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Projects in Environmental Education: Capstone Report 3


Los Arboles Middle School | Native Garden Group

Celeste Espino, Andrew Hernandez, Jeffrey Chen-Bromley, Killian


May, Nick Ramsey, Vivian Rivera, and Keiley Hansen
May 7th, 2019
Report 3, Page 2

Goals
Before beginning our group project with the students, they demonstrated knowledge and enthusiasm about plants and
growing things in general, but it was based solely around an anthropocentric framework. That is to say their understanding
focused more on plants that humans have a direct relationship with, intentionally grow, and especially eat. For example, stu-
dents during the codesign activity were enthusiastic about having more fruit and vegetable plants in the garden, and when
asked what type of flowers they might like to see they were most quick to suggest store-bought or culturally symbolic ones
such as roses and sunflowers, rather than a native variety that would provide better ecosystems services in our setting. It
seemed their existing knowledge was lacking an in-depth understanding of how plants can support each other in a natural
ecosystem. So, our goal and challenge for this project became to foster students awareness of natives and invasive species
and how they interfere with a plant communities inherent support systems, by facilitating connections between students
existing knowledge about plants, based on the plants that they have relationships with already, and the native garden.

In previous activities, students were more likely to identify plants associated with human values and uses in western culture, like
roses and sunflowers, and lacked knowledge about ecologically and locally important native plants.

Thus, the goal of our group's project over these 10 weeks was entirely based around place-based education and fostering
environmental literacy Place-based education is focused on education that includes both the human and more-than-human
world. It is done by connecting the schooling of the student to their home life or their sense of place This is done because
students are more likely to be engaged in their education if they feel their learnings have value due to it being connected and
applicable to meaningful aspects of their lives (Smith & Sobel, 2010). The garden pathway we created with the students was
meant to be made up solely of plants native and endemic to California and its coastal ecosystems. The variety of endemic
species in Marina alone is astonishing; if by the end of our time with the students they are able to pick out the plants in their
neighborhood and remember their names and why they only grow in this area, that would show we have advanced their
knowledge of their communities ecosystem and fostering their environmental literacy. A spirit of community is what we are
hoping we have instilled in the students at the end of this project. We undertook one of the more labor intensive assign-
ments, understanding that digging and weeding, getting your hands dirty is not the most exhilarating option, but it is re-
warding. On more than one occasion, Malia, one of our students, would scold others for not taking care when walking
through the garden, telling them not to step on “our” plants. For the students, working together with their classmates hope-
fully has brought them closer together, forming connections and a sense of belonging. In her article, Julie Singleton states
that these personal connections and feeling of belonging to a group or community are vital in forming values centered
around sustainable living, and by extension sustainable communities (Singleton, 2015).
Report 3, Page 3

Goals
We sought to approach our goals using the Head, Heart and Hand Model as explained by scholar Julie Singleton. This model
falls under framework for a transformative learning process, which is based on the idea of that learners, through meaningful
experiences and internal reflection can transform, “Environmental perspectives... from viewing the environment as a com-
modity to a community” (Singleton, 2015), Having the students take a hands-on approach, weeding and digging, interacting
with and handling the plants, taking note of their textures, colors, and, in some cases, smells was important in using the psy-
chomotor domain (hands) to engage the students (Singleton, 2015). Our final goal was to increase students confidence and
ability to communicate about these plants, their ecosystems and wildlife, building on the students cognitive reasoning and
use of the affective domain.

We attempted to incorporate use of the head, heart, and hands into our facilitation to help students grow their environmental literacy.
Report 3, Page 4

Activities
Module 2
For the start of Module 2, we thought as a group it would be important to introduce the native plant garden project to the
students. Introducing the project we showed them the space allocated for the garden, presented various native plants we
could use, and let them look at pictures of other native botanical gardens. Engaging the head and hands was important in our
second class with our group because we had the students examine potential native plants from a book Nick brought and
engaged them in using tools to work in the soil. The students were super eager to get digging, and we discussed the im-
portance of knowing soil types so the plants we chose will survive. Once they dug a small hole in the garden, we had the stu-
dents follow the soil lab we printed out, which explained how to determine soil types based on digging a hole and monitor-
ing it after it is filled with a gallon of water. We took the students back to the greenhouse and continued our discussion
about soil types and native plants. Periodically we sent students to check on the water while we had a discussion on the
plants we wanted to incorporate in the pathway and front of the greenhouse. The interaction from the students was exem-
plary as they all gathered in a half circle participating and speaking up when they had ideas. As a group a half hour later, we
decided on some potential plants and headed back over to the hole to discuss our research. The kids all paid close attention
to the soil types and based on the water level had decided it was a sandy loam soil, which would be perfect for a majority of
the plants we wanted to use.

