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Mon, Oct. 21

Schoolyard Habitat teaches science-based lessons

Lake Valley Elementary fifth-graders Hunter Goff  and Anthony Morales study the effects of wind friction during their Schoolyard Habitat program last week. (Briana Lonas)

Lake Valley Elementary fifth-graders Hunter Goff and Anthony Morales study the effects of wind friction during their Schoolyard Habitat program last week. (Briana Lonas)

A popular, outdoor science program, facilitated by Highlands Center for Natural History instructors, continues gaining in popularity.

Recently, Lake Valley Elementary students took part in their latest Schoolyard Habitat class that involved learning about wind and friction.

Habitat instructor Jessie Manley-Ewald taught the lesson and explained that the partnership between the HCNH and Quad-Cities schools is designed to introduce students and adults to all of the wonders of nature.

The HCNH is a non-profit nature-based education organization funded through membership and donations.

"We encourage everyone to explore and discover the natural world around them and ultimately to become wise caretakers of the land," she said.

The Schoolyard Habitat program began about 12 years ago and now includes 11 primary schools and the first junior high school, Glassford Hill Middle School, started with the program last year.

Manley-Ewald explained that the Schoolyard Habitat program began as a partnership between the Highlands Center and Quad-Cities schools whereby students learn from a science-based curriculum in a native habitat area.

Each school partners with the HCNH for three years and during the first year, staff works to design and create a xera-scape habitat garden on the school site designed for the outdoor student learning center.

For the second year, staff helps create the curriculum for each grade level that helps the students also become more aware of their local environment.

The third year includes professional development training for classroom teachers so that they take over teaching the program beyond the direct involvement of Highlands Center staff.

Last week, LVES fifth grade teacher Lisa Boyd's Solar Seekers sat within their habitat area and learned to create weathervanes.

"When you have two forces working opposite of each other, you have friction," Manley-Ewald said as she stood in front of the students and demonstrated how the weathervane works.

Each student group learned how to assemble the weathervanes and spent time completing their workbooks. After learning their lesson, the students broke out into groups and sat beneath trees to complete their workbook activities. Then, the students wrote in their journals.

"It's constructive for the child to have that open time to just process," Manley-Ewald said.

The class participates in the Habitat lessons twice each month and as Solar Seekers, learn how the sun affects everything on the planet.

Habitat partners with area schools and Arizona School Tax Credits benefit the program - the funds go to the schools, whereby the tax credit contributions ensure the continuation of the program.

Follow Briana Lonas on Twitter at @blonas3; Email at blonas@prescottaz.com. Call her at 928-642-7868.

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