Oakland Bay Jr. High (OBJH) has been a fantastic partner since the fall of 2015 when students first came to CLT’s Bayshore Preserve for outdoor FieldSTEM® learning. In partnership with the Shelton School District, Pacific Education Institute, Puget Sound Estuarium, and dedicated volunteers, over 1,500 7th grade students from OBJH have experienced the joys of learning outside with us. Our outdoor curriculum is based around key concepts from multiple 7th grade subjects and uses conservation as a teaching tool. Although the past year has been strange and stressful at times, our partnership with Oakland Bay Jr. High still found opportunities to grow as we created virtual and self-guided resources for students learning remotely.
Oakland Bay Jr. High is one of eight schools in the Shelton School District and serves just under 600 7th and 8th grade students. Their vision for their students is to build responsibility, respect, and resilience to inspire academic excellence to everyone, every day. OBJH Principal Mario Juves explains that the school is committed to providing students with educational opportunities that will prepare them for success, including those outside of classroom walls.
“We believe that education is neither limited to the classroom nor confined to the classes that our students engage in at the Bay. As a 21st century school we know that our Timberwolves need to see learning in action. The outdoor field experiences through our partnership with Capitol Land Trust allow our students to see and experience the lessons learned in classes come to life.”
– Mario Juves, OBJH principal
The Bayshore Preserve FieldSTEM program has changed over the years, and it really is a team effort! Math, Social Studies, Science and Language Arts teachers all contribute to make Bayshore a multidisciplinary project. We want to send a shoutout to former Oakland Bay Jr. High teacher Wendy Boles who was a fundamental part of the creation of this program.
Michael Burlette is a science teacher at Oakland Bay Jr. High and has been involved with the Bayshore FieldSTEM experience over the past three years. He began his teaching career 25 years ago as a dual language 5th grade science teacher in Texas. His passion to teach science concepts using local examples is one reason our partnership has been so successful. Mr. Burlette says he enjoys teaching science outside because it naturally invites curiosity and exploration.
“With the limits of the four walls removed, the world becomes your classroom and there are limitless learning opportunities in each different setting. Students who often struggle with focus or boredom inside often come alive when we are in nature. They are more willing to share their experiences and try new things.”
– Michael Burlette, OBJH 7th grade science teacher
He goes onto the share that outdoor learning experiences like the Bayshore FieldSTEM program are important for his students because it gives all students an opportunity to shine. He says, “It teaches students to observe more carefully and gives them a concrete setting to form questions and apply what they have learned. Even the act of walking together from place to place provides opportunities to form closer relationships.”
When reflecting on the positive impacts field experiences have on students, Mr. Burlette was excited to share one of many examples. “One year, a quiet student who was reluctant to share her ideas in class found her voice outside. During the field experience she felt right at home as camping and nature had always been a huge part of her life. She asked questions to presenters, took serious notes, helped other students who didn’t quite understand what to do and provided great feedback to presenters. Other students commented on how she suddenly stood out as someone who really knew her science. When we returned to the classroom for data analysis from the trip, she led a group discussion and added insight to the observations.”
It’s moments like this that help us persevere even through new challenges, like how to provide this service to students when they can’t actually visit the land with their classmates and teachers. In partnership with OBJH and the Puget Sound Estuarium we created virtual learning resources that reflect our in-person lessons. OBJH was able to adapt the videos and worksheets to meet their teaching needs. Though not replacing the experience of being on the land, the videos give students an insight into the ecosystem interactions that happen at Bayshore Preserve and the work CLT has done to restore those functions.
A highlight of this new partnership opportunity was when Mr. Burlette joined us during the filming of our “Stream Life” lesson! Mr. Burlette and CLT’s Outreach & Education Coordinator Mary Birchem sorted aquatic macroinvertebrates (also known as stream bugs) and other stream life while talking about how we use them to learn about the water quality of Johns Creek. Discoveries included creatures like caddisflies, mayflies, stoneflies, and a crayfish!
We also created two self-guided activities that students and families can use when they visit Bayshore Preserve: a Bayshore Preserve interpretive map and a community science photo monitoring project. These tools allow students, families, and the community at large to learn about the history, ecosystems, and restoration work at Bayshore Preserve. Mr. Burlette utilized these resources in ways that work best for his class, and they will remain valuable even when we resume our regular FieldSTEM experience at Bayshore Preserve.
We want to extend a huge thank you to the staff in the Shelton School District and at Oakland Bay Jr. High who make the Bayshore FieldSTEM experiences possible, and to the students who make it so much fun. We look forward to the next time we can learn outside with you. Go Timberwolves!
Community volunteers play a huge role in the success of our educational programs and have dedicated an impressive 1,250+ hours to engaging kids and young adults on our conserved lands. You can learn more about our educational programming here. If you are interested in volunteering in the future, please fill out the Interest Form at the bottom of the page. Questions? Email Mary Birchem email@example.com.
FieldSTEM is a registered trademark of Pacific Education Institute www.pacificeducationinstitute.org