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Thanks to a generous grant of $1,500 by the LANL Foundation in late 2013, the Pajarito Environmental Education Center has been able to build on the success of its hands-on field science program in Los Alamos elementary schools.
The Pajarito Plateau Field Science (PPFS) curriculum is designed to get students outside doing hands-on field science in their schoolyards or on local trails. It also focuses on giving teachers the tools and training they need to enhance STEM curriculum.
Elementary science is increasingly being taught using only textbooks. To become scientific thinkers, students need to do science, rather than just read about it. Hands-on, outdoor field science has been shown to improve motivation, attention and test scores.
PEEC’s goal with this program is to bring kids outside to learn science while exploring their schoolyards, and increasing their love of science and nature. In addition, the program strives to educate teachers about the benefits of outdoor education, as well as some of the methods and tools of field science.
The PPFS curriculum project focuses on two areas: professional development and classroom resources. PEEC supports Los Alamos Public School (LAPS) teachers as they learn to implement the curriculum themselves. PEEC also provides and replenishes supply trunks for the curriculum and provides transportation funds for field trips.
The program has been well-received by local teachers. According to one teacher, “I loved going out looking at things — it was great having another adult with me leading the lesson.” Said another, “Taking children out into the forest really stirs their curiosity. The hands-on approach makes all the difference in how children internalize concepts.” And one student said, “sixth grade [PPFS] is great because we get to go on real field trips!”
PEEC wrote the PPFS curriculum in 2012 with funding from the LANL Foundation and the Albert I. Pierce Foundation, with the goal of getting elementary students outside six times per year doing hands-on field science in nearby nature. It has been extremely successful over the last two years. The PPFS curriculum serves about 260 LAPS children annually.
Under the laboratory contract with Los Alamos National Security (LANS), the LANL Foundation provided $100K in 2013 for Small Educational Outreach STEM awards, designed to respond to timely nonprofit and school projects addressing STEM education needs.
The Small Grant Educational Outreach STEM funding is intended to facilitate a wide variety of education programs in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) including teacher/curriculum enhancement, educational technology and student support.