Envi­ron­men­tal Learn­ing for the Future | 2017–2018

WHAT IS ELF? Envi­ron­men­tal Learn­ing for the Future is an edu­ca­tional pro­gram devel­oped to pro­mote an under­stand­ing and appre­ci­a­tion of the nat­ural world and increase envi­ron­men­tal lit­er­acy. We hope to encour­age chil­dren’s curios­ity and con­cern about the nat­ural world and to pro­vide hands-on expe­ri­ences for learn­ing. ELF encom­passes four dif­fer­ent year-long con­cepts: Cycles, Adap­ta­tions, Designs of Nature, and Earth and Sky. ELF has been pilot­ed in class­rooms here at Mitchell with great reviews. It has also been very suc­cess­ful for the past 19 years at our neigh­bor­ing school: Kyf­fin Ele­men­tary, where they have a tremen­dous amount of par­ent and teacher sup­port. We are hop­ing to con­tin­ue the suc­cess of the pro­gram at Mitchell.

See what ELF is all about.

WHO CAN HELP? Look­ing for enthu­si­as­tic par­ents, grand­par­ents, fam­ily friends, com­mu­nity vol­un­teers who would enjoy going into a class­room for hands on teach­ing. Train­ing and mate­ri­als are pro­vided. We need at least six vol­un­teers per class­room!

Designs in Nature  is our topic for the 2017–2018 school year.

Unit One: Leaves and Cones (September 18-October 12).

This unit focus­es on leaves and cones. While leaves very great­ly in appear­ance and tex­ture, they are all designed as food pro­duc­ers for trees. Cones are designed with struc­tur­al lay­ers of over­lap­ping scales to hold and pro­tect their trees and plants. ELF will be teach­ing iden­ti­fy­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics, play­ing games, dis­tin­guish­ing pat­terns, cone cre­ations, and out­door explo­ration.

Unit Two: Spiders and Webs (October 23-November 17).

Spi­der webs are well designed to car­ry out their food-trap­ping func­tion, as are the spi­ders that spin them. ELF will be teach­ing spi­der iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (w/ live spec­i­mens as well as pho­tos and illus­tra­tions), shar­ing the won­ders of web weav­ing and silk spin­ning, show how web-spin­ning spi­ders feel rather than see the prey caught in their webs, go on a spi­der scav­enger hunt, and a spi­der craft.

Unit Three: Snowflakes and Tracks (January 16-February 15)

In freez­ing temps, water may take on many forms, each with its own design and spe­cial beau­ty. Snowflakes are par­tic­u­lar­ly beau­ti­ful geo­met­ric frozen crys­tals that vary in shape and design.  Tracks and traces can pro­vide insight­ful glimpses into the lives of ani­mals whose actions are oth­er­wise hid­den from us. ELF will be teach­ing snowflake design, exam­ine and iden­ti­fy tracks and traces of ani­mals, learn how track pat­terns can help us iden­ti­fy ani­mals that cre­ate them, and to invent a sto­ry and tell it with tracks.

Unit Four: Camouflage (February 26-March 23)  CURRENT UNIT

Many crea­tures are shaped or col­ored to blend into their sur­round­ings.  These dif­fer­ent designs of cam­ou­flage are crit­i­cal to the sur­vival of those ani­mals. ELF will teach­ing the dif­fer­ent types of camo used by ani­mals and insects, show­ing how tricky it can be to see the out­line of cam­ou­flaged objects, demon­strate how match­ing col­or is effec­tive cam­ou­flage, con­struct­ing a crea­ture that will be cam­ou­flaged for a spe­cif­ic habi­tat, and to think effec­tive­ly about the impact of effec­tive cam­ou­flage.


Unit Five: Honeybees (April 9-May 4)

Hon­ey­bees are fas­ci­nat­ing insects whose unique­ly designed phys­i­cal and social struc­tures con­tribute to their sur­vival and suc­cess. ELF will be teach­ing the struc­tur­al designs of a bee’s body and bee­hive cells, how hon­ey is made, com­pare human life with hon­ey­bee life, bee-hav­ior, hon­ey tast­ing and more!


Questions/Comments: Denise Richter 970–373-7708 MitchellELF@gmail.com

When will my child’s class participate in ELF?

HOW MUCH TIME? Vol­un­teers need only give about 4 hours dur­ing an ELF month (bi-month­ly dur­ing the school year); time approx­i­ma­tion is giv­en:

  • Attend a fun 1.5 hour train­ing work­shop where vol­un­teers are giv­en an out­line to fol­low for their teach­ing ses­sion and get intro­duced to the excit­ing mate­ri­als
  • Research and pre­pare for in-class work­shop
  • Lead a dynam­ic, always evolv­ing, 90 minute hands-on teach­ing work­shop in the class­room.

You too, can help launch ELF! Be a leader in learn­ing!

Background Information
ELF began in 1972, when the Ver­mont Insti­tute of Nat­ur­al Sci­ence (VINS) edu­ca­tors teamed up with par­ent vol­un­teers in one ele­men­tary school to teach hands-on nature edu­ca­tion. Today, ELF reach­es beyond Ver­mont as par­ents and edu­ca­tors in oth­er states and coun­tries have dis­cov­ered this effec­tive, adapt­able pro­gram.  While schools in states out­side New Eng­land can­not sign up with VINS, and get train­ing and mate­ri­als direct­ly (as New Eng­land schools can do for a fee), the pro­gram con­cepts can be used any­where.
Check out the VINS web site for more infor­ma­tion on how this pro­gram start­ed and what it con­tains.