The Eco Citizen Club (ECC) program is just around the corner and we at Falls Brook Centre are gearing-up to get the learning materials ready. A week before Fall Festival, for example, Education Program Coordinator, Charlotte Flores and Environmental Education Intern, Nikole Watson are preparing tools and activities for the festival. The event itself is to mark the beginning of the ECC, where students from several schools will come together and learn about the Eco Star Challenge.
“It’s really exciting, preparing…. getting ready for Eco Citizen Club because we spend a lot of time in the preparation phase,” Charlotte says. Furthermore she explains, in the summer even when Falls Brook Centre (FBC) has other projects, ECC still gets priority attention as it is one of the biggest projects of FBC.
It is the same feeling that Nikole has, this ECC will be her first experience in delivering hands-on learning with Falls Brook Centre. She admits that she is excited but at the same time a little nervous. She says, “this will be my first experience in lesson planning, so I am very thankful that I get to shadow and learn from Charlotte. But so far it has been fun preparing the Fall Festival activities for the students, building and designing the activity booths, and looking up fun experiments to bring into the classroom that reflect not only our goals as an organization, but follow the NB curriculum as well, which makes it more accessible for teachers to incorporate afterwards”. Since she has a civil engineering background, she is hoping to bring some structure building activities into the classroom.
That doesn’t mean that ECC brings no challenges to FBC staff in delivering hands-on learning successfully. Charlotte explains that last year the biggest challenge was time to get the students engaged with the material, and every school had a different format in delivering the ECC program. “Some of the programs were run in conjunction with the teachers in the classroom. And others we ran as a club during their lunch breaks,” she says. After being evaluated, having the program during lunch time was harder for the students to focus as they had to get their lunch and eat as well. Therefore, this year every school will be having ECC as a classroom format. As Charlotte emphasizes, “this year we really want to be in the classroom with the teachers, and get the personal contact with them as well as the time commitment. This year we have an hour’s commitment every any other week from the teachers and students. It gives a lot of focus on the activities at hand”.
Why does time matter in delivering ECC to the students? The organisation would like the program to achieve its goal, which is the students get unique opportunity to lead eco-minded initiatives throughout the school year. “I think with the budgets the way that they are, students are not usually able to have much hands-on experience. Even last year, we didn’t have the funding for the bigger projects to bring in. We are looking at non-traditional ways to present labs and activities. So that the students have hands-on experience every time we visit”, Charlotte elaborates. That is why, as she explains, ECC this year will utilize a lab format while still being based on NB curriculum with a focus on environmental topics. Quotes from thinkfun.com, “being hands-on is especially important in the classroom because it allows students to engage in kinesthetic learning. Studies have shown that kinesthetic learning, where a student carries out physical activities rather than listening to a lecture is the most popular type of learning with students. It allows students to experiment with trial and error, learn from their mistakes, and understand the potential gaps between theory and practice. Most importantly, it provides educators with a unique opportunity to enrich the minds of their students in new and engaging ways”.
Through the ECC program where the activities are based on curriculum, FBC dreams to be a partner with the teachers in the future. As Charlotte explains, “passion in environmental areas and science is something that is being done all the time by teachers all over the province. Our passion is really coming beside the teachers and supporting their classroom, supporting their steps that they are already taking. Instead of being an outside force, we want to partner and come beside the teacher. Bring different projects, different activities that support what the teacher is already doing”.
With her teaching background, Charlotte’s happiest moment in ECC classroom is when she sees the students with a light bulb moment, understanding something that they learn in theory and seeing it in practice, when they come-up with the expression….I get that! Same with Nikole, as she also has experience as an instructor in swing dancing, she says, “I imagine the classroom setting will be a different experience, but a good one. I look forward to it!” FBC already has the excitement for ECC since they are planning, preparing the materials for hands-on learning and activities for Fall Festival. Mostly, we cannot wait to deliver the knowledge to the students!