Our partnership with TC Henderson Elementary (“TCH”) began in the fall of 2019 after we received a grant from the Pisgah Health Foundation. Prior to the grant application, in the summer of 2019, SHR staff created lesson plans for students focused on environmental education such as the food chain and how energy passes through ecosystems. Local Boys & Girls Clubs summer campers attended a half day of education at the Reserve, allowing SHR staff to implement and then refine the lesson plans.
In December 2019, SHR staff entered the classroom at TCH and worked with kindergarten through 5th grade students once a month. Each month had a specific lesson plan tailored to each grade level’s STEM curriculum and included hands on activities such as finding items in nature to include in a personal discovery bowl for each student. SHR also worked with partners from the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative in 2020 to bring an arborist to TCH and discuss the profession and the important role arborists play in conservation and landscape management. Students and teachers from TCH enjoyed the activity of counting tree rings to determine the age of a tree; however, they may have enjoyed decorating the tree ring ornaments for their Christmas trees even more!
In March with the onset of Covid-19, SHR was unable to reenter the classroom. Yet, ever resilent, SHR staff then turned the focus toward improving the educational content and research. Working with Professor Alfie Vick and PhD student, Joyell Hayley, at the University of Georgia’s College of Environment & Design, we began to develop a research component and refine the lesson plans. Over the course of the next six months, the team created and expanded the lesson plans and teaching modules to include biophilic awareness, observing plant and human senses, the role pollinators play in the food system that humans depend on, and the importance of an ecological address. Biophllia, a term coined by the legendary biologist E. O Wilson, is described as humans’ innate urge to seek a connection with nature.
This fall, SHR’s executive director, Kelly Holdbrooks, worked with TCH principal, Patrick Chapman, to determine a way to renter the classroom under Covid-19 protocols. Both partners are thrilled to be working together again in the classroom and environmental education should resume this winter – fingers crossed! We look forward to working with the students and teachers at TCH and sharing our progress with the community.