P/sunny
72°
P/sunny
Hi 73° | Lo 60°

Jaffrey

Bringing love of  outside to schools

Harris Center: Teacher-naturalists working with students

  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson hands out worksheets and data collecting tools to Jaffrey Grade School fourth grade students on Thursday. Hutchinson is working with the students to learn about different seasons and the connection they have to nature.

    Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson hands out worksheets and data collecting tools to Jaffrey Grade School fourth grade students on Thursday. Hutchinson is working with the students to learn about different seasons and the connection they have to nature. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.

    Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • From left, Jaffrey Grade School students Halie, 9, Bella, 9, Ben, 9, and Alejandro, 9, measure the air temperature and take a soil sample in the school garden on Thursday morning.

    From left, Jaffrey Grade School students Halie, 9, Bella, 9, Ben, 9, and Alejandro, 9, measure the air temperature and take a soil sample in the school garden on Thursday morning. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.

    Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.

    Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.

    Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Center teacher-naturalist helps Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders Abbie, 9, on left, and Ana, 9, on right, collect data in the school garden on Thursday. Hutchinson will return to the school several more times this year, working with the students to observe natural changes that come with different seasons.

    Harris Center teacher-naturalist helps Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders Abbie, 9, on left, and Ana, 9, on right, collect data in the school garden on Thursday. Hutchinson will return to the school several more times this year, working with the students to observe natural changes that come with different seasons. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.

    Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.

    Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.

    Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.

    Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson hands out worksheets and data collecting tools to Jaffrey Grade School fourth grade students on Thursday. Hutchinson is working with the students to learn about different seasons and the connection they have to nature.
  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.
  • From left, Jaffrey Grade School students Halie, 9, Bella, 9, Ben, 9, and Alejandro, 9, measure the air temperature and take a soil sample in the school garden on Thursday morning.
  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.
  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.
  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.
  • Harris Center teacher-naturalist helps Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders Abbie, 9, on left, and Ana, 9, on right, collect data in the school garden on Thursday. Hutchinson will return to the school several more times this year, working with the students to observe natural changes that come with different seasons.
  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.
  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.
  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.
  • Harris Center staff member Jaime Hutchinson spends time with Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders observing seasonal patterns outside. With their data for soil and air temperatures, and weather, plant, and animal observations, Hutchinson and the students will be able to compare their notes between the months to see how different seasons affect nature.

Jaime Hutchinson led a line of Jaffrey Grade School fourth graders out the school doors and into the bright sun and chilly air on Thursday morning, coming to a stop at the school garden. After asking the students to circle around her, 36-year-old Hutchinson, a teacher-naturalist for the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, went on to demonstrate how to measure air and soil temperature, how to take a soil sample, what to look for in observing the day’s weather, and what signs of animal and plant life students might find.

As students set off in groups and into the garden, feeling the consistency of dirt, figuring out the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit temperatures, and collecting seeds, Hutchinson reminded them to record all their data down on their “nature notes” sheet. “Remember, you guys are scientists out here,” she told the students.

Hutchinson has plans to visit this class again in December, February, April and June, when the students will collect similar data outside and compare their notes for each season. Hutchinson, who is a Jaffrey resident and who has a daughter in the first grade at JGS, said, “It’s great to be learning about my own town and connecting with the community.”

Hutchinson is currently in her second year as a teacher-naturalist at JGS, and she also works with students in Peterborough and Dublin schools . Hutchinson has worked for the Harris Center since 2007, when she graduated from Antioch University with a Master’s in environmental education. In conducting lessons with young students on topics like mammals in winter, watersheds, life cycles, and weathering as evidenced by old tombstones, Hutchinson helps the Harris Center incorporate environmental education into public school curriculums that meet New Hampshire state standards. “We try to stay ahead of the curve,” Hutchinson said.

Dori Drachman, 51, is another teacher-naturalist who has worked for the Harris Center since 2006, serving area elementary schools in Peterborough, Rindge, Stoddard and Temple. Drachman, who lives in Peterborough and has a background in classroom teaching and a Master’s in environmental education that she received from Antioch in 2004, works with children of all different ages. In addition to teaching students about topics like geology, farming, hawk migration, and the ways climate change is affecting natural phenomena in different seasons, Drachman recently spent time with James Faulkner Elementary teacher Laura White to fulfill a New Hampshire history requirement for White’s fourth grade class. Using a wide range of methods including investigating old cellar holes and stone walls behind the school, measuring tree diameter, looking at historical maps, and reading a 19th-century agricultural census, the students discovered the land history of Stoddard last year.

“It was really detective work,” Drachman said in a phone interview Monday.

The students’ findings were displayed in five poster boards, all of which were displayed in the Stoddard Historical Society according to the Harris Center’s website. Laura White received the Harris Center’s 2013 Teacher of the Year award for her efforts and exemplary teamwork with Drachman, who characterized the project as one that examined the connection between nature and culture.

“We understand that the natural world and cultural worlds interact,” Drachman said.

The relationship between people and nature is something the Harris Center tries to illuminate and deepen through its education programs with teacher-naturalists like Hutchinson and Drachman. Harris Center School Program Coordinator and teacher-naturalist Janet Altobello said in an interview Thursday, “We’re really trying to help children deepen their understanding and connection to nature.”

According to Altobello, this year the Harris Center is partnering with 27 schools to work with more than 3,000 students. Altobello, who has been with the Harris Center since 1989 and who also earned a Master’s in environmental education from Antioch in 1987, explained the Harris Center’s approach to introducing students to nature: Teacher-naturalists begin with young children, showing them all the fascinating aspects of nature and helping kids fall in love with where they live. As children get older and into their middle school years, the Harris Center introduces investigative work, showing students how to collect data that may be useful for the state Department of Environmental Services or a local conservation commission. When students enter high school, teacher-naturalists work with kids to do active conservation and research. This year, for instance, ninth graders at ConVal High School are conducting an energy audit on an empty farmhouse and have to provide recommendations on how to reduce air flow. Tenth graders are studying invasive species and are marking recommendations for abatement plans.

Altobello spoke about the importance of building the “problem-solving muscle” for upcoming generations, who will inherit more than one environmental issue in the future. “We want to give them support and experience being resilient,” she said.

For the present, the Harris Center is doing everything it can to close the gap between people and the world around them. “We’re trying to help students think clearly about the proper role of human life on earth for the long haul,” Altobello said.

It all starts with children learning about the land they live on, loving it, and caring for it, and these connections are what Hutchinson and Drachman hope to cultivate. When asked why she was an environmental educator, Hutchinson said, “It’s really important to have a connection to place. I work where the kids are and point out the things they may not notice, hoping that learning about nature will lead to caring.”

In response to the same question, Drachman answered, “We take care of what we love. I want students to love the land so that they want to take care of it when they are able to do so.”

Elodie can be reached by phone at 924-7172 ext. 228, or by email at ereed@ledgertranscript.com. Elodie is also on Twitter @elodie_reed.

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.