Ms. Marin, look at all of the colors on this leaf!"

"Ms. Marin, look, you can see the holes where this plant is breathing!"

"Ms. Marin, see how this leaf is starting to turn to soil! I can see where parts of it have already fallen away!"

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And, my favorite question, "Ms. Marin, what is this???"

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This activity was a wonderful reminder that just a simple shift in perspective can help us see the world  in a whole new light.  I've got lots of hand lenses down her in the science lab- come give it a try!