Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Forces of Nature: Children Champion the Environment

October 19, 2006

GLEF has profiled a number of innovative projects that take students to fields and streams. These projects connect them with nature in their own backyards and school yards and use the Internet to create human connections with other students in the United States and around the world for a better understanding of our global ecosystem. The best projects include a service-learning component, where students contribute to improving the environmental health and sustainability of their own communities. Here are links to our articles about these programs:

"Take a Hike: How to Make Being Outdoors In." This article begins with the story of Juan Martinez, whose interest in environmental law started when he joined his Los Angeles high school's ecology club and worked in its garden.

"Swamped: Louisiana Students Become Wetland Custodians." Through a nationally recognized service-learning project, students have become stewards of a local fragile wetland environment. These students knew, before Hurricane Katrina, how vulnerable the region had become.

"Leapin' Lizards!: Students as Data Collectors." In a nationwide project called NatureMapping, fourth-grade students in Washington State hone their reading, writing, and math skills while tracking lizards and working with farmers to collect data on biodiversity.

"It's All Happening at the Zoo School: Innovative Education with Practical Applications." At Minnesota's School of Environmental Studies, high school students learn about becoming an expert and solving real problems -- doing in-depth, interdisciplinary research using innovative technology that results in practical applications.

"March of the Monarchs." Journey North, an Internet project funded by the Annenberg/CPB Project, involves thousands of students in monitoring migration patterns of butterflies and other species, sharing the data they compile via the Internet.

"Garden of Eating: Middle Schoolers Grow Their Own Lunch." Chef Alice Waters's Edible Schoolyard gives Berkeley middle school students a complete seed-to-table experience through gardens and kitchens at their own schools. Children learn about mathematics, chemistry, and cultures when they learn to grow and make their own food.

"Fishy Business: A Class of Kids and a School of Fish." A high school club in northern California, the United Anglers of Casa Grande, saved a dying creek, constructed a fish hatchery, and brought salmon and steelhead trout back to Adobe Creek.

"Bugscope: Magnifying the Connection Between Students, Science, and Scientists." K-12 science classes collect insects, send them to entomologists at the University of Illinois, and then analyze them via the Internet under a scanning electron microscope, thanks to a unique partnership between the university and several business and government institutions.

Milton Chen is executive director of The George Lucas Educational Foundation.
Diane Demée-Benoit is a former online consulting editor for

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