“Exploration of the natural world begins in early childhood, flourishes in middle childhood, and continues in adolescence as a pleasure and a source of strength for social action.” – David Sobel

How do you adapt your place-based education to nourish the developmental needs of your students at different age levels?  Due to the nature of place based content, sensitivity to the needs of children, adolescents and young adults is key to reinforcing the message and changing the depth of the lessons with every age.  When you are introducing the concept of watersheds, for instance, in elementary, an experience with macroinvertebrates might be the right level of exposure.  In middle school, the lesson may include more in depth study of chemical indicators and cause and effect relationships of pollution on wildlife and human health.  In high school, this might extend to include more in depth study into the policies and practices of local watershed health, like carrying out a hands on project or contacting local policymakers.  Action should increase with age, as students are learning their sense of civic responsibility and the tools to advocate for their environment.

A few great resources to build Citizen Scientists in your own classroom!

  • Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology encourages Citizen Scientists to track birds in their own backyards through thei FeederWatch program.
  • World Water Monitoring Day is a great opportunity to join an international community in measuring their local water quality, and joining a network of people worldwide to advocate for watershed protection.
  • Are your students gardeners?  The Vegetable Varieties Investigations are a great way to engage youth with local elders and gardeners to identify vegetable varieties that are the best in taste and hardiness for your region, a wonderful oral history project for your garden!