Grattan Elementary School
Habitat HOPE: Helping Our Planet Earth
Grattan Elementary School
To provide a "learning habitat" in which all students K-5 are exposed to plant and insect life coexisting harmoniously in an indoor classroom. To study principles of nature and computer technology, preparing children for a future that will embrace both.
How we are doing it
In June 2008, the Computer Lab at Grattan Elementary School launched a multi-year program called Habitat H.O.P.E (Helping Our Planet Earth) and was reconfigured to provide a "learning habitat". Grattan's computer enrichment program became dedicated to exploring principles of ecology, and developing student-driven solutions to the issues of sustainability. The central concept was to construct fun, age-appropriate learning stations designed after differing habitats instead of traditional computer workstations designed for passive learning. While other programs separate computers and studies in nature, our program provides students with a dramatic opportunity to rethink how to live harmoniously with these two driving forces.
Wherever possible, recycled materials have been used for construction. We have installed a wildlife observation station, plant and fungus habitats, a simulated bat cave, and periodically release insects all within the lab habitat. When a praying mantis lands on a keyboard, students remain calm, let them be, and learn to co-exist with the natural world. Our hope is that these attitudes and behaviors will extend to larger habitat systems, including the entire school grounds and surrounding community.
Beyond the confines and scale of the room, we launched an after-school club that published the monthly newsletter "Ecosphere" to address the whole school as a habitat. One of our feature stories was on "the 4 R's". Fifth graders established a solar panel-driven eco-pond with bridge, pollinator attractors, and herb containers that encourage students to touch and smell.
What we are learning
As adults, in a world where information regarding our environment is ever changing, where often times new scientific data adds to an already bleak picture, we here at Grattan Elementary School are learning to balance concern with message. We recognized the importance of reestablishing an organic mindset towards the natural world while acknowledging the role technology has played in our lives and will continue to play in our future. Habitat H.O.P.E. was established out of a need to bring the two together.
A bit unorthodox, Habitat H.O.P.E. (the schools computer lab) brings nature into an urban classroom setting. From its pond and waterfall, the abundance of live plants, to the release of tiny critters (ladybugs, crickets, spiders, including the tarantula Eddie) where the creatures are allowed to roam free, students, excited by the setting which fosters caring. They learn the importance of exercising respect, even if it is as simple a lesson as watching where they step. Working within this environment students are encouraged to use the technology at their fingertips to explore and examine the world in which they live. And, if by chance a critter decides to take a tour of a keyboard, which is often the case, an announcement is made and then, both bug and student, go happily about their work.
From the tree house bird observatory, to the guano mine with its bat emphasis, to the camping area, our rethinking about computer station design has produced effective learning environments. Given the times and challenges, Habitat H.O.P.E plays a small role in a school community where we are learning the importance, on a daily basis, of “thinking out of the box”.