By: Ryan King
One of the many blessings of being a K-8 school is the opportunity to put the older students into the role of teaching their elementary counterparts. At the end of every term, junior high students work in small teams to design and deliver an age-appropriate lesson around an issue of sustainability. Through this activity, the older students must master the material in order to teach an audience of curious and excitable littles. Important skills such as communicating effectively, managing time, cooperating with others, resolving conflict, and maintaining grit are just a few of the "take-aways" while the littles "leave behind" a positive experience, learning something fascinating about the natural world.
At Ruch Community School, olders step into the shoes of a teacher and act as ambassadors of the community, while littles interact with positive role models that help ignite a lifelong passion to learn new things relating to sustainability. To date, olders have covered topics on composting, gardening, healthy eating habits, marine and stream environments, life cycle of trees, the importance of honeybees, and recycling.
By Sanne Specht
March 13, 2013 2:00 AM
"Real differences between micro- and macroorganisms become clear when students have their hands buried in the earth, says Ryan King, a student-teacher from Southern Oregon University.
"Is a worm a macro- or a microorganism?" King asks, after one of his students from Ruch Elementary School announces she's hit a writhing mother lode of organic recyclers.
The 10 seventh- and eighth-graders are on one of their regular field trips to Sanctuary One at Double Oak Farm — a nonprofit care farm in the Applegate Valley.
The worms are macroorganisms, busily creating beneficial microorganisms that will help grow the chard, lettuce and spinach being planted in the vegetable beds Tuesday afternoon, say King's students.
Partnering with the care farm is part of a larger plan to market Ruch School as a campus with a place-based learning approach that connects students with nature and uses community connections to improve programs for students, King says.
"We have totally changed our curriculum," he says. "And we have a lot of pride in this model. We've flattened the walls down and got the kids out in the community."
Getting students outside of the school environment and into the community has benefitted everyone, King says.
Della Merrill, Sanctuary One general manager, agrees. Every couple of weeks, the students visit the farm for a series of lessons in applied science. The symbiotic nature of the students' help and the care farm's healing and educational influence is a powerful mix, Merrill says."
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