Nature is the best teacher

2:30 pm

Third-grade teacher Jamie Hooten says The Nature of Teaching, an educational program designed by Purdue Extension, has energized the school day at Lincoln Elementary School in Bedford. Many afternoons, it brought nature into her classroom, gave direction to her school’s garden club and sparked students’ excitement for science. It also has been a catalyst for community partnerships and competitive grant funding.

The Nature of Teaching has three programs — wildlife, health and wellness, and food waste. Each provides free lesson plans that are classroom-ready for grades K-5 and that align with Common Core (similar to Indiana academic standards) and Next Generation Science Standards. Extension offers professional development workshops where teachers learn firsthand how to use them.

Students who used to groan when instructed to open their science books now get excited when Hooten announces a Nature of Teaching activity. “All of the assignments for the kids are hands-on,” she says. So, while her class is outdoors on a nature hike and scavenger hunt, her students are having too much fun to notice how they’re sharpening their powers of observation and learning about science.

Lessons in gardening inspired the 21-year teaching veteran to develop local partnerships and secure grants that helped establish the school courtyard garden and an active student garden club, the Green Thumbs. Students then helped set up and maintain 48 additional raised boxes, an orchard and a monarch butterfly habitat.

“Our school was interested in getting the kids out into nature,” Hooten says. The result has been stronger academics and a positive school atmosphere. “The Nature of Teaching sparked all this,” she adds.

teachers from nine counties in Indiana and 11 counties in Maine attended The Nature of Teaching workshops.