Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hi Ho, Hi Ho... It's Off To MAEOE I Go!

Well, it is that time of year again.  Time for the annual MAEOE (aka: "Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Educators") weekend conference.

Pronounced properly, MAEOE sounds like "mayo."  MAEOE is the Maryland organization that grants schools with their "green" status.  The conference theme this year is "Fulfilling Environmental Education's Promise: Authentic Learning and Real World Impact."  MAEOE has a whole weekend filled with sessions integrating all sorts of eco-issues with other curricular content and the great outdoors.

Day One has been a full day so far, with 2 half-day sessions for me.  Figuring that this is just two offerings out of a sea of many, a lot of neat things were happening, and the MAEOE joint was jumping!

Session one for me was "Engaging Youth in Ecology Through Arts and Nature."  It was led by Desiree Shelley, the environmental educator from Baltimore's Parks and People Foundation.  This foundation creates curriculum for after school programs for Baltimore City youngsters.  Given it's after school, activities need to be very hands-on.  What better way to do that than getting the kids outside or incorporating art and creative expression.  It was a full morning, with a lot of take-aways (including make-and-take aways) as we learned about:
  • "Designs in Nature" (a activity incorporating fractals and geometry),
  • Tree cookies (log slices where you can count the rings and then paint with images of the stories you create about the imagined life of that tree),
  • Spiderwebs and the Iktome tales of Native American culture,
  • Ways to make bird houses out of recycled objects like milk cartons or jugs,
  • Making "habitat mosaics" with paper for indoor art, or with times to make outdoor stepping stones,
  • Taking black and white images of the urban neighborhood and painting in the nature,
  • And much more!
If you are interested in learning more or in obtaining some these lesson plans, contact Desiree, as she's been kind enough to open herself up as a resource here through GTG!

Kim Dixon of the Baltimore Zoo led my 2nd session entitled "Using Inquiry to Explore Nature." She gave us a brief description on how inquiry-based learning has a different dynamic than the more linear scientific method with it's ebb, flow, and "I wonder" approach, being more student-inspired and student-driven.  Then Kim went on with a fun exposure to guided inquiry.

The grand finale was an outdoor trek to the beach for an experience in open inquiry. (Did I mention the fact that the conference is being held at a beach-side conference hotel in Ocean City!).  She allowed us to go into Zen observation mode to see what it is we see, and come up with our own inquiry investigation, then present our results to the group.

Ours:  Do the sand ripples from the wind change as you get closer to the water? With a close measure using the uber-scientific "ripple to ruler" ratio, we discovered that... WAIT!  I could tell you the answer, but that would counter the purpose of actual inquiry! This is the part of the program where I urge you to make your own hypothesis and investigation, and find your own beach to answer your own wondering!

Getting us out there, encountering not only what inquiry is but how it feels, is always good for us teachers (even those of us who sometimes might want to just sit in the back and just take notes--especially right after lunch!)  And, it's the point of the MAEOE and the "Green" School movement:  no child left inside.  Clearly, that applies to teachers too!!

Snapshots from my camera; MAEOE logo from

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