January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Looking for Nature in All Kinds of Places

Posted: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

by Annette Huddle

The San Francisco Botanical Garden is an unnatural place.

Now there’s a provocative statement – especially since we pride ourselves on the nature education programs we provide for urban children, reaching about 12,000 children and their teachers and parents each year! But in a sense, the statement is true. The 55 acres that comprise the botanical garden include about a dozen manmade water features, miles of paved roads and paths, green lawns, and thousands of exotic plants from around the world. Many of these need supplemental watering or occasional frost protection to survive. The sand dunes and associated ecologies of 150 years ago are gone, destroyed in the interest of the humans who built the city of San Francisco. Quite unnatural!

Teachers explore the diversity of life inside a hula-hoop on the garden lawn

Teachers explore the diversity of life inside a hula-hoop on the garden lawn

Except, of course, that it’s not. For one thing, human beings are a part of the natural world, and the actions we take that alter it are a part of that world too. That’s a key message that children, and adults too, need to learn. If we insist on separating ourselves from “nature”, we will miss the fact that we are truly linked to and dependent on the systems and organisms that surround us.

But another important point is that natural processes are at work everywhere on our planet, with living organisms and abiotic features linked through a rich variety of interactions, creating elaborate interconnected systems. These interactions and systems exist at one scale or another in even the most “unnatural” environments. In the San Francisco Botanical Garden, a wide variety of living things have found ways to meet their needs. While the players may be different than in a less human-altered area, the processes are the same – living things develop, grow and change while obtaining food and water, protecting themselves, and trying to reproduce, either limited or enhanced by the geology, climate and weather and the processes and cycles associated with them.

 A huge non-native snapping turtle basks in the pond near giant South American gunnera leaves, both dramatic sights for visitors.

A huge non-native snapping turtle basks in the pond near giant South American gunnera leaves, both dramatic sights for visitors.

In guided walks at the SFBG, students from kindergarten through 5th grade learn about various aspects of the natural world, including our place in it. The garden teaches us lessons both in spite of and because of its unusual diversity of plants. A five year old does not care, or particularly need to know, that a plant she is examining is an exotic monkey hand tree from Mexico, but she does need to learn that this plant, like any other plant, has specific parts that do certain jobs for the plant. A second-grader on a “Web of Life” walk can learn about food chains even if the native red tail hawk is eating a non-native squirrel which fattened up on exotic Chinese magnolia buds and human-supplied and officially forbidden peanuts. A fourth grader learning about traditional Ohlone uses of plants in our native garden can contemplate other ways humans use plants while passing the weaver’s bamboo from China or the fiber banana from Japan.

In our Children’s Garden, young people are immersed in experiencing the natural world, learning to recognize its cycles and processes, and the things we humans can, and cannot, do to alter or control these. We can add compost to build the soil on the sand dune on which our garden grows, helping retain water for our plants, but we can’t make it rain. We can plant pumpkin seeds in June, but are at the mercy of the fog that covers our San Francisco garden in July and August, allowing mildew to cover the stunted leaves. We can plant in containers to dissuade hungry gophers, but since they are even hungrier than we are, we never entirely outwit them!

A native heron hunts for fish in a man-made pond in the San Francisco Botanical Garden

A native heron hunts for fish in a man-made pond in the San Francisco Botanical Garden

It’s clear that a landscape can be quite altered by human activity and still support a rich web of life. Perhaps visiting a botanical garden is not the same as visiting an area of undeveloped wilderness, but there is still a lot to explore, discover, and learn. By the same token, a neighborhood park, a school yard, a vacant lot, even a cemetery can provide an opportunity to observe natural processes and cycles at work. Living organisms evolve and adapt to all kinds of habitats, even those that may seem barren at first glance. We humans need to learn to recognize nature in all its forms, whether in the densest urban center or the most pristine landscape, to truly understand that we too are part of it all.

Annette Huddle is Director of the Youth Education Program at the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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  1. […] else you might find interesting is this article I just wrote for the California Science Teachers Association called “Finding Nature in All […]

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LATEST POST

Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

WHO SHOULD ATTEND
If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

OVERVIEW
Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.

REGISTER

http://bit.ly/ACCELERATINGINTONGSS

DATES & LOCATIONS
MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Find Your Reason to Engage

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Jill Grace

I was recently reflecting on events in the news and remembered that several years ago, National Public Radio had a story about a man named Stéphane Hessel, a World War II French resistance fighter, Nazi concentration camp survivor, and contributor to the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The story focused on a book he had published, Time for Outrage (2010).

In it, Hessel makes the argument that the worst attitude is indifference:

“Who is in charge; who are the decision makers? It’s not always easy to discern. We’re not dealing with a small elite anymore, whose actions we can clearly identify. We are dealing with a vast, interdependent world that is interconnected in unprecedented ways. But there are unbearable things all around us. You have to look for them; search carefully. Open your eyes and you will see. This is what I tell young people: If you spend a little time searching, you will find your reasons to engage. The worst attitude is indifference. ‘There’s nothing I can do; I get by’ – adopting this mindset will deprive you of one of the fundamental qualities of being human: outrage.  Our capacity for protest is indispensable, as is our freedom to engage.”

His words make me take pause when I think of the status of science in the United States. A general “mistrust” of science is increasingly pervasive, as outlined in a New Yorker article from the summer of 2016. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.