As a cooperative school, we are privileged to have community and parent involvement in the daily classroom, as well as in our projects and meetings. Through our parents, we have gained the involvement of their extended families, local businesses, local organizations, school partnerships, and local churches. They are a part of all plans regarding our changes in curriculum, best management protocol, habitat restoration projects and maintenance, and arrangements for enrichment activities. They help us address environmental issues, both at the school and in the larger community.
Community participation brings new experiences to our school that we would not have on our own. Echoes of Nature and Chelonia Eco Adventures have done several school-wide presentations on animals and insects in 2011-2015. To support environmental education in our community, we formed a team for the 2013 Family Fun Run to support Wooden Nickel, a future environmental education endeavor at Kinderfarm Park in Pasadena MD.
We utilize Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center as our Green Center. Educators from Living Classrooms worked with our students, staff, and parents to maintain our schoolyard gardens from 2011-2015. During this time, they have provided education for our staff and parents, including demonstrating the 'Touch a Trunk' materials from Maryland Department of Natural Resources in 2013. Living Classrooms staff have provided an interactive program for each class during our annual Earth Day celebrations from 2011-2015.
Living Classrooms staff have provided parent education on environmental issues at our General Membership meetings since 2011, starting with a Green Primer for parents. We also utilize their resources when investigating other environmental education opportunities.
We partner with local schools who are also involved with environmental education. Each May from 2011-2014, we have worked with volunteers from the Bodkin Elementary School Environmental Fair to coordinate an eco-station hosted by our school at their event. A local school, Eagle Cove School in Pasadena, hosted our students for a Bay education experience in spring 2011-2014. During our visits, our students participated in bay-related activities and took a nature walk along their wetland and riparian trails.
During our annual Community helper day in November, students and families have a chance to meet and greet with community helpers. For example, during the event in 2014, our community helpers were a local librarian, Animal Shelter personnel, an Anne Arundel County Recycling representative, an architect, an EMT/Ambulance driver, a police officer, and a firefighter. These community helpers engaged the students in learning about the importance of these professions in our communities and how children can benefit from better understanding what these helpers do for us everyday.
We are also pleased that community partners invite our students on environmental education field trips. Each spring we tie-in lessons on animal diversity and habitats with a school-wide visit to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and a visit to the trails at our local Downs Park. In 2014, we held an enrichment trip to Robinson Nature Center in Columbia where our families explored the center and had a picnic, followed by a hike, outdoor storytime and nature art project facilitated by our staff.
In June 2011, the Magothy River Association created a time capsule and placed it in the Magothy River. Magothy Cooperative Preschool participated by surveying our children and placing their quotations in the time capsule. The topic was “How do I protect the Magothy River?” In 2014, a representative from the Magothy River Association presented a parent education piece on the importance of oyster aquaculture and its impacts on river and Bay health for our general membership.
Every year we feature a Downs Park Day, where our students and parents join us for school at the local county park. Our staff run eco-stations for the students and our self-guided tours take us to all parts of the park.
In spring 2015, the school is partnering with Ranger Chris from Fort Smallwood Park to label the trees along the nature trail. Ranger Chris was also a guest speaker at the March 2015 General Membership Meeting, sharing tips for safe nature exploration with families.
We worked with volunteers from the local Friends of Downs Park non-profit to coordinate a habitat restoration project hosted by our school at their park’s Family Fun Day in 2011-2013. Our families helped plan and coordinate a butterfly garden to be planted at the park. On Family Fun Day, we staffed the planting area and taught other families that were visiting the park about how to plant a garden and the importance of butterfly gardens. Through our facilitation, the garden planters were created and are now maintained.