Module 2 activities focused on introducing native plants, planning our garden, and beginning to plant the native pathway.

The following week on Tuesday and Thursday we began taking on the weeds in front of the greenhouse and where the path-
way was going to be put in. Tuesday we spent a majority of the time teaching the students how to properly weed the soil so
we do not have more grow in the areas. Thursday was allocated for getting the layout of the garden set and putting plants
into the ground. Every student in our group was actively participating in taking the plants out of the pots and placing gopher
baskets over the roots. Each student took the time to try every part of the planting process, which was good for them as they
learned the importance of native plants. As one student stated, “once you plant it, you know what it is…” Engaging the hands
for all the students was a success as they took the time to get all the weeds they could and make sure the plants were put in
the ground properly. We also had students take on another hand engagement task and had them repurpose a window frame
to hold the native pathway sign. Using power tools and materials we found throughout the garden, we cut wood from old
planter boxes and screwed them into the window frame to create a holder for our interpretive sign. The students did an ex-
cellent job getting everything prepped for the following weeks and effectively used their head and hands to get the job done.
Report 3, Page 5

Module 3

Module 3 was a transition period as we went from planting the final plants to focusing
on the interpretive sign and importance of our native plants. We finished prepping the
native pathway by laying down wood logs in a curving manner to outline our path
through the plants. As we walked through the path with the students, we had them
identify the plants they remembered and discuss the reasons why each native plant we
chose is useful in our garden. Connecting their heads with the work they did with their
hands was great as they shared knowledge we taught them the weeks prior. Using a
worksheet from Cal Scapes we broke into one-on-one groups and ask each student to
focus on two plants in the garden. Our students took pride in their work and made sol-
id efforts in understanding the plants they focused on, so they could collectively share
with everyone and educate classmates who did other plants.
The next meeting we had with the students we decided to split up and work on differ-
ent tasks. For the first half of the class, we took one group outside and finished working
on planting the front of the greenhouse while the other half of the group stayed in the
classroom to work on the interpretation. Having one group water the pathway and
finish the green house entrance, the garden was completed and the students focused
their attention on presenting the information they wanted people to see on our sign.
Our goal for having the students communicate through the sign was crucial. Making the
connection for them through the information they deemed important was useful be-
cause it made the knowledge easier to remember. Drafting the layout had the kids visu-
alizing the garden from memory and connected their thoughts from using their head
and hand interaction the previous classes.
The next step in creating the native pathway required us to lay down sheet mulching to
stop weeds from popping up throughout the garden. We decided that the most effec-
tive way to do this was to lay cardboard down. While laying down to the cardboard we
tried to get the students engaged by asking them why they thought they were doing
this in the first place. We explained to the students that by laying down sheet mulch we
would mitigate the amount of weeding maintenance that would have to be done in the
future. We also noted that this would give our native plants the best chance of survival
due to the lack of weeds that they need to compete with for nutrients. After the card-
board had been laid out in the garden we moved on to spreading wood chips. Julie was
able to move the wood chips adjacent to the native pathway which made spreading
them out much easier for us. Laying down the wood chips was not as easy as we antici-
pated because of the amount of space we had to cover in the native pathway and the
greenhouse entrance. If we were not precise with our placement of the wood chips the
plants would be buried. This took longer than we expected so we had to delay the task
until our next session with the students.
We also needed to begin developing a plan for what we wanted to include on our inter-
pretive sign. We asked for students to volunteer to be sign “project leaders,” who
would make the final decision on what the sign should look like and include. Michelle,
Jorge, and Nathan volunteered for this task, and broke off to discuss the sign for a while
before rejoining the rest of the group that was working on spreading wood chips. With
our sign project leaders we discussed what they wanted to include, and why they
thought it was important to include. The students were able to come up with a well
develop outline and concluded they wanted to include the plants description, where it
is found, and what type of wildlife and pollinators it will attract.
Our last official class period with the students, we finished up putting down wood-
chips, and began painting on the sign. The sign painting didn’t get completed, so we
visited the campus for one additional class period to help facilitate the students finish-
ing sketching and painting each of the plants onto the sign, using their own observa-
tions and Google images.
Report 3, Page 6

