The Outdoor Classroom’s five lessons in ecology and natural History are a dynamic blend of hands/minds-on activities through which students study coastal and terrestrial eco-systems. Utilizing a combination of classroom and field methods, small teams of students investigate ecological and biological concepts and reflect on their relationship to the natural world. We emphasize self-guided inquiry, careful observation, scientific measurement, and the use of journals for recording, writing, and drawing. Our teachers tailor each lesson to enhance the visiting school’s curriculum and to match the age and experience level of every group.
Our 75 acres of estuarine marsh are a rich resource for exploring concepts such as adaptation andlimiting factors and for developing an appreciation of botany. Lessons frequently include water testing, plot studies, use of plant-identification field guides, and discussions of coastal development issues. A salt marsh study by canoe is also available.
Each of our small ponds, bogs, and vernal pools contains a diverse and vibrant community of plants and animals. They are perfectly situated for comparative studies of biotic and abiotic factors. Lesson topics may focus on fundamental concepts, such as the water cycle, or delve into more complex subjects, such as insect specialization and water-quality monitoring.
Examining animal behavior and structure is an excellent way to illustrate a wide range of ecological principles, such as habitat, niche interrelationships, and food webs. In a typical lesson, students carefully examine prepared taxidermy mounts, reporting to the group what they have found, and then conducting field observations in the surrounding forest.
Rocky Shore Study
The dynamic intertidal zones of the rocky shore are as well suited to ecological investigation as they are exciting to explore. This is an area rich in specialized plants and animals, shaped by the forces of geology and astronomy. Rocky shore lessons are conducted at nearby, off-site areas and often incorporate transects, use of field guides, creative dramatics, and discussions of tidal forces, plate tectonics, and marine resource issues.
Our 350 acres of diverse forest exemplify a coastal spruce and fir ecosystem, influenced by a lengthy
human history. Ecological concepts such as primary and secondary succession and interspecies competition spring to life as we examine the understory and canopy. Participants use the forester’s traditional tools, including Biltmore sticks, increment borers, and clinometers, to make their investigations. Students rove through several distinct forest types and learn ways to identify and differentiate between them.
Live Animal Presentation
Chewonki’s traveling natural history department offers numerous hour-long presentations that can be incorporated into any residential program. Often used as an evening activity for an entire visiting class, these programs are a unique opportunity for students to see and learn about a wide variety of living wildlife, from alligators to hawks to owls.