What Does Personalized Learning Look Like on Earth Day?

Jessica Craig is a third grade teacher at Roxborough Intermediate in Littleton, Co. who has dug her heels into personalized learning. As part of her 2015-16 classroom initiative, her students set out to positively impact their community through a yearlong project. With a new housing development being built near their school, the students took a look at how that would impact the community.

“We discovered that while growing communities are a good thing, they can also have some negative impacts on the environment and present some challenges to overcome,” Ms. Craig wrote on her classroom blog in December. “The students identified some problems that are likely to occur in our growing and changing community, including loss of farmland, loss of animal habitats, and bringing electricity and resources to the new community. With all of the recent furry ‘visitors’ to our schoolyard and playground, the students felt most inspired to look into how growing communities can impact our furry friends.”

Fast forward to Earth Day 2016, and her students – along with another fourth- and sixth-grade class collaborating on the overall project – spent the entire day executing their well-thought-out plan.

“Action Day at RXI was a huge success! We spent almost the entire day outdoors,” wrote Ms. Craig in her blog. “With the help of our awesome parent volunteers, we were able to pour and mix concrete to create our stepping stones. We also hung 5 bird feeders and set up two bird baths and one more bird house. We planted ten baby Blue Spruce trees along the inquiry trail and spread wildflower seeds, too!

“Students also worked together on this day to put together the outdoor learning kits which were funded by PTIC. The kits include all the outdoor tools a student could need while walking along our new inquiry trail and exploring our new bird garden. Right now we have 10 kits total, but we just got news that 10 more will be funded by a separate organization!”

personalized learning earth dayThe project has come a long way since it was brainstormed in December:

  • Ms. Craig’s students ask a fourth-grade class (building a bird garden) and a sixth-grade class (building a vegetable garden) to work with them on the yearlong project.
  • “We invited in a visitor from Roxborough State Park to discuss the development of Sterling Ranch and the impact on local wildlife,” wrote Ms. Craig on January 15. “We also video chatted with the DCSD Sustainability Coordinator to find out what we would need to do to get started with creating our schoolyard habitat. We now have a list of grants to apply for, building modification forms to fill out, native plants to research, and other next steps to complete!”
  • The class holds a “PJ Day” fundraiser and raises more than $450 for the project.
  • “We recorded and categorized our observations and created a ‘needs vs. wants’ list so that we can begin shopping soon,” wrote Ms. Craig on January 29. “We also put advertisements in the school and parent newsletters and on Roxborough Online Marketplace! We are hoping to get some great deals so that our profits can go as far as possible! We also finalized the map and proposal/overview of our habitat and sent the building modification form to district for our plan to be finalized! All of our hard work is quickly coming together!”

Don’t think this project is complete! Ms. Craig says “there is still more to be done.”

“We have finally got the green light from the district to plant Choke Cheery and Buffalo Berry shrubs in the bird garden, so that will be our next step!” she writes. “We also still need to submit our designs for the interpretive signage and install those when they come in.  Looking ahead, we want to apply for larger grants next year to expand the inquiry trail!”

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