At the core of the Learning Gate Community School’s curriculum is the environment. Our environmental education class focuses on nurturing student’s “inborn sense of wonder” about the natural world around them. In the early grades, the emphasis is on exploring and investigating the natural habitats and the creatures that we encounter. As the students get older, we introduce them to different groups of plants and animals as well as methods used by real scientists to study them. In the older grades, students begin to focus on more challenging concepts and conduct experiments around the campus. By the time students complete the fifth grade, they will have a broad knowledge of the plants and animals found on the Learning Gate campus, basic ecological concepts and be ready to apply it to real-world issues when they get to middle school. Whenever possible, the environmental education teacher utilizes techniques used by “real-world” scientists to study the environment. These may include water quality testing equipment, reptile/amphibian survey methods, insect traps and others. These give our students a wonderful “hands-on” learning opportunity plus a chance to learn how real environmental scientists conduct their work.
When the students get into sixth grade, environmental science becomes one of the core courses that meets every day. Sixth grade environmental science is intended to teach students about both the physical and biological nature of environmental science through hands-on and outdoor projects. The course is also intended to compliment Language Arts by providing opportunity for students to practice textual analysis of informational and scientific articles.
Topics during the year include: Plant and Animal Ecology, Florida Habitats (Including Invasive Species to Florida), History of The Environmental Movement, Human Impacts, Soils, Sustainability, Urban Forests, and Water (Floridian Aquifer, Pollution and World Water Issues).
In addition to differentiated curriculum for each grade level, there are a few special environmental projects that are shared with all grade levels. First, is the campus-wide invasive plant project. All grade levels participate in an annual air potato plant contest. Each class collects and counts air potatoes then adds them to the total. They learn about one of Florida’s most invasive plants, the concept of biological control and the importance of being good stewards of the 27 acre school campus. The other special project is a Migratory Bird Banding Project. Since 2010, the environmental education teacher (K – 5) has been researching the birds that migrate through the wooded campus. All the students get to witness all aspects of this unique project including observing how the nets are set up and used to capture the birds, witnessing the safe extraction of birds from the nets and the banding/data collection phase before assisting with the safe release of the birds.