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close this bookTeaching Conservation in Developing Nations (Peace Corps)
close this folderChapter 2: Conservation education in a school
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Open this folder and view contentsA school conservation education outline
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Since the basic function of a conservation education center is to educate people about the close relationships among all living and non-living things in our ecosystem, a school is a natural center for this function.

Depending on the size and level of the school, a program of more or less detailed environmental and conservation education can be developed from materials in this section and in Appendix A, C & F. and from sources listed in the Chapter Sources.

As the students develop their understanding, they carry conservation concepts to the rest of the community, and the experiments they perform, the information they gather, the collections they make can become a community resource as a Conservation Science Fair.

Because the students are beginning to learn and understand conservation concepts at an early age, they will, as they grow older, be ready to accept more complex aspects of these concepts. The more completely a person understands the concepts, the better use he/she can make of his/ her resources.

Education in school

The teacher who wishes to introduce environmental and conservation studies to his students does not have to be an ecologist, or even a science teacher. The teacher needs only guidance, a willingness to think about what he/she sees in the environment, and enthusiasm to discover how these things are related.

A school program of conservation education can be developed, starting with simple goals of observation and awareness in the first year Studies in each subsequent year will build more detailed understanding of what has gone before.

An outline for a school conservation program is included here.

First Year: Looking at Your Environment


- To develop an awareness of the immediate natural environment; plants, animals, rocks, air, water and soil found at school or in the community;

- To develop an awareness of change in the natural world: how sizes, shapes, colors, sounds, smells, textures, and animal activities vary with the seasons;

- To understand some of the interrelationships among soil, plants, animals, people, water, and air;

- To learn how people depend on soil, water, plants, animals, people, water, and air;

- To learn how people can make their environment cleaner, more healthful, and more beautiful.

Things to Talk About

- What plants and animals are found at school, in the neighborhood, or in the community? Include weeds, rats, domestic animals, fish, birds, insects, earthworms, and ants. How do they affect people? How do people affect them? Begin to learn about classifying by grouping similar things.

- How do the changes in seasons affect plants in the area? Animals? Soil? Water? People? What are some of the different sounds you hear on your way to school? In the town? In the fields?

- What kinds of rocks and soils are found in your neighborhood? How do people use soil? How do plants and animals depend on soil? Do plants grow better in some soils than in others? How is the soil affected by plants, animals, and people?

- In what ways do plants and animals in your community depend on one another? What plants and animals do you depend on for food, shelter, and clothing? How do plants and animals depend on you?

- In what ways do plants, animals, and people depend on sunshine and rain? For what purposes do we use water at school? At home? In the town? On a farm? How are water and air affected by plants, animals, people, and soil? What happens to rain when it falls on the soil? On roads?

- Do we need to take care of soil, water, plants, animals and air? Why? What are some things you can do to make your community cleaner, more healthful, and more beautiful?

Things to Do

- Take a walk around the school site and neighborhood, or to a vacant lot or nearby park and make a list of things observed. Afterwards draw pictures or tell stories about some of the things seen on the walk.

- Collect samples of soil from three different locations and examine them for differences in color and texture.

- Build a balanced aquarium or terrarium to learn how plants and animals depend on each other, Make a windowsill garden to learn how plants grow and how to take care of them.

- Collect seeds or leaves for a classroom display; compare their sizes, shapes and textures. Show in the display how seeds might travel from one location to another.

- Take a walk in the rain to observe how rain strikes the soil, road, grass and trees; how soil moves with surface water; how raindrops cling to leaves; and how leaves slow the force of raindrops and help protect the soil.

- Plan and carry out cleanup and planting projects on the school site or in the community.

(See Appendix A, C & F for further suggestions and information)

Second Year: Change in the Natural World


- To increase awareness of change, variety, similarities, and interrelationships within the natural environment

- To develop an awareness of people as a part of the natural world and their role in changing the environment.

- To learn how rocks are continually being changed into soil; how soils differ; how soil is moved; and how soil can be conserved.

- To understand how the life of a plant or animal is affected by its environment.

- To understand how animals depend directly or indirectly on food from green plants for energy and growth.

- To learn more about how people depend on each other and on soil, water, plants. animals and air.

