Western Maine May 1, 2022

Signs of Spring: Connected Learning in Peru, Maine

In and out of school educators coming together to engage students in place-based, data rich learning.

Karolyn, a Dirigo Elementary teacher, had been working with her students on understanding concepts in data literacy. She had the goal of having her students collect their own data on the school campus and then work toward interpreting it and wanted some help. She partnered with Tara, a 4-H Youth Development Professional she met through the Western Maine CLE. They agreed to focus on team-teaching a youth led data collection project on the different signs of spring in their local community. By looking at phenology (things like bud burst, and the appearance and diversity of vernal pools) the kids built an understanding of their local environment and how it may be impacted by climate change. They ordered soil thermometers, digital calipers, guidebooks, field journals and magnifying glasses. The students were then able to decide what they wanted to observe and measure. They determined they would like to investigate a few of the nearby trees and the rate at which they were leafing out. Students first had to ID the trees they were going to collect data from over the next few weeks. After successfully IDing 3 different trees, students began measuring the leaf-bud sizes on each species along with the current soil temperature and other relevant info (weather, time of day, date etc.) in the field journals. This led to many discussions about their observations on which trees were budding faster, and making theories as to why they thought it was happening.

On the days they were not out on campus gathering data they were in the classroom being introduced to vernal pools, another sign of spring. To support their classroom learning youth were invited to meet wildlife biologist and vernal pool expert, Greg LeClair at the community library where he shared a presentation on Climate Change and Vernal Pools. There were several families that came from Karolyn's class, in addition to 5 or so community members.

This project was such a success that Karolyn and Tara plan to continue their work together helping youth become more comfortable gathering data and fostering their curiosity in interpreting it.