Elementary and Middle School
Participant Presentations and Lesson Plans

Maria Cricket Henderson
Outdoor Environmental Education
Topeka Public Schools
125 S.E. 27th St.
Topeka, Kansas 66605

My three favorite lectures were given by Donald Wooster, John Opie and Dan Flores. I enjoyed Dr. Wooster’s ideas on the Dust Bowl and other influences humans have had on nature and nature has had on humans. I thought Dr. Opie had some original ideas on people’s perspectives of where they call home affecting their views of the environment and his brief exploration into chaos theory. Dr. Flores helped inspire my lesson which helps give the students a “sense of place.”

I take fifth-grade students hiking in a forested region through a grassland, to a pond ecosystem and then to a lake shore. They are observing along the way what kinds of producers, consumers, and decomposers they find in the three different ecosystems. I tell students before we hike this was the last Delaware Indian reservation in Kansas, so keep your eyes open for signs that might help prove this. This land was also used as a wagon trail crossing, and can you find signs of that? As we identify whether something is a producer, consumer or decomposer we talk about how they are related or the basic ecological principle: Everything is related to everything else, but how? We taste 5 local edible plants. We discover tracks, listen to birds, learn our direction with the sun, talk about the water cycle, rock cycle, matter cycle, air cycle. We discover other signs of animals like feces, egg casings, nests, scrapings. We talk about local myths and legends. We talk about how things come to be the way they are. Common tree names and exotic plants are discovered. At night, we study the constellations. We talk about why the lake was built. We sleep in tents. The next day we integrate the whole day to center around science, social studies, math, English, art, and even P.E. with an environmental twist.

I feel the teachers at the People, Prairies, and Plains Institute were some of the best in their fields. My only hope is that some of their works and enthusiasm rubs off on their peers. I know my teachings will always have an environmental twist to them.

A Sense of Place Through Hands-On Observation

Unit Goals and Objectives:


1. To understand plants’ and animals’ roles in nature.
2. To understand the interactions among plants, animals, and humans.
3. To recognize the need to be “Keepers of the Earth.

” Objectives:

Following the study of this unit, students will be able to indicate awareness:

1. of different groups of plants.
2. of different groups of animals.
3. of the needs of plants and animals.
4. of the characteristics of the cultures of Indians who had lived in the area.
5. of the many changes in the geological features of the area through millions of years using fossils as indicators of these changes.
6. of the characteristics of the culture of early Kansas settlements.
7. of the formation of Lake Perry.
8. of the cycles of nature.

9. of the basic terms of ecology.