Climate Change as the nexus for learning:
CAN! cultivates environmental education based in the outdoor classroom. The outdoor classroom provides learners with important psycho-motor experiences associated with gardening activities (like weed removal, soil preparation, planting, irrigation, etc.).
Participating students and staff learn that climate change is the alteration or change of temperature, weather patterns and wind patterns due to anthropogenic (human-caused) increases in greenhouse gasses (like carbon dioxide and methane).
Participants learn that opening up the living soil protects the local watershed by reducing pressure upon the City’s combined sewer system. Learning about the Carbon Cycle and Carbon Sequestration (the manner that living plants and soil takes up and captures carbon) are ongoing lessons for all participating CAN!-YES middle and high school participants.
Core Learning Concepts Promoted by CAN! Youth Ecological Stewards Program
1) Water, Energy and Soil Conservation; Composting with the Fungus, Bacteria and Invertebrates
2) Water Cycle Awareness, Water Pollution Prevention, Watershed Restoration Ecology
3) Renewable Energy Promotion in the Era of Climate Change; Solar and Wind vs. Fossil Fuels
K-2: Kindergarten to second grade student lessons focus upon natural resources awareness, especially water and energy conservation. Students explore the gardens searching for decomposers, edible flowers and rotting leaves. Tactile experiences outdoors and regular exposure to bugs and plants will support dialogue about resource conservation. Students irrigate plants and learn about the importance of and need for conservation. Bug hunts and “garden tacos” (of greens and flowers) are very popular with students of all ages.
3-4: Third and fourth grade student lesson delve deeper into life cycles (like composting with the Fungus Bacteria and Invertebrates) and energy cycles (how plants use sun energy for power) which lead to dialogue about renewable energy vs. fossil fuel energy. A focus on direct actions for energy reductions is be prioritized as the youth are be encouraged to find ways to save energy at school and at home. Garden lessons include cover crop planting and incorporation, turning the compost pile, journaling about scientific observations, measuring, observing and documenting daily, weekly and seasonal changes in the garden.
5-8: Fifth grade students dive right into the water cycle, watershed awareness and eventually watershed pollution prevention. Garden activities include the building berms and swales, compost production, appropriate irrigation techniques with the hose, watering can, etc. Students learn about evaporation, condensation, precipitation and collection, as well as the importance of the appropriate disposal of hazardous waste (like oil, paint and other chemicals).
9th-12th Grades: For high school students, CAN! curriculum delves deeper into carbon cycling, watershed restoration and basic ecological principles. Students are engaged in hands-on learning in the garden, and all activities are tied to NextGen Science standards, or other various diverse academic arenas.