With Norman Elementary in Austin
April 2011

(Click any image on this page to view larger.  Photos courtesy of Nancy Manning.)

View a video featuring our 2011 Explore and Restore program here.

Or check out this YNN “Local Wonders” Spot featuring the Spring 2012 program.

The “Explore and Restore” program includes three components. First, students receive direct as well as hands-on instruction about ornithology, botany, geology and zoology in four small group settings at their school.

Children laying in a circle, paying attention as a woman points to some papers.Children sitting in a circle on the floor, looking as a man shows them a map.Children sitting at a table, looking at papers, with a man holding a butterfly net in the background.Two excited children sitting at a table, being taught how to use a GPS.

Plant, Creek, Animal, and GPS survey groups led by (respectively) Judy Walther, Stan Wilson, Devin Grobert, and Shannon Kemp.

Using tools of the trade, the Explore and Restore team teaches the children how to identify local plants and critters, locate the creek on a topographic map and how to use GPS.

Next, the children move outdoors to use some of their new skills.

Woman standing with four children outdoors, using a GPS.Two girls pouring water on two trays, one filled with grass and one with dirt.Three kids with their hands in a tray full of mud.

Students learn to use a GPS.  Others test how plants help stop erosion.

The following week students go to our Blair Woods Sanctuary to put their learning into practice. For instance, they are assigned roles as “botanists” who will collect plants, press them in a handmade press and then record the plants on their data sheets. The “cartographers” will learn how to use GPS and also note the location on the topographic map that soils and plants were collected. The “zoologists” catalogue all of the bird and insect species they can find and the “geologists” collect soils from different part of the tract.

A woman and several children in dense shrubbery, looking at a chart.A girl with a clipboard and binoculars standing in front of a man wearing large headphones.A man speaking to two children, each holding a clipboard.A girl holding a clipboard, looking up attentively.

Students learn how to carefully collect and record plant and animal survey data through observation.

At Blair Woods, each group of children work with the same team leader from their in- school day at Norman Elementary.   (Stan’s Creek Survey Group are attentive, hoping to soon become muddy again!)

Observations were made along the creek. Students analyzed erosion, plant growth, and general creek conditions.

The children then participate in restoration at the sanctuary which might include activities like re-seeding, planting and care of trails. Work projects are a way to connect students with the environment. Participating in meaningful work gives kids a sense of satisfaction & importance.

Four children carrying a very large log and smiling for the camera.A colorful display board with pictures and data about Blair Woods.

Restoration of Blair Woods, and the finished display showing what they learned!

Finally, staff or volunteers return to the school a week later to help the children construct a display. The display features things the children collected during their trip to Blair Woods, thus reinforcing their learning and allowing them to teach their fellow students about the display and their experience at Blair Woods.

Is our Blair Woods restoration paying off? Ask this guy!

Photo of a Great Blue Heron standing in a marsh.

Click here to return to the main Blair Woods page.