Applying GLOBE through the ACORN project in Texas
Meet Peggy Carnahan and Augustine Frkuska, co-directors of Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) GLOBE U.S. Partnership, and learn about their amazing work with Project ACORN (Area Children Organized to Replenish Natives)!
OLLU is a U.S. Partnership with GLOBE which began in 2001. OLLU hosted the 2007 International GLOBE Meeting partnering with University of Texas at Tyler (UT Tyler). Several years later during the NSTA annual meeting, the Partnership co-hosted the GLOBE NARM with the University of Texas at San Antonio and UT Tyler. During the two decades that followed, OLLU has coached and trained over a thousand teachers with GLOBE protocols.
OLLU established GLOBE and the Area Children Organized to Replenish Natives project (ACORN) as an intricate part of the graduate science credit in the science teacher graduate program. OLLU has helped teachers establish valuable educational collaborations with city, state and national wildlife and environmental organizations. The many collaborations with formal and informal education institutes have helped generate a project that involved a place-based inquiry of local native habitats and environments. The focus of study and investigations were the phenology of residential and migrating flora and fauna (i.e. pollinators) as well as the land use consequences of invasive species by natural means or as the result of human actions. A long term goal was to establish a self-sustaining habitat area with plant diversity.
Project ACORN was introduced into the public school as a native tree planting activity along with native plant species in and around the school and its community. Through study and observation, the students selectively choose the native seeds and propagate new plants to plant on school grounds and in green spaces around the community. The local authorities and politicians became involved and tree planting was incorporated for special occasions such as Arbor Day and Veterans Day. This provided opportunities where ACORN schools carried out projects of conservation and restoration. ACORN schools have diverged into gardening with minimal impact and landscaping their campuses while applying the field sciences outlined by GLOBE material and field campaign opportunities. Academically, the project is supported by GLOBE protocols and classroom activities, the educational resources of the Council for Environmental Education and Texas Forestry Association. San Antonio River Authority (SARA) and the Native Plant Society of Texas have been instrumental in permitting access to sensitive natural areas to collect and replant student projects. Project ACORN has become a diverse learning organization and project for students and teachers utilizing many local experts and scientist willing to share their knowledge and best practices.
The Texas Regional Collaborative and local school districts have recognized the benefits of ACORN/GLOBE and their applications with campus plant and soil conservation and restoration. ACORN has expanded into 5 area school districts. One district involves 5000 5th graders gathering native seeds for the next year’s 5th graders to strategically plant in the community. Hundreds of early childhood students prepare native flowering “seed balls” to deliver in areas to help diversify plant species and assist local pollinators in the spring and summer growing seasons. Northside Independent School District (NISD) of San Antonio now has empowered Amalia Sollars as one of two district level administrators in a position to develop ACORN and GLOBE successfully into the districts’ science curriculum. ACORN has been recognized at state and national levels. Kent Page is an NISD teacher who was recognized and honored with the Presidential Award in Mathematics and Science Teachers for ACORN Project. Augustine Frkuska was recognized as Project Learning Tree Outstanding Texas Educator by the Texas Forestry Association for project ACORN.
The level of environmental connections and partnerships are many and diverse. We know this brief synopsis of Project Acorn leaves a lot of questions in determining the success we have had with Project Acorn and its affiliation with GLOBE. We will be happy to field questions by email or the readers preferred contact method. We are looking forward to the beneficial outcomes of the academics and environment for the students and communities involved in the project in the next decade or two.
Here is some feedback from teachers, parents, and students using ACORN and GLOBE:
Teacher: Using observation skills from GLOBE and ACORN opens up new worlds of discoveries that ignite curiosity in young students like few things at school do.
Student: I’m too young for a driver’s license, but you don’t need a license to plant a tree.
Student: No deforestation without representation from kids. We’re the ones who have to live with this.
Student: We can’t take many trees to Mars but seeds are not that heavy.
Parent: It used to be what did you learn today and now it becomes what we are learning about nature today.
Teacher: When utilizing the “outdoor learning activities”, I have seen a drastic change in learning behavior. Having bilingual students in the classroom, they really “shine” and begin to demonstrate leadership by sharing their knowledge of nature.
-Contributed by Augustine Frkuska, Our Lady of the Lake University
News origin: United States of America