Environmental Education in Elementary School


Here at SCA Massachusetts AmeriCorps, our teaching season is in full swing. I and many of my fellow corps members find ourselves teaching all kinds of science lessons in elementary schools, from electricity and magnetism, light and sound, to animal adaptations, or composting. When I first started teaching in my elementary school placement about two and a half months ago, I was surprised that we were being asked to teach such a variety of topics, and topics that didn’t really directly relate to environmental education or conservation.

But my initial surprise has shifted to ease, and it’s easy to find ways to find joy in teaching so many different things. I’ve been teaching about the solar system to 3rd graders, and it’s amazing how easily they’re pleased. Knowledge that’s so second hand to us as adults is entirely new to them, and it’s a really cool thing to get to reveal it to them. I’m not sure if it will all stick with them, but the fact that I got teach them that the Earth’s tilted axis is what causes the seasons is something that will at least stick with me. It’s also been fun relearning a lot of these things that I haven’t really thought much of since I was in middle or high school, and I even find myself learning new things here and there about space, or magnets (another subject we were teaching last month), that I definitely take for granted normally. So it’s nice knowing that if I’m getting excited relearning some of these basic science facts, the kids are wild to learn it for the first time.

A few days ago I was sitting next to one of the 3rd graders in the cafeteria, and with a few minutes left in lunch he turned to me and asked, “How do you know so much about science”? And I, an English and Communications guy, who only took the minimum requirement of two intro science classes in college, and someone who doesn’t feel like he knows all that much about science, told him, “well, I learned science every year I was in school, but there are actually a lot of people who know way more about science than I do.” He just looked at me for a few seconds and then said, “I can’t think of anyone who knows more about science than you.”

So, I’m realizing it really is just being there that makes the biggest difference. They’re easy to please, so just make it to school and tell them what you know, make it fun, and all is well.