Inquiry Project Year and Environmental Stewardship

Under the leadership of Mark Picketts, Hamlin’s Director of Program Innovation and Professional Development, teachers have been exploring and learning this year through inquiry projects that they personally design. As action researchers, teachers use data, research, and reflection to investigate, modify, and improve their teaching practice. All teachers who participate in the Inquiry Project Year will share their findings with their colleagues at a year-end celebration of learning.

As part of her project year, Ms. Ray (Lower School Science Teacher) developed a K-4 environmental stewardship field trip strand to inspire an appreciation of biodiversity and give students opportunities to take action to create positive change in our community. The strand begins in kindergarten and first grade by exploring local habitats and learning about plant and animal adaptations for survival. These concepts develop a sense of place and community for our youngest scientists and expose them to the idea that everything is interconnected on our planet. Second, third, and fourth grade scientists further develop their understanding of interconnections leading them to want to take action in the form of environmental stewardship.

Kindergarteners will participate in a STEM workshop at the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s outdoor learning lab. They will become ecologists investigating the characteristics of soil, water, and clay concluding that all living things on our planet rely on clean water and healthy soil.

First grade scientists recently visited Crissy Fields in the Presidio and engaged in activities that helped them develop an appreciation for terrestrial and aquatic habitats. They went on a ranger-led hike in which they used their five senses to observe, describe, compare, and experience the wildlife, from songbirds to rock crabs, and all the little creatures in between. This work is part of the sensible habitat program that uses the Understanding by Design framework and aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Second grade scientists have been studying life cycles in science with a focus on plant adaptations for survival. They designed flowers to attract specific pollinators and used stop motion to create a 3D animation of pollination and fertilization. Second graders will volunteer at the Presidio Native Plant Nursery. The nursery grows nearly 60,000 plants each year and they are eager for volunteer help.  Second graders will learn how to grow and care for native plants, and will be participants in a thriving community-based restoration program working to restore San Francisco’s National Park. Activities include transplanting seedlings, pruning, composting, seed collecting, and outplanting.

Third graders will participate in water quality biomonitoring at both the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and Baker Beach. At the marine reserve, they will go on a ranger-led exploration of the tide pools in search of macrointervertebrates. Back at school, students will record what species were discovered and calculate the biotic index as an indicator of water quality. At Baker Beach students will survey the distribution and abundance of the Pacific mole crab (Emerita analoga) at a monitoring site. Mole crabs are among the most important herbivores on beaches along the west coast of North and South America and are an important link in the sandy beach food web. This experience will be part of the third grade overnight trip to Rob Hill Campground in the Presidio.

Fourth graders will participate in the youth stewardship program at the Heron’s Head EcoCenter in Bayview Hunter’s Point. They will become native plant explorers and do a habitat restoration project. The EcoCenter’s mission is to protect, restore, and inspire conservation of San Francisco Bay and its watershed, from the Sierra to the sea. An environmental justice success story, the EcoCenter is a living classroom and drop-in visitor center that demonstrates how we can better use the Earth’s resources in order to foster healthy people, ecosystems, and economies in our local communities. This trip will be a capstone experience circling back to the fourth grade overnight trip to Naturebridge in the Marin Headlands earlier in the year.

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