Archive for Thursday, June 1, 2006

Third-graders test their knowledge at EarthWorks

June 1, 2006

After spending up to eight weeks studying the earth, Lansing Elementary School third-graders are practically experts on it. That's why they were chosen to be scientists for a day last month on a trip to EarthWorks in Independence, Mo.

The students traveled to EarthWorks for what is billed as a "field experience," not a field trip, third-grade teacher Shelley Brammer said.

Brammer said LES third-graders had been going to EarthWorks for about nine years, but this year was the first that Brammer and fellow third-grade teacher Sara Mulford applied for a grant to defray expenses.

The teachers received $500 from the Lansing Educational Foundation Fund to help cover the cost for students. This year, the grant covered $3 per student and parents paid $15.

Part of the reason EarthWorks is an experience and not just a trip, the teachers said, is because classes start learning the material covered on the excursion at least six weeks before the students even get on the bus to leave.

Students study habitats, food webs, energy and conservation in science lessons, and these all were reinforced at EarthWorks.

EarthWorks takes place in manmade limestone caves beneath Worlds of Fun. Students apply for jobs as scientists, and study soil, prairie, cave, pond and forest habitats.

"The kids actually work all day," Mulford said.

"There's never a behavior problem," Brammer added.

The EarthWorks learning material is tailored to the habitats and wildlife of Kansas and Missouri, the teachers said. It also fits right in to the state-mandated science standards, which the teachers discovered while applying for the grant.

"We found it was even more valuable than we thought," Brammer said.

Brammer and Mulford said they definitely wanted to continue sending students to EarthWorks, and they plan to look for more ways to fund the trip during the summer.

The time and money spent preparing for EarthWorks is "more than well-spent," Mulford said. "The kids like it. They enjoy it and they learn. There's no better reason than that."

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