What is stewardship? I begin by asking my students this before our first outing. Many say, "Being a steward" or "I don't know." or "It is like a stewardess on an airplane." So, that leads me to ask, "What do stewardesses do?" The reply usually goes, "They take care of people on a plane." Now I ask, could you be a steward? "If we were on a plane." Where is this heading?
We all can be stewards and take care of people, but if we fail to take care of the world we inhabit, there will be no one to care for! I provide an integrated middle school program of school experiences and community experiences to promote stewardship, called Land Surveyors. It begins in the classroom through life and earth science classes learning the interdependence of our earth systems. We use a curriculum to drive student investigation of ecosystems and ecology. By exploring our school grounds, school prairie, and FFA test plots, students can identify interactions within the ecosystems and man’s interference or support of such systems. We work collaboratively with our school staff, kitchen and elementary students to maintain a school garden and vermacompost system. The main benefit of all these opportunities is the onsite exploration of biological diversity. We make use of all our senses to identify the diversity present by visual inspection of organisms (BINOCULARS WOULD HELP A TON!!!), auditory cataloging of insect, bird, frog and toad calls, and tactile investigation of specific species by live organism sampling via netting and trapping. The main goal is to broaden experiences for all students and increase familiarity with the systems around them via ownership of the project as student conduct site management based on investigation data. For example; adding watering and feeding stations, brush piles for habitat, and removing human wastes.
This in school experience is extended for our 8th graders, as they are invited to participate once a month in community based learning experiences at a local farm. Here they see stewardship in action via conservation plantings, soil analysis, water management, pasture management, water quality testing, and species diversity monitoring. During this monitoring the students use a great deal of visual observation of species and binoculars would really improve the experience. Students collect and submit data to the state department of natural resources regarding water quality and assist in maintaining management practices to reduce erosion.
Students also get to just be kids as they play in the creeks and construct survival shelters from natural materials. All in all the experience is either totally new or and extension of their daily life. Attached are some pictures to tell the tale. Thank you for the opportunity!