Students focus more on Bullock Creek nature program – Midland Daily News | Gmx Pharm

Nature is calling… with lesson plans.

The great outdoors offers Bullock Creek School District elementary school students more than just a break from technology.

From kindergarten to second grade, research-based learning takes place every day for almost an hour, and the nature-oriented program also extends into fifth grade. Nature coach Tina Pretzer said that the opportunity to be in the fresh air reconnects children with authentic experiences.

“It’s very convenient,” Pretzer said. “Instead of students reading a book about science and doing things indoors at a desk, they learn through real-world experiences.

“The excitement is really happening there,” she continued. “They are really attracted to these activities.”

Each of the classrooms for grades K-2 is guided by science curricula. Program goals are guided by daily outdoor experiences, hands-on learning, and conscious inclusion of nature as a tool to achieve curriculum standards and goals.

Lesson materials and content have been adapted for learning outdoors—rain, snow, or shine. Lesson plans are developed in collaboration with the nearby Chippewa Nature Center on Badour Road. The Bullock Creek School District, in partnership with the nature center, has adapted its traditional learning environment to incorporate nature-based learning.

Excursions could take place in the backyards of the schools or in the nature center. This partnership is supported by grants.

Pretzer said the nature center’s naturalists supported a learning curve for educators to teach with and in the natural elements.

“They’ve helped us really evolve our curriculum,” she said. “It’s the best way to teach, but it’s different (outside). They’re wonderful resources.”

Pretzer said school-age children are more focused and engaged in nature from kindergarten through second grade, an environment that Vicki Mikusko, director of Bullock Creek Student Services, said is important for the learner age group.

“They’re very active… and their attention spans are short,” Mikusko said. “They don’t want them to just sit in a classroom and learn things from them all day. It’s nice to take her outside.”

According to Dennis Pilaske, Executive Director of the Nature Center, the program was inspired by the popular Nature Preschool at the Chippewa Nature Center. He said families who enroll in nature-based learning want to continue nurturing their children with similar instruction. As a result, the program evolved to include the Bullock Creek District as the next step in this learning path.

The program was recently expanded to fifth grade.

Looking back, Mikusko said the program defined Bullock Creek’s niche and differentiated it from other school districts.

“Not only are we seeing the benefit in the students, but we’ve also seen parents coming to the Bullock Creek School District specifically for this program,” she said.

The nature-based program began in 2012 with funding from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network. The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, and the Charles J. Strosacker Foundation have contributed funding for the expansion of this program.

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