Group Reflections
Overall, we found that the place-based and head-hands-heart educational theories worked well with our group. Place-based
education set the foundational beginnings of our project. Our project allowed the students with the opportunity to bring
their creativity, ideas, and skills as the semester progressed. Reflecting on our sessions, it was visible to see the daily growth
of our students. Many of them began with low confidence on their familiarity of what they knew and what they liked to do
but ultimately found a place in this project doing what they were the most interested in.

The students were first interested in the project because they were able to be outdoors and have had gardens at home and
were familiar with culinary herbs. When we first brought up the idea of planting cilantro and having them be able to take it
home, they became quite excited. Although the students had not yet learned of the importance of a native garden, they did
have values associated with gardens, and because of these values and connections to home, having them learn about a native
garden would be easier. These values and connections would also be engaging their hearts in the transformative learning
process.
As we moved forward with our project, we faced various changes in our plan. For example, after considering the amount of
labor, the pace the students work at, speaking amongst ourselves and Julie Haws we decided the herb garden would no long-
er be worked on. But, we also emphasized that the skills they would be learning about, both with tools and plant knowledge,
could easily be applied to their own gardens at home and shared with others. We also did find other ways to engage their
hearts in the project going forward. According to place-based education, in order for them to acquire positive values with
native plants and their environment, they need to feel a sense of pride and connectedness with it. This is why we attempted
to have the students be in charge of the planning of the garden and the interpretive sign. Unfortunately, we did not have
much time to allow them to plan the garden due to rain in the beginning, but they were still heavily involved in the planting
and the making of the sign.

The students would be engaging their hearts and their hands in the planting of the garden. They would be putting in the
plants, using newly-learned skills, themselves and feel a sense of pride because of it. On one planting day, Michelle and El-
lyne had planted a young pink-flowering currant themselves. And then once done, Michelle said, “I’m so proud of myself!”
with a smile on her face. On the celebration day Nathan came straight into the outdoor classroom and pointed out the contri-
bution he had made to the sign and said, “The first thing I noticed was the sign and what I painted.” Planting days students
also displayed their growth in environmental literacy. Students began distinguishing the differences in the plants and mak-
ing connections that helped them remember each plant. Malia quickly noted small differences in the appearance of two
types of California currant species we had planted in the garden.

<<<

Students were eager to engage with our


projects because of its hands-on aspects.

>>>

But student showed impressive growth


and retention of knowledge using their
critical thinking as well.
Report 3, Page 7

Group Reflections
After the planting we wanted to test their environmental literacy skills and have them start thinking of the sign, so we did a
walkthrough of the plants in the pathway and asked questions like, “Does anyone know what type of plant this is? What is
something that stands out from this plant like the leaves color, or smell? Is there anything this plant reminds you of? Why
are most of these plants so light in color?” The responses to these questions surprised us. Malia was able to identify almost
every single plant and pointed out that not all the plants have flowers. Nathan pointed out the difference between the two
grasses in our pathway because one was “taller.” Mauricio, one of the least engaged students at times, pointed out that he is
able to distinguish the types of sage because one type of sage smells stronger than the other. Michelle also stated she recog-
nizes the flowers, like the poppy, are much more delicate than the other plants.

The interpretive sign is where most of the students really got to plan and decide something and where we could engage
their critical thinking. Using the completed plant information worksheets, we had a small group decide which plant infor-
mation they wanted on the sign. When asked, they had no hesitation and immediately decided they wanted to include the
plant name (common and scientific), what type of environment it grows in, the dormancy or blooming time, what pollinators
they attract, and an interesting fact. They were also confident in deciding the layout of the map, based on what made the
most sense to them. When we CSUMB students were having difficulty orienting ourselves on the map design, Michelle and
Malia easily stepped in and showed the group where the plants would go. Finally, they all drew and painted the garden
plants onto the signs themselves.
As the semester progressed, we also began to notice, in particular, the last days when we were most busy, that the students
quickly caught on to the tasks and took initiative to do them on their own without our guidance. Some students voiced out
when we ran out of cardboard and needed more of it, where and when we needed more mulch, and began watering the
cardboard without being asked. These days the students worked alongside us and if they ever did not know how to do any-
thing would ask how and if one was a little off task we would guide them to another task and they would quickly go on and
do it.

