Audubon Society teams with county schools

The Jamestown Audubon Society and the Warren County School District are working on a pilot science partnership program for the three schools in the northern attendance area.

Every classroom in Russell and Sugar Grove Elementary Schools will be involved, as will the seventh and eighth grades at Eisenhower Middle School.

Matt Jones, grant writer for the WCSD said, “The intent of the Audubon is to work with teachers in the three buildings to create a school-based program that is tied to Pennsylvania State Learning Standards, supports the new Common Core Curriculum, and enhances the local science curriculum by providing science-based nature education both in the classroom and in outdoor settings near the schools.”

Jennifer Schlick, program director at the Audubon Society said the pilot program will be funded by the Warren Community Foundation and the DeFrees Family Foundation. She added that they are hoping it will become a permanent program in the future.

Jones noted, “The pilot is funded through grants applied for and received by the Audubon. I would say that continuing the program would rely, at least partially, on continued funding of the program.” Schlick explained that Jones had investigated other sources to be sure grant funding efforts were not being duplicated.

Beginning in mid-February, two senior naturalists from the society, Sarah Hatfield and Jeff Tome will visit each elementary classroom twice and the Eisenhower classrooms once. There will then be a field trip outside the schools for the students, “To shine a light on what kids see in their own backyards,” Schlick said.

Depending on how things work out, part of the program could be held next fall.

“The timing is excellent, with Sugar Grove and Russell moving to Eisenhower,” she said, because the Eco-lab already located at EMHS can be utilized for field trips.

Generally, the subjects taught will be about nature. As an example, she said the second grade classes could explore wetland life cycles. “They are amazed that there are leopard frogs here.”

She explained that they first will meet with the teachers to insure that the program meshes with what is already being taught in science class. “Our desire is to be in a partnership with the teachers, and not be just guest speakers,” she added.

If the program is continued in the future, it will be used to enhance the general curriculum Schlick said, “It lends itself well to Common Core, with communication and reading skills.”

She said because of difficulty with the rules in transporting students across state lines, that the field work would be done in Pennsylvania, but “We would love to encourage families to come up and see what we have to offer,” referring to the Audubon Sanctuary on Riverside Road, just across the state line.

A similar program has been ongoing in Chautauqua County for decades, she noted.