Envi­ron­men­tal Learn­ing for the Future | 2016-2017

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!

This year we are also seeking 2 or 3 dedicated, organized people to step up as ELF Coordinators for the School. Time commitment per session is about 10 hours. (This includes time in your own child’s classroom). Your volunteership would serve best for 2-5 years. It is imperative that we find these volunteers ASAP as the founders of ELF are moving on to middle and high school support.

Earth & Sky is our topic for the 2016-2017 school year.

What is the con­nec­tion between plants and the air we breathe, between hon­ey­bees and the earth’s mag­netic field, between ancient shell­fish and lime­stone rocks? In exam­in­ing the phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of the world around us, chil­dren dis­cover that the liv­ing and the non­liv­ing are inter­wo­ven in an intri­cate tapestry.

Life does not exist apart from the phys­i­cal world. Plants pro­duce oxy­gen that forms a por­tion of the earth’s atmos­phere. Hon­ey­bees depend on cues from the sun’s posi­tion and earth’s mag­netic field in order to find their way. Over the mil­len­nia, the remains of shell­fish accu­mu­late on the ocean floor where they are pressed and cemented into stone.

Learn­ing about the phys­i­cal envi­ron­ment involves exam­in­ing the prop­er­ties of rocks and air, sun­light and sound, and wind and water. Through the activ­i­ties in this theme, stu­dents will explore many dif­fer­ent aspects of the phys­i­cal world as well as the forces that affect and shape the earth over time. These explo­rations will help chil­dren to under­stand the con­nec­tions between liv­ing organ­isms and the non­liv­ing sys­tems that sup­port them.

Unit One: Find­ing Your Way – CANCELLED

Ani­mals, includ­ing humans, use var­i­ous meth­ods to rec­og­nize their sur­round­ings and ori­ent them­selves in the nat­ural world. We will explore how obser­va­tions and mem­ory help us, and ani­mals, locate famil­iar places and objects, and how to use this abil­ity to make men­tal maps. Stu­dents will learn how to use a com­pass and prac­tice learn­ing car­di­nal direc­tions. We will famil­iar­ize stu­dents with a United States map and use of map direc­tions. And finally – there will be a trea­sure hunt!

Unit Two: Rocks & Minerals

We will focus on the fact that every rock tells a story of how the Earth was formed, shaped, and changed over time. We’ll learn about some of the char­ac­ter­is­tics that sci­en­tists use to iden­tify min­er­als, using some tools and meth­ods used in the lab. Stu­dents will become famil­iar with the rock cycle and some exam­ples of how rocks change form in the rock cycle. And finally – they will make a sim­ple craft show­ing how rocks are made of minerals.

Unit Three: Air & Sound

Air is all around us, but it has no shape or size. We can’t really see, smell, feel, or taste air, but it is vitally impor­tant to all life on Earth. Among other things – air allows us to breathe, to smell fra­grances and to hear sounds. Sound waves, caused by vibrat­ing objects, make the air around them vibrate – sound waves play key roles in the lives of ani­mals and peo­ple. The abil­ity to pro­duce, hear, and dis­tin­guish sounds is cru­cial to the sur­vival of ani­mals. Air, the invis­i­ble mix of life-sustaining gases that com­prise our atmos­phere, is nec­es­sary for sur­vival. We will study these con­cepts in depth with the stu­dents. And finally – we will study actu­ally pig lungs (a healthy lung and a dis­eased lung) with extreme care.

Unit Four: Weather & Water

Earth’s water is a finite resource that cir­cu­lates from the land, lakes, rivers and oceans to the air and back again, in a con­tin­u­ing cycle – call the Water Cycle. We will demon­strate how clouds are formed, learn about weather maps, and observe how weather pat­terns move across the coun­try. We will teach how con­vec­tion cur­rents cause thun­der­storms to form and exper­i­ment with wind direc­tion and wind speed and how wind affects weather. We’ll also learn about char­ac­ter­is­tics of water and the water cycle. And finally – we’ll head out­side to eval­u­ate the weather and make predictions!

Unit Five: Erosion  – CURRENT UNIT

The shape of the land­scape changes over time due to the ero­sive forces of wind, water, grav­ity, weath­er­ing, and ice as well as human activ­ity. We will learn to rec­og­nize some of the causes and effects of ero­sion. We will explore how wind helps shape land­scapes, as well as water. We will exper­i­ment with var­i­ous mate­ri­als and designs to limit or con­trol ero­sion. And finally – we’ll explore our school grounds to look for signs of ero­sion and deter­mine what the cause is.

Unit Outline    Unit Background    Unit Puppet Show     Training Videos

When will my child’s class participate in ELF?      PDF Schedule       PDF Calendar

Elf Sessions 2016-2017

UnitYouTube AvailableClass Dates Available
Finding Your WayCancelledCancelled
Rocks & Minerals10/1710/24-11/18
Air & Sound1/91/16-2/17
Weather & Water2/212/27-3/24
Carrie Bazewicz 303.359.8586 -MitchellELF@gmail.com

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.