It is often said of both children and gardens that to have them is to show hope for the future. Some area teachers, parents, and organizations are demonstrating this hope two-fold as they plan outdoor learning classrooms that have wildlife habitat gardens as centerpieces. Outdoor learning is gaining momentum across the nation, recently led by Richard Louvs Children and Nature Network and other conservationist groups like our local West Cook Wild Ones.
Outdoor learning receives much support from educators because by its very nature its experiential and creates hand-on learning. Instead of learning about plants, insects, soil, weather, etc., solely from books and worksheets, students go outside to their outdoor learning areas to concentrate on a specific learning task to discover, observe, get data, evidence, and then share their findings, using skills across the curriculum and gain essential skills.
Technology can be incorporated as well as students learn to identify, research curiosities, and then communicate their findings to audiences. Outdoor learning advocates are not Luddites at all; we just think there should be a balance, and we also believe that technology offers a way to experience and communicate the intricacies of all forms of life.
Through outdoor learning, children are encouraged to connect to and understand examples of the natural world through these landscapes which are designed to attract forms of wildlife like insects and birds. With all of the discouraging news that we receive daily about the status of our environment, we can feel like we are doing a small positive step to remediating some of our destructive practices. The U.S. is facing an extinction rate of 95-97% of its animal species (pre-European settlement) because we have developed 95-97% of our land (ecologists now know there is a 1:1 correspondance between habitat loss and species loss) (Tallamy 29-36). Unless our landscapes start to incorporate more native plants to support insect populations that form the foundation of the food webthey bridge the gap between plants and other higher forms of life because they are food for themwe can be certain that we will lose these animals who should be valued for themselves but also are valuable for their usefulness to our own sustainability.
West Cook Wild Ones is proud to support schools, which want to install wildlife habitat gardens. We provide them with information, resources, and in some cases, financial assistance, which will increase as our membership base grows.
If you are affiliated with a school, we are happy to help you as you begin your plans for your garden. In the future, we will be having meetings that focus on school gardens so that participants can learn from each other, and we also hope that we can pass on plants and seeds to each other to continue building our gardens of hope for the future. Children deserve to experience the wonder of the universe in their own schoolyards.
— Stephanie Walquist