Environmental education is an idea that should be fostered throughout an entire life.
It’s easy to think that the concept is meant mostly for primary school students being taught to learn and explore the natural world. Durango Nature Studies has embraced this idea through our ever-evolving Children Discovering Nature Program in all Durango grade schools. The sense of place that students embrace, along with a true love of learning science standards in the natural world, has been the basic building block of the DNS philosophy.
We have learned that families have to be involved. Students who learn at the Nature Center need the opportunity to share what they learn with siblings and parents, through bringing their families to the Nature Center or participating in family workshops. That is why including families in outdoor learning programs is so important, and we give all kindergarten to fifth-grade students free family Nature Center passes so families can explore and learn together.
However, through the years, we have realized that it is not enough just to focus on elementary students. Students should continue an age-appropriate environmental education experience as they move into middle and high school.
During the past year, we have partnered with the Durango School District to develop a middle school program that helps teachers build on natural science standards through nature-based observation and experience, and we are now working on a field science internship for high school students to allow them to gain real life experience as field scientists and build their resume for their future.
We are excited to be working with Durango High School to provide a competitive field-science internship for students interested in exploring biology and science as a future career path. Monday was the first day in the field for six students who will be Durango Nature Studies’ first Field Science Scholars. They met with our staff members at the Nature Center to start developing project ideas for the semester.
These students are amazing. The ideas flying around represented the idealism of youth and the thoughtfulness of scientists. One thing is certain: These kids want to make their world a better place and are looking to science as a way to do it. The fact that they care about the natural world and want to make it healthier is represented in the studies they are hoping to complete.
For Durango students who have been going to the Nature Center for years as a place to learn and a place to play, it is only fitting that they pay homage to this place of their youth through research that prepares them for a lifetime of scientific discovery in nature.
Sally Shuffield is executive director of Durango Nature Studies. Reach her at email@example.com or 382-9244.