By NewsLine Staff
Students and teachers revealed new additions and upgrades to the outdoor learning classroom on World Water Day, March 22 at Julington Creek Elementary School. The outdoor space officially opened on World Water Day last year, and was funded with grants provided by Wells Fargo and the Community First Cares Foundation through a partnership between the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations and local education foundation, Investing in Kids (INK!).
In 2022, Creekside High School students, teachers, and volunteers opened the outdoor learning space and hands-on learning projects at Julington Creek Elementary School including in-ground and raised garden beds, native landscaping, and sensory learning experiences.
According to INK!’s executive director Donna Lueders, teachers, administrators, and volunteers continued to support the ongoing service-learning project and the second annual World Water Day celebration, in collaboration with the Academy of Environmental Sciences and the Teaching Academy at Creekside High School.
This year, Creekside students added a butterfly science chamber with screened-in room, more native plants and landscaping, and various species of regional butterflies. New totems were also built with a variety of highly tactile materials for exceptional student education (ESE) students at the elementary school.
According to the international nonprofit organization, Pure Water for the World, this year’s World Water Day follows the campaign theme, “Accelerate Change.” Locally, the program included Academy and elementary school students in rotational learning groups with hands-on learning activities including a Wacky Watersheds and Fun 2.0 space where students learn about the water cycle, and a Nifty Natives area featuring the importance of native landscaping in the community, and pollination through a student-developed sensory activity.
The Rock N’ Roll activity encourages students to understand rock cycles, rock types, and the importance of limestone in the development of the Florida aquifer. Sifting through Soils helps students learn about soil layers and the importance of soil resources in water filtration. Green ThumbsUp! features gardening basics and the opportunity for students to plant their own seeds.
St. Johns County 2020-2021 District Teacher of the Year Ali Pressel initiated the place-based learning plan and outdoor classroom project in 2020 with Jeanette Murphy, Julington Creek Elementary School’s principal. Pressel is an environmental sciences educator in the Academy of Engineering and Environmental Sciences at Creekside High School.
Pressel implemented the World Water Day educational program focusing on water resources and water conservation with Creekside’s Academy of Future Teachers instructor, Regan Ashker. Under the guidance of Pressel and Ashker, Creekside students implemented upgrades to the outdoor learning space, developed sensory learning experiences, and designed new engaging lessons to share with younger students for this year’s Water Day event.
Visit www.ink-stjohns.org for more information.
Photo courtesy INK!
Creekside High School and Julington Creek Elementary students at Green ThumbsUp! location.