The sign design was completely chosen


by the students, as well as the infor-
mation it includes about each plant. The
students were proud of their paintings.
Report 3, Page 8

Individual Reflections
Celeste

My time with the students and my classmates has made me change my perspective on what my goals should be when work-
ing with younger students. Before, my goal would be to teach the students environmental facts for them to remember. Now I
have learned that this way, in my experience, is not the most engaging way to teach students. I have seen students are most
engaged when they are put in charge of their learning, because they feel more confident, they learn what they feel is inter-
esting, and so they feel less pressure to “fail”. Before, I was focused on the “head” (and sometimes the “hands”) aspect of the
learning model. Now I feel when the heart and hands are engaged primarily, the mind is more easily engaged.

In these few weeks, I focused on connecting the students home life to the project. I would ask our students if they have or
had garden at homes. Most said they have. Jeorge specifically told me about the garden he had at home and helped on. This
was probably the reason the students chose to work on our project in the first place, but I knew their hearts would be en-
gaged. One instance where the heart and the hands were engaged, was on one of the first days of putting the plants into the
ground. Andrew had taught Malia and me how to put a plant in the ground with a gopher wire basket. I immediately had her
teach Michelle and Ellyne how to do it too. All three of the students learned it quickly and were then able to work together
to plant the rest of the plants without much help.

I noticed near the end of our time together the students were beginning to learn about the plants (like names and character-
istics), and I believe it was because we made it easier for them since we spent the beginning and middle of the project engag-
ing the heart and hands, and saved the head engagement near the end.

My planning skills have also improved in different ways. I have learned how much planning is needed when you have a
short amount of time to work with. With this project, we would plan the day down to the minute, but something would al-
ways come up or the students would want to do something different, that often ended up behind schedule. So because of this
we would also have to be flexible. An example of this would be us letting go of our plan for the herb garden. We could have
continued with the herbs, but after speaking with Julie, we decided it would be best to let it go considering with the amount
of time we had left, and it would be better to put our full attention and effort into the native plant garden.
Report 3, Page 9

Individual Reflections
Andrew

Over the duration of the project one recurring thought came to mind,
whether planning with the rest of the team or while working with
the students, was how my past instructors kept their students, like
myself, interested and engaged while teaching. Some instructors
succeeded better than others without a doubt and it seemed that
those who had a teaching philosophy centered around student in-
volvement in the lesson, rather than citing verbatim from a text, kept
my attention and encouraged the retention of information. Lessons
which made a connection to the world around me, especially those
having to do specifically with the the sciences and the planet’s eco-
systems resonated with me much more than lessons on say, United
States history ever had. I realized the Head-Heart-Hands approach
for the Los Arboles students was exactly this, though now with a fan-
cy name tacked on. I had no intimate connection to the history of the
United States from a cultural standpoint. I did however have a con-
nection to the outdoors; it was everywhere and because of that it
was difficult to miss.

What kept me interested in the sciences -environmental science es-


pecially- was the immediacy and relevance to everyday life. Though
while knowing the plants native to the central coast of California is
not of any immediacy, or to most, of any relevance I am of the belief
environmental literacy is an important aspect of personal awareness
of oneself in relation to a natural environment. Fostering environ-
mental literacy, and in that, a sense of place, a sense respect for their
home, so early in the lives of these students I believe will benefit
them greatly as they mature.
Projects as large as this are bound to run into complications; Murphy’s Law comes to mind, though luckily in this instance,
nothing went particularly wrong, just in a different direction than intended (which is still wrong then?). In any case, flexibil-
ity and the adaptability to unexpected changes of course was a key takeaway. Having to adjust plans to fit with changing cri-
teria is an exercise in creative thinking and problem solving, which our team and the students were able to all take part in
successfully.

