It’s social studies time. Time for the second grade students to learn and demonstrate their understanding of some important map skills (how to read a map, how to determine your position relative to the map, how to follow directions to arrive at a location) and map vocabulary (compass rose, cardinal directions, map key and symbols). Yet the classrooms are empty; the students are not in their places with bright, shiny faces. Where are they? They are on their way to their “sit spots” by a nearby vernal swamp. Along the way they study the satellite image map and determine their position, relative to the map. Once they arrive at the vernal swamp, they have an important job to do. The second grade students will put their new map skills to good use and create a map to mark the location of the Invasive Buckthorn plant.
This is not the first time the West Side Christian School second grade students have ventured to this location. Throughout the year they make seasonal visits to record observations in their Green Journals. Students draw a sketch of their surroundings, record the number of bird calls heard at different seasonal times, take note of the weather conditions, and more. During their previous visit, students took note of a large amount of one type of green leafed plant – Buckthorn!
In class the students learned more about the story of this invasive plant – before heading out to make their maps. The students discovered that this plant came to their country as a hedge plant. This plant is not native, according to a second grader that means “not normal to the area.” Their understanding deepened as they discovered why this invasive plant is a threat to the vernal swamp habitat.
Armed with their knowledge of this invasive plant, in addition to their map making skills, the motivated students got to work. They created maps to document the location and created symbols to illustrate the invasive Buckthorn. Their maps communicate the location of the plant along the trail. After the maps were made they were eager to start to remove the invasive plants.
This year in collaboration with Blandford Nature Center the students contributed their volunteer hours to the Stewardship Network October Volunteer Challenge. The students’ efforts counted towards the goal of 1,000 hours.
With the school clock ticking, they were able to remove a large amount of Buckthorn but more help is needed! The students hope their writing will help encourage others in the community to join their efforts to remove this threat to an important ecosystem.
This sure was a great way to make real-life application to the students’ social studies content learning! The students don’t have to wait to put their learning to good use. They want their maps and writing to communicate to the community, “There is Buckthorn here and we need to remove it!”