Helping children to appreciate Island’s natural beauty

  • Fun in the sun: Abbie Caldas, Education Officer for the Bermuda National Trust, helps pupils from Prospect Primary plant a Palmetto tree.

    Fun in the sun: Abbie Caldas, Education Officer for the Bermuda National Trust, helps pupils from Prospect Primary plant a Palmetto tree.

  • Ms Alma Tucker (left) and Abbie Caldas (right) celebrate the planting of a new Palmetto tree along with the pupils of Prospect Primary P2.

    Ms Alma Tucker (left) and Abbie Caldas (right) celebrate the planting of a new Palmetto tree along with the pupils of Prospect Primary P2.

Hands in the soil, the sun on their backs, surrounded by giggling friends and investing themselves into something that will grow into their future: that’s engaged learning.

And that’s what Prospect Primary 2s experienced when they worked with the Bermuda National Trust to plant a Palmetto tree on their school grounds. They were also told that another Palmetto had been planted for them in a Trust nature reserve and that they needed to be a part of taking care of both of them.

Without realising it, students had fun, participated, and were learning at the same time.

It started when their teacher, Ms Alana Tucker, booked a class field trip with the Trust at Spittal Pond. In the classroom she was teaching them about natural and man-made environments and wanted to connect them with that knowledge by experiencing the concepts first-hand. In most classroom settings, students are encouraged to focus, to sit still, to read information about the world and look at pictures. These are important transferable skills. But the type of learning that extends beyond the classroom is invaluable for their intellectual, emotional, and social development.

To explore and interact with the information they are learning about stimulates their interest, curiosity and passion for doing. When they are given an opportunity to enhance their knowledge by experiencing the world beyond those four classroom walls, it has a profound impact on the way they engage with the material. More so, it gives an opportunity to those who may not perform as well in the structure of a classroom environment. By stimulating all their senses, it allows those with different strengths and learning styles the chance to shine, while improving the interactions between classmates and strengthening their relationship with their teacher and other community members such as the Trust education team. These impacts have a lasting effect back in the classroom, at home, and in later life. By inviting them into this sense of adventure, they start to understand the balance in the environment. Trusting young people with this is vitally important in fostering ambitious community leaders of the future.

While exploring the great variety of plants and animals in Spittal Pond, the student who may usually be fidgeting and causing distractions in the classroom is the one at the front of the pack pointing out another crab spider and how beautifully it builds its web. The quiet one who may be too shy to put up her hand in the classroom is the one that recognises the Kiskadee’s call in the distance.

The curriculum outlines that students must learn how to practice responsible behaviour in caring for their environment, and this extended beyond Primary 2’s Friday morning field trip to Spittal Pond. Ms Tucker encouraged her students to do a small chore at home to earn some money to donate to the Trust, whose mission is to protect and promote Bermuda’s unique natural and cultural heritage forever. The Trust’s Education Programme, generously sponsored by Axis Capital Holdings Ltd, not only reflects this mission but is integral to our fulfillment of this commitment by engaging young people in exploration and appreciation of nature and our heritage. Environmental education not only builds on knowledge, it addresses attitude and behaviour, promoting active and empowered citizens.

The goal when taking students on field trips is to provide a valuable and meaningful experience and to stimulate a lifelong interest in Bermuda’s environment and history. It begins with an awareness of one’s immediate surroundings. We aim to teach the whole child by incorporating experiential learning to allow students to reflect upon their knowledge in different settings, encouraging them to participate in their learning by asking questions and sharing ideas. We strive to draw out of them a personal connection and commitment to the natural world, to motivate them to be concerned about its quality and how it relates to their quality of life. With growing and complex environmental issues, the need to prepare our young people to be future problem-solvers is imperative and as these Primary 2 students helped to demonstrate, it is never too early to start.

We live in a very special place, and by exploring the trails of Spittal Pond they remembered their connection to the natural world. They had fun posing in various positions to differentiate between the three endemic trees we saw and touched. Then they wanted their own. So on the day when the Trust turned up at their school with a Palmetto tree, ready for them to plant and visit every day, their excitement and poses of the tree returned.

It is essential, now more than ever before, that we put our efforts into encouraging children to discover and observe the beauty of our ever changing planet. That way, they will be excited to work towards sustaining what we have.

Abbie Caldas is Education Officer for the Bermuda National Trust.

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