Thinking of myself as a facilitator, I focused a lot of my efforts on improving the sense-of-place for the students. The outcome
I was hoping for by project’s end was for the students to have all, or nearly all of the plants we worked with memorized, and
they did! I felt particularly proud during that last walkthrough of the garden with the students. Knowing the native plants
they see everyday I hope would bring up the memory of why they exist where they do. I am hoping they hold onto this expe-
rience knowing they are leaving a lasting mark at their middle school.
Report 3, Page 10

Individual Reflections
Keiley

My experiences in this course over the semester were perhaps much more transformative for me than for the students that
we worked with, although I do think we helped them engage more with their environment and classroom and grow their
environmental thought somewhat. But while I feel they learned and grew some, I learned and grew far more from this chal-
lenge (and it was a challenge for me) of working with them and working with a large group to complete a project.

As a facilitator of environmental literacy, it became ap-


parent to me the importance of doing and including, not
just speaking at students. For example, in the beginning
of the project our students only seemed to retain a sem-
blance of focus on designing and discussing the garden
out of politeness. But after one or two days of them doing
some of the work of weeding, and beginning to plant in
the space, they were much more vocal and participatory
in decision-making about how to move forward or what
they wanted from the space. Additionally, when I at-
tempted to focus more on actively on interacting with the
students and not just speaking at them--one of my per-
sonal goals--I found the experience much more reward-
ing for both sides. In addition, it made it easier to see
what progress we were making in our real goal of in-
creasing the environmental literacy of our group.

As a facilitator and leader of this group project, I also


learned the importance of preparatory work in leading a
productive facilitation. Having consulted with all the nec-
essary people, obtained necessary supplies, and having a
semi-complete plan that everyone in the group is aware
of before we set foot in the classroom made things feel
less chaotic, even if we had to make changes on the spot.
What I had to face myself to address this challenge was
better time management. Committing more of my time
outside of the classroom--the more in advance the better-
-to preparing helped me in a huge way in both feeling
more engaged and enthusiastic about the project and
competent, prepared for and involved with the students
at the school.
Report 3, Page 11

Individual Reflections
Jeff

Over the semester of Spring 2019, I took a capstone class ENSTU 472 Projects in Environmental Education, where I partici-
pated in a group project and collaborated with the Los Arboles Middle School. There were 22 CSUMB students taking this
class and my group members consisted of 7 members. Our group focused on the Native Plants education while the other
teams were in different environmental education. As an individual I learned about the process of working with students,
about the process of fostering environmental literacy and sustainability outcomes, and about myself as a facilitator.

Upon taking this class ENSTU 472 Projects in Environmental Education, I was unaware that I will be working with students
from Los Arboles Middle School, for I had thought I was taking an individual project of my own. The thought of working with
students who are completely different from age and academic
level scared me because I just don’t have enough experience
working with students of that level. What was greatest fear also
turned to my greatest weapon because I was able to take this
opportunity to challenge myself to work with students from the
Los Arboles Middle School. Upon challenging myself I’ve gained
an experience from the Los Arboles Middle School students. The
difficulties of this project while working with students was that
each individual student would work under one of the team
members to facilitate, dig, plant, water, or covering the ground
with cardboard and mulch. It was a little difficult for me to en-
gage with the students because I didn’t want to be bossy telling
the students to do something without them learning the experi-
ence of what plants, digging, or covering with cardboard and
mulch but working with Mauricio helped me better incorporate
these concepts. I had to remember to how to get the students
excited for hands on activities by making the experience educational and fun. I also learned how to be patient with Mauricio
learning experience in environmental literacy and sustainability. The approach to spreading environmental literacy and sus-
tainability is important to teach younger generations at the Los Arboles Middle School and younger generations to come.
As a facilitator in the approach to spreading environmental literacy and sustainability with the Los Arboles Middle School
and a member of the Native Plant Education group has been a positive experience and a great learning curve while working
over the course of several class meetings. Being a facilitator I have experience in because of past work I do but applying past
work experience does not due its justice because of the age difference and academic levels as well as work experience. Facil-
itating with the Los Arboles Middle School students, I didn't want to assert authority over them but I did want students to
understand the basics of respect when it came to a different group. Since we are not the teachers at Los Arbole Middle
School, I wanted the students to feel comfortable around me and the group members, so I tried to enlighten moods, encour-
age fun while incorporating environmental literacy and sustainability. Facilitating the Native Plant Education group mem-
bers has been the greatest challenge and learning curve of all. Each individual in our group are amazing leaders and had
pleasure to work with them all. The challenge was that each individual were leaders in there own way but when it came to
as a group there was not set decision. Having to facilitate each individual and as a group to further the progress of the Native
Plants goals was not easy when it came to our day to day lives, some of the members had work or class whenever we sched-
uled team meetings to discuss further steps to improve the Native Plants goals. Although I faced these challenges were able
to prevail and it helped me understand to work with people from different backgrounds, be open minded, and be patient.
Report 3, Page 12