Things to Talk About

- What kinds of food and clothing do we get from wildlife, domesticated animals, and plants?

- How do animals such as mammals, birds, fish and insects help people?

- What objects do you use everyday? Classify them as coming from animals, plants, or minerals.

- Discuss how your everyday activities affect natural resources. How do you make use of soil, trees, shrubs, flowers. water, domesticated animals, and wildlife?

- How is soil made? What are the effects of wind, water, and plants on rocks? Do animals live in the soil? Are air and water found in the soil?

- Discuss the differences and similarities in sand, clay, and silt. How do they compare with soil from a good garden? What makes plants grow better in good garden soil?

- What natural forces move soil? Why should we conserve soil? How do plants help hold the soil in place?

- Name places where soil is washing away in your area, and discuss some ways to prevent soil washing away.

- How does the appearance of trees, flowers, water, insects, birds, wildlife, and domesticated animals change with the seasons?

- How do wild animals store food? How do people store food?

- Compare plants and animals living in your community with those in the ocean, in a pond, in a desert and in a forest. How are they similar? How are they different?

- How do green plants make their own food from water, air, sunlight and minerals from the soil? Can animals and people make their own food from these raw materials? Trace some foods eaten by animals and people to green plants and the soil.

- How do people who live in cities and towns depend on farmers? How do farmers depend on people in cities and towns? Discuss some kinds of work done by people as they make use of natural resources to produce food, shelter, and clothing.

Things to Do

- Keep a weekly record during the school year of changes in a tree, a vacant lot, or an area of the school yard.

- Collect different kinds of leaves. What do they have in common? How are they different? Match the leaves with the trees they come from, and sketch the shape of different trees. What happens to the leaves left on-the ground?

- Make some "soil" by rubbing soft stones or bricks together. Compare this material with soil from the school yard and discuss what changes take place as the rock particles become soil.

- Demonstrate that soil contains water, air and living organisms.

- Find an area near the school where water or wind has moved the soil. Develop a project showing how to keep the soil in place.

- Take a walk on a windy day to observe how wind moves clouds, leaves, seeds and soil. Show how grass and shrubs keep soil from blowing.

- Show how plants depend on soil, water, air, and light.

- Make murals and sketches to show how items you use every day come from the soil.

- Visit someone in your community that uses natural resources in processing or making products.

- Measure the amount of sediment in a jar of water taken from a stream immediately after a rainstorm, and measure the amount of sediment in water taken from the same stream a week after the rainstorm. Allow the water to stand at least 24 hours before measuring and comparing the amounts of sediment found in each jar.

- List ways people protect their natural resources and ways people use them carelessly.

(See Appendix A, C & F for further suggestions and information).

Third Yeah: How Environment Differ


- To understand how one natural environment differs from another natural environment.

- To learn how living things adapt to different environments.

- To understand how available natural resources influence the way people live.

- To understand how people change the environment as they Use natural resources.

- To learn about different conservation practices and to understand the need for them in taking care of natural resources.

Things to Talk About

- What is an environment? What are some of the natural factors that limit plant and animal life in your community?

- How is your environment different from the environment in which a bird lives? a fish? a cactus?

- Name some of the physical characteristics of plants and animals that enable them to adapt to different environments. How have people learned to adapt to different environments? Why can some animals live in several different environments?

- Why are most towns and cities located along rivers or near lakes? Where does your community get its water supply?

- In what ways are farmland, grazing land, forests, wildlife and minerals important to your community?

- Discuss the different purposes for which soil is used in the city and in rural areas.

- In what forms have you seen water? What causes water to change form, and how do the different forms affect human activities?

- How are plants, animals, soil and water affected when people use large areas of land for houses or roads, or urban development?

- Where does soil go when water washes it off unprotected areas?

- What is sediment? How does sediment in rivers and lakes affect fish and wildlife? The water you use every day?

- What are some conservation practices used by farmers or others in your community to prevent soil from washing into rivers and lakes?

Things to Do

- Select a plant or an animal found on the school site; explain what it needs for survival and how the environment meets its needs.

- Visit a nearby park, wooded area, or pond. List the plants and animals that are the same as, and those that are different from, the ones found on the school grounds. Explain the physical characteristics of the plants and animals that enable them to live where they do. Examine the soils in each place. Describe how different soils affect the plants and animals living in each area.

