When looking for curriculum resources and learning opportunities, one area that many families overlook are community resource specialists in your community. I have found that many specialists love sharing their knowledge and skills with young people. This is particularly true of agencies funded by our tax dollars like the Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife, and National Parks.
When I was in the public school classroom, I partnered with Menasha Corporation, a local timber company. They provided both resource specialists and financial assistance to improve access to a wetland area on our school campus. Under the guidance of the adult volunteers, my students developed a nature trail and teaching station near the wetland area. Additionally, the students designed and established a fishpond in the central courtyard, complete with a waterfall, a small fountain, and aquatic plants.
In the years that followed, we continued to partner with resource specialists and biologists from Menasha Corporation, South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Shoreline Education Association, and Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. The specialists accompanied us on field excursions as well as provide guidance for several long term projects.
Working alongside the resource professionals helped students to develop important skills while simultaneously learning about themselves as individuals and as members of a team. It is evident in their conversations with peers that the project had instilled within each of them, a tremendous amount of pride in themselves and their school.
Though I am no longer in the public school classroom, I continue to reach out to resource specialists and local businesses in an effort to provide learning opportunities for my children and other homeschool families. When we first began our homeschool journey, we reached out to our neighbors to undertake Our Interpretive Sign Project.
More recently, I collaborated with the USDA Forest Service to coordinate several field excursions for STEM Club. Read all about it in my post, Field, Forest, & Stream: Forest Ecology. In addition, the staff foresters provided us with hands-on opportunities to Explore Fire Science. This was a huge hit with the kids and an activity that otherwise would have taken a lot of prep work on my part.
Reach out to the resource specialists in your area and see what programs or opportunities they may offer. Many of these agencies also have extensive resources and lessons – even complete units – available for free on their websites. Do a little digging and see what you can find.
- National Association of Conservation Districts
- US Fish & Wildlife
- USDA Forest Service
- National Parks
- State Parks
- Bureau of Land Management
- Local Area Natural History Museums
- Local Businesses – Engineering firms, Geologists, Land Use Planning, etc.