Innovative program helps Danvers preschool expand learning

Danvers Herald
Posted Oct 15, 2013 @ 09:09 AM

Danvers -- Preschoolers at the Fox Hill Preschool in Danvers will create classroom recycling centers after teachers from the Water Street preschool attended a Place Based Service-Learning workshop, co-presented by Essex Heritage and the National Park Service Salem Maritime Historic site.

The workshop helps teachers link classroom learning with real-world applications in their community.

At Fox Hill, the program will introduce different types of recycling, and help the students learn about the impact to local waterways and animal life if we do not recycle.

The program helps pre-school, elementary, middle school and high school teachers from eight different school districts during a 4-day intensive workshop in July, where they examined the unique attributes of Essex County’s natural and cultural resources from multiple points of view, including scientific, historic, English language arts and math-based links.

The workshop encouraged participants to develop curriculum that strengthens students’ understanding of their community and creates connections between class-room learning and real-world application.  Particular focus was given to how to use area resources as a “learning laboratory” to create projects that tie federal and state curriculum frameworks to local themes and make investigation relevant for their students.

This year’s workshop also focused on creating an inclusive “framework of place” for English Language Learners and other student groups who may feel marginalized in a traditional classroom setting.  For example, at the Salem Maritime Historic Site, the participants explored trade goods from around the world that represented different destinations from Salem’s historic global trade.  Ties to modern trade were made through modern photographs of trade ships and a discussion of trade today, introducing ideas about modern forces of migration, the value of bilingualism/biculturalism both historically and today, and strategies for engaging all learners through objects and inclusive place-based stories.

“The strength of place-based learning is that it creates opportunities for educators and students to use local resources to satisfy curricular goals while meeting real-world needs,” explained Essex Heritage Executive Director Annie Harris.  “The PBSL ideal is to create a synergistic network of students, teachers, community organizations, and other local partners working to meet each other’s needs, inspiring civic engagement and stewardship of parks and communities.  In effect, the entire community becomes involved in educating its youth and addressing local issues.”

Part of the larger Park for Every Classroom (PEC) network of National Parks, this was the second summer the PBSL workshop was offered to local educators.  The teachers who created projects for the coming school year are eligible to receive graduate credit and will also receive consultation support from Essex Heritage and Salem Maritime staff throughout the school year as they implement their projects.

Read this story on the Danvers Herald website.