- Build a balanced aquarium or terrarium and then change one element at a time to determine the effect on the environment.

- Draw the main characteristics of forest, grassland, and desert environments; describe how they differ from each other.

- Study a soil profile in a road cut or excavation site. Identify the surface soil, subsoil, and parent material. Describe the differences in color and texture of the three layers. (See page 118)

- Conduct an experiment to find out if soil particles are all the same size.

- Compare the water running off a bare slope with water flowing from a grass-covered slope during a gentle rain. Collect a jar of water from both areas and compare the amount of sediment in each.

- Visit a farm where conservation practices are used.

- Start a school garden with different kinds of plants. Learn how to manage soil and water resources to encourage the growth of these plants.

- Keep a daily weather chart for a month. Draw pictures of the cloud formations most likely to produce rain.

- List the products made from natural resources in your community and how and where they are used.

- Make a study of the school grounds and plan a conservation project to improve the environment for plants, animals, and people.

(See Appendix A, C & F for further suggestions and information).

Fourth Yeah: Talking Care of Natural Resources


- To understand the inorganic and organic cycles within the natural environment.

- To learn more about the ways resources are changed through use.

- To understand the water cycle and how people in different environments manage water resources.

- To understand some of the relationships among natural resources within a watershed, and how the protection and management of watersheds affect the quality of the environment.

- To learn how conservation practices can help people improve their environment, and to understand some of the choices they must make in applying such practices.

Things to Talk About

- What is a food chain? A food pyramid? Why does it take 1000 kilos of plant plankton to produce 10 kilos of commercial fish that can produce a weight gain of 1 kilo in a person?

- How are producers, consumers, and decomposers related?

- Is soil a renewable natural resource? How does soil develop? How do decomposers help return organic matter to the soil? Name some materials that do not decompose readily. Explain some methods people might use to recycle these materials.

- What are the sources of oxygen on earth? In how many ways do people use oxygen?

- What is a watershed? Does the way the land is used in the watershed affect water in small streams? In rivers?

- What happens to water when it falls on the road? Rooftops? Soil? 'What determines how much water runs off and how much soaks into the soil? How do the different kinds and amounts of plant cover help water soak into the soil?

- What happens to water once it enters the soil? Why is ground water important to plants and to people?

- How does the amount of soil that washes off unprotected land into streams, rivers and lakes affect your water supply?

- Trace the history of natural resource use in your watershed and community. What plants and animals were once found there? What new plants and animals have been introduced?

- What things should be considered when deciding how the water resources in your watershed are managed? What choices must be made? What different kinds of conservation practices might be used? Which ones are needed in your community?

Things to Do

- Show in a diagram, beginning with the soil, several food pyramids having at least three levels. Draw a food chain with people in it.

- Study the plants and animals on and near the school site, in the outdoor classroom, in a vacant lot, in a nearby field, in the woods or in a pond. How do the plants and animals differ in one area from those in another? How are they similar? How have people changed these areas? Discuss how plants or animals have adapted to the environment in these areas.

- Write or tell stories about some of the ways people have either improved or harmed the environment for living things, or how your environment has changed because of people's influence.

- Make a mural of the water cycle and show what happens to rain when it falls to earth.

- Visit a cutover or burned-over forest, or a building site, where topsoil is being washed away. Determine how the sediment-filled water drains to a stream and what effect it may have on your water supply and on the people and towns farther downstream.

- Where does your water come from? Can you visit the source? Is the water filtered, chemically treated or boiled before it is used?

- Draw a map of your watershed showing where conservation practices are needed and where they have been applied.

- Show the different rates at which water soaks into three different kinds of soil.

- Demonstrate how slopes and hills affect the way water runs off the land. Show some of the ways the water can be slowed down as it runs off a slope. Show how a hard rain splashes soil.

(See Appendix A, C & F for further suggestions and information).

Fifth Year: Use of Natural Resources


- To become aware of the way decisions about use of resources and energy by people affect the natural environment.

- To understand how the environment influences our way of life and the kind of work we do.

- To understand some of the effects of natural and man-made changes in the environment.

- To understand how natural resources contribute to the industrial development of a nation.

