Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School is participating this year in an award-winning educational program that helps teachers use nature as a classroom. The program, called Using the Outdoors to Teach Experiential Science (UTOTES), is administered by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.
The Teacher Education staff at the Museum, Megan Chesser and Melissa Dowland, are working with Principal Amy Jones and lead teachers Mary Riddick and Lisa Jenkins to create wildlife habitats on the school grounds. Using native wildflowers, shrubs and trees, schools in the program develop “outdoor classrooms” with butterfly gardens, wetlands or bird observation areas.
A group of 24 faculty from the school will take part in six hands-on workshops over the next year to learn how to teach science and other subjects through activities that engage students in the natural environment. The workshop series is designed to help teachers see their school grounds with new eyes and to increase their comfort in using the outdoors as a teaching tool.
According to Melissa Dowland, Coordinator or Teacher Education, taking students outside not only creates an exciting setting for learning, but also gives students an appreciation and understanding of our natural world.
“By expanding the classroom walls to include outdoor learning environments, students and teachers are able to use their immediate surroundings to learn science, math, language arts and other subjects,” said Dowland. “UTOTES gives teachers firsthand experience with living things. They can share their excitement with students and help them grow into stewards of the Earth.”
This year’s UTOTES participants join more than 200 schools statewide that have participated in the program since its inception in 1991.