The environmental education program at FSMN seeks to prepare students to become citizens and stewards of the earth. The sense of awe and wonder with which young children explore their world is of utmost importance. The environmental education program prepares students by
- validating their innate fascination with the natural world,
- instilling a sense of respect and reverence for the world around them,
- fostering their sense of place in the world and attachment to the natural world,
- modeling simple living,
- providing a solid scientific framework with which to understand environmental issues,
- providing the skills to make conscientious decisions,
- instilling a sense of hope and commitment to the future,
- helping them become responsible citizens rather than simply consumers, and
- breaking down the artificial barrier our culture imposes between the human-made and natural worlds.
Environmental education at FSMN grows directly from fundamental Quaker beliefs about peace, justice, simplicity, and service to community. FSMN has adopted the Friends Environmental Education Network statement of purpose which states, “Friends schools have a special obligation to include environmental education in their programs in order to promote a sustainable future for all life. Our students should learn how they can best understand, preserve, and restore the natural processes, resources, and beauty so vital to the earth and to humankind’s physical and spiritual health. These goals grow directly from fundamental Quaker beliefs and testimonies.”
While understanding that environmental education requires a strong grounding in diverse curricula, FSMN also recognizes an intangible element not easily reflected in the scope and sequence. We know that the connection to other life and developing a sense of place grow from numerous experiences in nature. We attempt to nourish and celebrate this connection through visual art, language arts, movement, and music; thus, environmental education is woven into all curricula.
Staff at FSMN strive to create a school environment that models our commitment to caring for the earth. Students in all grades participate in recycling and composting programs led by middle school students. Students are encouraged to observe everyday environmental commitments modeled by staff.
Friends School’s environmental education scope and sequence is taught in various classrooms throughout K-8. In addition, our school’s commitment to environmental education is modeled through our recycling program, our composting program, overnight trips with environmental themes, neighborhood walks, and field trips to natural areas, such as the Mississippi River. Students’ connection to natural spaces is encouraged through ample opportunities to play, explore, and learn outdoors. FSMN seeks to develop relationships with specific places, providing opportunities for our students to integrate curriculum with play and exploration. These opportunities also allow for the development of emergent curriculum that is integral to the implementation of our environmental education program.
A sense of spiritual connection to the natural world is encouraged through frequent opportunities for reflection, reading, storytelling, painting, drawing, writing poetry and prose, and creating music.
Scope and Sequence
Environmental education has been integrated into FSMN’s curriculum in most subject areas for the past few years. We began implementation of specific, detailed benchmarks in 2007-08. There are many lessons and activities that incorporate the benchmarks; for example, field trips, neighborhood walks, care of classroom pets, hands-on projects, the use of FOSS kits, and particular units of study. As the scope and sequence continue to form through staff awareness of benchmarks, development of units of study, and emergent curricula, the benchmarks will be further integrated into the life of the school.
There are six basic strands of environmental education at FSMN.
- Students develop a sense of stewardship for the earth, and a sense of the connections among all life forms.
- Students develop an understanding of physical systems of the universe, and of social and cultural systems of the world.
- Students learn about the basic laws and processes of the physical world (e.g., the water cycle, energy, physics) through exploration and study of the world around them.
- Students learn about the basic laws and processes of biology, and thereby gain an understanding and appreciation of the interconnectedness of life.
- Students explore how the natural world affects their lives and how their actions and societies’ actions affect the natural world.
- Students develop a sense of place—a strong ongoing and active relationship with their environment based on knowledge and appreciation of it.
The activities and units documented below reflect the deeply rooted traditions that have evolved at each grade level at Friends School. Each grade incorporates overnights trips, day trips, guest speakers, and science lessons involving environmental education at their core.
- Day Trips to locations that connect to emergent themes—FSMN Prairie Gardens, Horton Park, Community Gardens, Bell Museum of Natural History, Franconia Sculpture Park, Mill City Museum, Mississippi River, Minnehaha Falls, Dodge Nature Center, Crosby Farm, Como Zoo
- Guest Speakers—parent experts and specialists that connect to emergent themes
- Science Units based on Environmental Education—integrated art and emergent science units, observational drawings/science sketches, Becoming and Animal project, FOSS Tree Kit, FOSS Animals Two By Two, FOSS Fabric Kit
First and Second Grades
- Overnights—two-day overnight to Voyageurs Environmental Center
- Day Trips to locations that connect to emergent themes—FSMN Prairie Gardens, Horton Park, Community Gardens, Franconia Sculpture Park, Crosby Farm
- Guest Speakers—parent experts and specialists that connect to emergent themes
- Science Units based on Environmental Education—insect unit, plant unit, bird study
Third and Fourth Grades
- Overnights—two-day overnight to YMCA Camp St. Croix
- Day Trips to locations that connect to emergent themes—3-4 river year at Fort Snelling State Park/Pike Island, phenology, service work such as beach cleaning or buckthorn removal, geocaching, geology and snowshoe hike, fish seining, National Park Service Journey to the Falls River boat trip with grades 5-6, Crosby Farm
- Guest Speakers—Kao Tao on Minnesota Mammals and Krista Jenson on Minnesota Birds (at Fort Snelling, Brian Goodspeed on Minnesota geology (from the National Park Service)
- Science Units based on Environmental Education—birds unit, Minnesota animal research unit, Minnesota geology in the rocks and minerals unit
Fifth and Sixth Grades
- Overnights—three-day overnight to Eagle Bluff in Lanesboro along the Root River
- Day Trips to locations that connect to emergent themes—5-6 Mississippi River year at multiple locations; seven-mile Wilderness Inquiry Canoe trip between Minneapolis and St. Paul; Mill City Museum tour, activities and bridge walk; St. Paul Regional Water Services drinking water tour; Red Wing wastewater treatment plan tour; Coldwater Spring, National Park Service, Mississippi River Fund oak savannah and prairie restoration work; Fort Snelling State Park and Mississippi River Fund beach cleaning, buckthorn and garlic mustard removal; Minnesota River Valley National Wildlife Refuge; National Park Service boat trip journey to the Falls River; Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed district headquarters; Minnehaha Falls, Crosby Farm, Como Zoo and Conservatory
- Guest Speakers—Anna Waugh on seed bomb prairie restoration activity (Mississippi River Fund and National Park Service), Kao Tao on watershed (Fort Snelling State Park), Brian Goodspeed, Karl Mueller (Horton Park)
- Science Units based on Environmental Education—tree planting, mulching, and signage at Horton Park through St. Paul Parks and Recreation; recycling; composting; water unit; fifth grade life sciences; sixth grade earth sciences
Seventh and Eighth Grades
- Overnights—five-day overnight to Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, seven-day overnight to YMCA Camp Menogyn in the Boundary Waters
- Day Trips to locations that connect to emergent themes—7-8 Mississippi River year at Crosby Farm: phenology, river notes, plot study, tree coring, landscape transect, tree identification, deer population, ice coring, garlic mustard removal, aquatic organisms and small mammals, poetry writing; all-school Crosby Farm day
- Guest Speakers—varies
- Science Units based on Environmental Education—7-8 cell biology, genetics and evolution; 7-8 physical sciences
The existing FSMN environmental education benchmarks were chosen from a Massachusetts document that is currently outdated. We plan to either adopt a current set of national or Minnesota environmental education standards and benchmarks, or write our own which are aligned with those. This is a significant piece of next year's work.