- To understand how social and economic factors influence use and management of soil, water, air, plants, animals, and minerals.

- To learn how people plan and take action to conserve natural resources.

Things to Talk About

- How are living things changed as their environment changes? What are some examples of living things that could not adapt to their changing environment? In what ways did people bring about these changes?

- How do people use science and technology in adapting to the environment? Have scientific (including medical) discoveries changed your environment? How?

- What role has the environment played in influencing the way of life for a tribe of nomads? a fishing village? a farming community? your community?

- How do droughts, floods, fire, soil erosion, water and air pollution, the construction of roads and cities affect plants? animals? people?

- What is the relation of population growth to the quality of your environment?

- What is the effect on people, animals, and plants when natural resources are abused, exhausted, or improved? What happens to the economy? to society?

- Name as many sources of energy as you can.

- How is the price of grain affected by factors in the environment?

- What should people know about resource potentials and problems in their area? What are some of the laws that affect use and management of natural resources in your community? Why are these laws necessary?

- How can you help improve your environment?

Things to do

- Interview older people in your community to learn about changes in the local environment during their lifetime. Include such things as changes in number of people, land use changes, scientific and technological discoveries, and changes in transportation systems. What effect has each of these changes had on soil, water, animals and people?

- Locate an area in which natural resources have deteriorated. Form small student groups to prepare reports detailing conservation needs. Outline a plan of action for improving the area.

- Select a resource problem area on the school site or nearby, and carry out a project, including application of a specific conservation practice, to improve the area.

- Make a chart of the natural resources of your country, and what they are used for.

(See Appendix A, C & F for further suggestions and information).

Sixth Year: Responsibility for Environmental Conservation


- To understand our responsibilities for use and management of our environment.

- To develop additional understandings of natural resources needed to apply conservation practices.

- To learn how the natural environment serves as inspiration for creative art: painting, music, storytelling, and poetry, and how natural resources contribute to the production of materials used in painting, sculpture, and other art forms

- To learn what your community is doing to the environment.

- To learn what government agencies are doing to help protect and conserve natural resources.

- To understand the need to use ecological principles as guides for conservation action.

Things to Talk About

- What characteristics do people share with other living things? How does our ability to plan and achieve objectives make us different from other living creatures?

- What changes caused by people's use of resources have had or continue to have a detrimental effect on your environment? What changes have a beneficial effect?

- What are people's responsibilities to other living things as we make use of resources?

- How do resources contribute to the social and economic development of your country? of the world?

- Do the decisions on resource use in your community affect your country? What conservation practices can be used in your community to improve the resources needed by your country?

- How might natural resources serve as themes in painting, music, dance, writing or other creative work? What natural resources are used in the creation of art? What art materials are made from natural resources?

- What are the conservation and environmental problems of your community? What treatments are needed? Why?

- What kinds of sewage and solid waste disposal are used in your community? What effects do these methods have on underground water supplies? on public health? on environmental quality? Do these methods contribute to water or air pollution?

Things to Do

- Locate an eroding area on the school site or nearby, and determine the probable cause or causes of the erosion. Design and carry out a plan to control the erosion and to prevent similar problems in the future.

- List how the family of each student in your class makes use of natural resources.

- Make a map of your community to show the boundaries of several watersheds, and to show how these watersheds form the drainage basin of a river.

- Visit artists in your community to learn how they use natural resources as inspiration for their works.

- Think of songs which show how music can interpret the environment. Write a song that describes some aspect of the natural environment.

- Compile a list of government agencies with conservation and resources management responsibilities. Contact a conservation office in government or a university to find out what conservation measures they are taking which might affect your community. Can you help in any way?

- Visit a state park, forest, wildlife refuge, or farm; report on the resource management objectives and procedures used to achieve them.

- Make a conservation inventory of your community. Determine alternative solutions for several of the problems observed. Make sketches when collecting information.

- Develop an outdoor classroom for your school. Select an area with many different learning opportunities. Inventory the existing vegetation, boulders, streams, and special areas that could be used for learning. What kinds of information on soil and water conservation are needed? Make a guidebook for younger classes to use,

- Design a conservation oriented science fair. Develop projects and estimate the time needed to prepare them so that all projects will be ready for the fair.

