What is a NatureHood? A NatureHood is a park or other natural area with special features schools and the community use to learn about and explore nature close to home. Designated by the Children’s Forest of Central Oregon, all NatureHoods are unique and dynamic, with community partners actively involved in contributing to what their NatureHood will become. The concept was developed in partnership with Bend Park and Recreation District and intends to provide outdoor classroom spaces, without needing to get on a bus or drive in a car.
The components of the NatureHoods program are two-fold. The first component of the program consists of educational lessons that take place in a nearby park and seek to expand upon learning done in the classroom. The second component of the program consists of student-created projects that go directly into the park or schoolyard they have designated as their NatureHood.
NatureHoods Education Program
The education aspect of the NatureHoods program consists of a free science curriculum, offered as a four-part series (four one-hour lessons), as a way to get kids outside and learning in their local park or schoolyard. These lessons align with Next Generation Science Standards and reinforce science learning done in the classroom. Activities aim to get kids engaged with the flora and fauna in the area and help them to make observations, ask questions, and draw conclusions. The program is open to all K-2 classes in Central Oregon and there are three grade-level appropriate themes:
–Kindergarten: “Bear” Necessities: How Plants and Animals Use Their Surroundings to Survive
–1st Grade: Roots and Tails: How Plants and Animals Use Their Structure to Survive
–2nd Grade: Plants and Pollinators: Spreading the Seeds of the Diversity of Life
For more information, please check out the program flyer.
To schedule a program for your school, contact Laurie Harrer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another component of the NatureHoods initiative is student-created projects in local parks or schoolyards. NatureHood projects are a way to connect students and families to the natural world on an ongoing basis. The Children’s Forest has project funding from Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests to be distributed to schools to help create these projects. NatureHood projects should improve habitat, promote stewardship, enhance visitor experiences in local parks, or improve access for students to have outdoor educational experiences.
The NatureHoods Coordinator can provide assistance in planning and coordinating projects. To learn more and apply for funding for a project at your school or park, download the application here as Word Document or PDF.
Contact Marissa at email@example.com with questions.
Pine Nursery Park NatureHood
Ponderosa Elementary and neighboring Pine Nursery Park was the Children’s Forest of Central Oregon’s first designated NatureHood. In 2013-2014, Ryan Shaffer’s 4th and 5th grade class began an exciting project to develop a field guide for Pine Nursery Park. The students learned about different habitats in the park and developed an iBook and paper version of a field guide. As all 3rd-5th grade students have iPads at Ponderosa Elementary, the students are able to take field trips and learn about plants, wildlife, and geology of the park, using the iBook. Download the pdf, or to check out the iBook, search for “Pine Nursery Field Guide” in iTunes University.
Ponderosa Park NatureHood
Bear Creek Elementary and neighboring Ponderosa Park are the Children’s Forest of Central Oregon’s second designated NatureHood. The PTO received a $5,000 grant through Lowe’s Toolbox for Education, which catalyzed each grade level completing projects in the NatureHood. As a result, the following projects were completed in spring 2014, with the assistance of the Bear Creek PTO, Bend Park and Recreation District, and Deschutes National Forest:
- Kindergarten – stepping stones with animal tracks
- 1st grade – planted two pollinator gardens
- 2nd grade – designed bilingual interpretive signs and constructed and installed 3 bat boxes and 15 bird houses
- 3rd grade – created a “Little Lending Library”
- 4th grade – painted a mural at the new park playground
- 5th grade – developed raised bed garden at school
To see all projects and their locations, check out this map! The projects culminated in a celebration event on May 29th where families and students were invited to the park to view the projects and enjoy an evening of family fun. Hundreds came out for the event and students sang songs and introduced their projects to the community.
For more information on NatureHoods, please contact the NatureHoods Coordinator Marissa Haarmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re an administrator and interested in training your teachers on leading effective outdoor lessons in your schoolyard or neighboring park, consider offering a Learning in Your NatureHood training.