Conservation Educators Focus on Science Standards
From a conservationist's perspective, school children need to learn about water and soil so they can appreciate, understand, and protect those resources, but from a teacher's perspective, that's not enough. Ohio's new academic content standards give teachers a clear outline of what they need to teach and when they need to teach it to help improve student achievement. To meet this goal, their lessons need to focus on the academic content standards for their grade level.
That's why Soil and Water Conservation District educators throughout the state are working to correlate their educational programs with the new state content standards. "We can't take our programs into the schools unless we do," explains Diane Cantrell, deputy chief of the ODNR Division of Soil and Water Conservation.
While soil and water conservation education programs can help meet content standards in several subject areas, SWCD educators are focusing on the science standards, Cantrell notes. "It's our most direct correlation."
Determining how the soil and water conservation activities correlate with state science content standards required a cooperative effort, says Cantrell. "We brought the people who know the standards together with the people who know soil and water conservation." Eight of the teachers who helped write the Ohio Science Standards and nine SWCD educators reviewed some popular conservation education activities related to watersheds, soils, ground water, streams, and water quality and conservation. They also reviewed some children's literature books dealing with natural resources for primary grades. The group compiled a resource notebook SWCD educators can use to determine how their lessons and activities match up with the standards for different grade levels.
In the process, SWCD educators found ways to adjust some educational efforts to better meet the standards. For example, it had been common to teach students about soils at the fifth or sixth grade level, but now that information correlates better with the science content standards for third graders.
By correlating programs with the science standards SWCD educators are better able to meet teachers' needs, notes Linda Atkinson, education specialist for the Muskingum SWCD. "It makes our job that much more valuable to the teachers."