- Construct a simple, functioning habitat containing at least three different plants and two different animals. Make and record observations daily for a month.

(See Appendix A, C & F for further suggestions and information).

Adapted with permission from the U.S. Soil Conservation Service publication "An Outline for Teaching Conservation in Elementary Schools".

Conservation science fair

A science fair is a gathering together for public display of a school's scientific studies, presented on charts, graphs, posters, in exhibits, experiments and collections, for the purpose of communicating information. When the theme of the fair is Conservation, then those informational charts and graphs, experiments and collections all deal with the many aspects of conservation which the students have investigated. Since there are many ways conservation techniques can improve community life, a conservation science fair can be a valuable opportunity to demonstrate ideas which can be adapted for individual application.

You will find subjects for display at a conservation science fair in the outline for school study beginning in Appendix A, Exhibits and Study Materials; in Appendix C, Landscaping; and in Appendix C, Live Animals. See also Chapter Sources.

The subjects that you chose as projects for a conservation science fair should be those which are most directly related to the local conditions This will make the fair more interesting and understandable to its visitors.

Before beginning a project for the fair, you should know what you want to demonstrate; then plan the project for that purpose. When the project is ready for display, be sure it is carefully and effectively labelled to give all the information you want to communicate.

Source materials - Chapter 2

Conservation science fair projects
Soil Conservation Society of America
7515 N. E. Ankeny Road
Ankeny, Iowa 50021, USA

L'Enseignement de la nutrition 'le1
(also available in English and Spanish)
Etudes de nutrition de la FAO #25
Food & Agricultural Organization of the United Nations
available from FAO agents world-wide; or Distribution & Sales Section FAO, Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy

Environmental education activities manuals
Environmental Education Program
School of Natural Resources
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104, USA

Environmental education, an annoted bibliography of selected materials and services
Smithsonian institution - Peace Corps Environmental Program
Washington, D.C. 20560, USA

*Glossary of environmental terms. Spanish-English, English-Spanish2
** Peace Corps information Collection & Exchange
Program & Training Journal, Reprint series #17
Room M-1214
806 Connecticut Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20525, USA

*Manual didactico: Huertos escolares y nutricion2
** Peace Corps information Collection & Exchange
Program & Training Journal, Reprint series #18
Room M-1214
806 Connecticut Avenue N.W.
Washington, D. C. 20525, USA

Nosotros y la naturaleza: Guia para professores, Guia para estudiantes
Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje
Division Agropecuaria
Region de Neiva

Outline for teaching conservation in elementary schools (PA-268)
Soil Conservation Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C, 20250, USA

People and their environment (8 guides)
Teachers Curriculum Guide to Conservation Education
J.G. Furguson Publishing Co.
6 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60602, USA

Soil & water conservation in Barbados
4-H Division Extension Services
Ministry of Agriculture

Teacher's guide to minigardens
Science Study Aid #2
Agricultural Research Service
U.S. Department of Hyattsville,
Maryland, 20782, USA

The teaching of rural science in tropical primary schools1
UNESCO publication
Paris 7, France

Teaching soil & conservation: A classroom & field guide (PA-341)
Soil Conservation Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250, USA

Forest Service
Environmental Education Office
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250 USA
(materials related to environmental education)

Martin County Schools
Environmental Studies Center
2900 N.E. Indian River Drive
Jensen Beach, Florida 33457
(primary school manuals for ocean-related environmental studies)

National Audubon Society
950 3rd Avenue
New York, New York, 10022, USA
(many kinds of environmental materials available)

National Wildlife Federation
1412 16th Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036 USA
(many kinds of environmental materials available including "Ranger Rick's Nature Magazine", "Environmental Discovery Units")

Soil Conservation Service
Education information Office
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20240 USA
(materials related to conservation, including "Soil Conservation" monthly magazine)

1English editions of UN and FAO publications available from:
P.O. Box 433
Murray Hills Station
New York, New York 10016, USA

2Multiple copies available from: National Technical information
5285 Port Royal Road
Springfield, Virginia 22161, USA

*Available to Peace Corps Volunteers from:
Peace Corps information Collection & Exchange
Room M-1214
806 Connecticut Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20525, USA

**Single copies available to individuals and non-profit organizations working in the Third World from the above address