Environmental & Place-based Education

Environmental Education (EE) is a weekly class for PreK through 8th grade. Classes meet outdoors, in all kinds of weather, to explore the numerous habitats on our large CLCS property. As the students observe, collect data, monitor and document, they also learn about the environment and its interconnected systems.

Place-Based Education is defined by the Center for Place-Based Learning and Community Engagement as an immersive approach to educate our students. It “places students in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences, and uses these as a foundation for the study of language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum.” At its core, place-based education (PBE) is anytime, anywhere learning. It uses the power of place.

How are we implementing Place Based Education? And where is our focus when we teach students Environmental studies at CLCS?

A foundational truth is the understanding that because God made and loves His creation, He wants us to value it also. We appreciate and care for nature, but not simply for its own sake. God has a future and a plan for creation, and He wants us to take part in His plan. Through Environmental Education, we make engagement and authenticity a priority for our students. As we develop the program, we’ll continue to use local parks, public spaces, museums and businesses as learning places for the students.  (http://www.gettingsmart.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/What-is-Place-Based-Education-and-Why-Does-it-Matter-3.pdf)

In the Classroom

Every week, all full time and Hybrid-Homeschool students, head outside to our ninety-nine acre school property, for Environmental Education. Inquiry and open-ended questioning leads to wonder at God’s creation. Depending on grade level, students explore and work in the school gardens, the fields, hedgerow areas, mature and edge forest, wetlands, pond and streams.

Students practice collecting data, observing with all of their senses, taking samples, monitoring specific natural areas, taking pictures, and looking for change over time. They learn to use tools such as binoculars, field guides, and trail cams. Classroom learning enhances Environmental Ed, as students learn vocabulary and concepts associated with their experiences outdoors.

March: Maple Sugaring

Maple Sugaring is hosted by CLCS in March. This program was started with the help of Prof. Walter Poleman, who is a senior lecturer in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont. We love when he comes to visit!

Sap from our school maple trees is collected for several weeks beforehand. Students from the different grades take turns monitoring and collecting the sap. On Maple Sugaring Day the sap is boiled down in our evaporator. Students participate in engaging activities that highlight the historical, scientific, and cultural aspects of maple sugaring. The 7th and 8th grade students finish the maple sugaring process in the school kitchen, using a hydrometer test to measure the sap’s sugar content. Of course, it’s exciting to taste the product in it’s different stages; from raw sap to maple syrup! Hybrid-Homeschool students and their families are invited to participate throughout the day!

May: Bioblitz, with the local community

Bioblitz takes place throughout the various habitats of our school property. During this concentrated day of biological surveying, many volunteers join our school community to help us record as many living species as possible. In 2019, our total was more than 220 different species! Scientists, college students, parents, and alumni assist with plant and animal identification and photography. It’s a privilege to work with field biologists, entomologists, ornithologists, botanists, and weed scientists from Cornell and other community organizations.

Ultimately, CLCS graduates will become leaders, stewards and responsible citizens who deeply understand and love God’s creation.