One of my favorite field trips every year is to the Springs Coast Environmental Center. There are several groups across the county that get to participate in this awesome trip. Second graders get to go. They learn about the water and the animals that live in our Florida habitat. Fourth- Graders learn about the Floridan Aquifer and the Scrub habitat, as well as learning about the different plants and animals. Fifth graders also get to attend and learn about other environmental issues. Sixth graders are able to kayak and learn about the habitat and all about the water and ecology involved with the Weeki Wachee Springs.
I have gotten to attend with second grade and with fourth grade. This year I came with the fourth graders. They always look forward to this trip. We spent a lot of our time learning about the water cycle and the aquifer. Ms. Cheryl has done a great job building up the curriculum and making it fun to the point that the kids are learning but not even realizing they are learning.
When we first arrive, she goes through some quick procedures and has the kids take a pretest using clickers. The clickers send their answers to 10 questions to her computer. Then we go into one of the 4 classrooms. This particular classroom has been beautifully painted and contains information about the Floridan Aquifer system, as well as the water cycle. There are many items in the room for the kids to touch and manipulate. Ms. Cheryl begins by talking about the main type of rock under us in Florida, limestone and how it cleans the water. She gives a demonstration of putting water on the rock and shocking the kids when the water begins dripping out of the rock. She also takes the time to talk with the kids about chemicals and fertilizers we use in our yards. When we use a normal amount then we don’t affect the water supply, but if we start trying to “beat the Jones'” then we begin to pollute the water. They also play a game in this room which allows them to explore the room and learn many facts about the Floridan Aquifer.
Next, we go into a room which has many taxidermied animals. All of the animals were found too injured to save. They could have been ill or hit by a car. None of them were hunted. So at this point, the fourth graders get to learn about the food chain and play a game to see if they are able to get their animals to survive, based on what it eats. They also learn whether the animal is a carnivore, omnivore, or herbivore. They are also given time to explore the bones and animals in this room. There are 2 stations set up so they can actually touch and feel and pick up the bones and furs, but the taxidermied animals they are not allowed to touch.
Then, we go to a third classroom. In this room, we learn about the water cycle. Did you know that only 1% of all of the earth’s water is drinkable and accessible? Ms. Cheryl gives a demonstration to help the children visual how much of earth’s water is salt water, or in the clouds, or in the glaciers. They are amazed. They learned earlier in the day that 75% of the earth is covered with water. Then the students play a game and go through various types of water to see where water tends to spend most of its time. They learn they spend a lot of time in the clouds, or in the glaciers. Some spent a lot of time in the ocean as well. The kids also make a pledge to try to help preserve the water. They are able to sign their names on rain barrels for Ms. Cheryl.
After lunch, we go on a nature hike. The entire hike is about a mile, no more than 2. The kids learn about several of the different trees common in our scrub habitat. They also get to see a couple of the common spiders and see the Weeki Wachee River, which comes from the springs. We even made a stop at a special spot on the trail, where Ms. Cheryl has set up a feeding station and gave the students the opportunity to look closely at the animal tracks and see if they could identify them. On the way back to the main building, we play a game and have a quick review of everything we learned and studied through the day.
When we got back to the building, Ms. Cheryl tried something new with our group. The kids were to get a partner and asked each other questions. It was so warm, the cool classroom was welcomed. Finally, we retook the test we began the day with. The kids were thrilled to see that they now earned a 100% (or close) on the quiz.
The kids are totally engaged and happy and really have a great time. They always look forward to going on this trip. I am so glad I was able to go with them. I am hoping I will be able to attend with my second graders as well in a couple months. I can’t wait to see the excitement on their faces and watch them learn.
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