Educators have long known the value of hands on learning, and when applied to teaching about the environment, that positive effect is magnified even more.
Students of the Environmental Science Program at ECC South are experiencing this first hand, and benefiting from the schools Natural Regeneration Area. The new habitat was formerly part of a vast mowed lawn, a monoculture. The department had another vision for the area, one with biodiversity and education in mind. ECC South Assistant Professor Mary Jo Graham explains.
"We got together, and they gave us some areas to consider, so we selected this one because it was the largest parcel, and that's where it began, and now we've got real, solid habitat, because it's so large," Graham said.
Student Darien Volker agrees.
"It's wonderful, getting out in the field and actually learning hands on, I learn a lot better that way than sitting in a classroom and jotting down notes and looking at pictures and stuff," Volker said.
Even on a gloomy, rainy day, there are things to learn. The students spent the morning cleaning bluebird nest boxes and planting milkweed." It seems like we get beyond that, you know, beyond the weather, because there's always something to talk about ." Said Graham. " Even if, on a day like today the critters are quiet and there's not a lot of activity, the plants are speaking to us, there's just so much in the plant world, and that's the basis for all life on Earth, without plants nobody lives. "
The roots of this small yet rich habitat are growing beyond the college itself. Graham says that ECC is offering the use of this living classroom to local high schools ." We're inviting them to use our campus as a learning center for them as well, so their students can make use of this and teachers can make use of these habitats just like we're doing here at ECC South, we want to extend that. And we're hoping eventually to create public programs and to bring people in from the community, and talk about establishing a Bluebird trail or talk about Natural Regeneration Areas and what you can do on your own property. "
The surrounding neighborhood is benefiting as well. " It just brings the beauty of the birds and the birds song, and the ability for the birds to sequester insect borne disease through their dietary habits this is an entire benefit ! And it's just much nicer to look at with this explosion of flowers as opposed to this big green carpet that we're used to seeing . "
In the end, it is the entire community that is enriched, as the program grows future environmentalists that Graham says will ensure the planet is defended for years to come. " In Environmental Science there's a huge emphasis on biodiversity, and Environmental Science incorporates into that science the human impact, and so, humans generally lessen biodiversity. "
"The most important would be how to lessen your impact on the environment." said sophomore student Luke Dillsworth. "You don't really realize going through your regular day how many things you do that actually do affect a lot of living organisms around you. "
Volker knows the future is now.
"I think it only takes one person to make a difference," he said.