The goal for this project was for our students to study the environmental impact from the Big Thompson flood of 2013 while on a field trip at the Heart J Educational Center at Sylvan Dale Ranch. Our hope was that the students would observe how the river healed itself, as well as the bond created by the community to help each other. The amazing thing that occurred, however, was that the students took their learning far beyond what we had envisioned!
Upon our arrival at the Heart J the students were broken into small groups that rotated between four stations.
Flood Ecology and Restoration: When the Big Thompson River flooded in September 2013, it slammed right through the heart of Sylvan Dale Ranch, washing away buildings and roads, and leaving behind tons of rock and sand. The students worked with geologist, Dr. Dave Armstrong to study the geological features throughout the ranch.
Watercolor: Students worked with local watercolor artist, Trish Murtha, to learn how watercolors can capture the details of their natural surroundings. In learning to look for details, the students expanded their ability to observe what was happening in nature.
Mandala Art: The students were greeted by local mandala artist, Donna Bearden. Donna inspired the children to look at their surroundings; and to reflect about the Native American people that once lived on that very land. How did they nurture and use the land to survive?
Nature Journaling: The students traversed through Cottonwood Gulch to look for inspiration amid their surroundings to capture what they had learned during their time at the ranch. They then created an all-class adventure journal about their experience.
Our Artist in Residence, Nick Turner, and music teacher Mark Kubicheck accompanied the students on the field trip to film video clips and help students create dramatic representations of their experience. What was incredibly inspirational was the connection the students made between humans and the footprint they are leaving on our planet. The students began brainstorming how we as the human race have changed the environment over time, as well as predicting how we may change it in the future. They worked in small groups to write their showcase script, “The Environmental Time Machine”. They also wrote two songs, and “commercial breaks” to enhance their showcase performance. A select number of students participated in a drama club where they practice their portion of the play, and learned how to direct their classmates as supporting characters.
The night of their showcase performance was quite magical. We had a large audience of parents, community members, district administration, and school board members. The students engaged the audience with colorful displays throughout the hallways with the art that they created, and the writings from their journals. They also featured the integrated lessons they completed prior to the field trip. In addition, a video of the students at the Heart J played prior to the performance. The students sang, danced, and acted their way into every heart in the audience with the ultimate message: Be “People of the Light”, use our resources with care and respect to preserve our planet.
Although this may be difficult for schools outside northern Colorado to duplicate, we would highly recommend a partnership with the Heart J Educational Center for our local districts. Standards addressed: R/W/C Standards 1.1, 2.1 Science Standard 2, Drama Theater Arts Standard 1 Music Standard 2