Every Kid in a Park

By Julie Johnson, Executive Director

Convincing today’s wired kids that nature is more exciting than technology is a hard sell. So Hitchcock Center educators have been working to develop ways for children to integrate technology with their experiences in nature.

Every Kid in a Park is one of several grant programs administered by the U.S. Forest Service to promote environmental education. The Hitchcock Center was awarded a $7,500 grant for a unique program using digital photography to connect fourth grade students to a local conservation area.

We first developed and piloted this Digital Ecology program with great success through one of our homeschool groups last fall. Thanks to this new grant award, we have expanded the program for area schools to get outside and connected to a local conservation area.

Student image from the Digital Ecology Program piloted in Hitchcock’s Homeschool Program. Photo Penny Rose

Digital cameras are becoming more commonplace in classrooms, yet many teachers do not have the confidence they need to take advantage of this rapidly evolving technology. This, combined with a lack of a solid working knowledge about the natural history of our local environment, means that elementary school teachers may be hesitant to take advantage of their nearby public parks and conservation areas for outdoor learning.

The Hitchcock Center’s Digital Ecology program will break down these barriers by giving teachers in the Union 38 School District (Conway, Deerfield, Sunderland, and Whately) the skills and know-how to engage 175 of their fourth grade students with digital photography while exploring the outdoors at the Larch Hill Conservation Area.

Students will collect data and document examples of plants and animals found in the area, as well as learn about their adaptations for survival, growth and reproduction.

We are looking forward to this opportunity to assist the U.S. Forest Service in their goal of getting Every Kid in a Park.

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