Individual Reflections
Killian

Throughout the course of several class meetings, I learned a wide variety of different knowledge from working with the stu-
dents in our group. I applied various information, techniques, and skills obtained from years of school and work that were
useful in this capstone project. In engaging with the young students, I gained experience in learning how to communicate
environmental literacy to an audience I have never worked with before. The approach to spreading environmental literacy
and sustainability is immensely important to teach younger generations, and my first time working with middle schoolers
was a positive experience.

The approaches we took as a group worked effectively in getting


our students to understand the benefits of a native garden. Using
the head, heart, and hands, our students took advantage of plan-
ning, planting, organizing, and interpreting our native garden. I
learned to be patient with students and tried to communicate
environmental literacy relating topics to everyday things, so they
could remember and relate subjects to new environmental infor-
mation. Putting the kids in charge of learning helped them pay
attention and want to learn about topics they found to be inter-
esting.

I think working with Nathan on plant interpretation taught me a


lot about approaching teaching and encouraging students to ap-
preciate learning because they want to know about something
rather than forcing them to learn something they might not find
important. Now having been on the teaching side of education, I
realize how important place-based education can be, and I wish I
had more opportunities as a kid to have these educational experi-
ences. Seeing the knowledge in Nathan was incredible because
once he got familiar with the plants he easily remembered a few
characteristics he found interesting to help him identify the
plant. Different styles of education are necessary for the future
especially in environmental literacy and to use them is key for
education moving forward. From this capstone project with Los
Arboles, I have gained far more than I anticipated both about na-
tive plant species but also how to facilitate and interact with mid-
dle schoolers to get them engaged in learning through place-
based education with the head, heart, and hands.
Report 3, Page 13

Individual Reflections
Vivian

The time I spent at Los Arboles with my peers and students, expanded my values, overthrew my assumptions and taught me
to cultivate new learning experiences. Coming into this opportunity I did not know what to expect. My assumptions were all
over the place since I had no previous experience in environmental education nor did I have experience with working with
students of this age group which made it somewhat discouraging at times but overall was worth it once I learned to find
ways to relate to them. During each session I tried my best to stay conscious that this is a give-and-take environmental liter-
acy learning experience. Although, as facilitators we are guiding and helping the students improve their environment, learn-
ing experience, and empowering them through our project development, we are also learning from and becoming empow-
ered by them.

As each session at LAMS went on it became more effortless to notice the growth in our small community. Working alongside
the students made me forget it was a project sometimes. I grew to value the importance of what we were doing and why we
were doing it which made me lose sight of the end project at times and allowed me to be more focused on the day-to-day
activities like making sure they felt engaged and
overall just having a good time while informally
and subconsciously learning. Every session, it felt
very rewarding to see the students become more
and more interested in the same things I am. Alt-
hough having felt this, as soon as I left LAMS after
every session I quickly remembered there was
always room for improvement for the next ses-
sion and that there still have to be prepping and
planning until then. For me personally, this was
the most difficult part of the capstone process.
During the planning sessions of the project it was
easy to get caught up in discouragement because
our plans were constantly changing as each ses-
sion came along. Although, this was done collec-
tively it made it difficult to carry out the activities with confidence because we were not always sure it would work in our
favor. This also became a learning experience and something I overcame because the rewarding experiences of the project
outweighed this as well as feeling as though I took initiative to improve.

Seeing the students start off as very quiet in the beginning of the semester and as time progressed having them greet us, re-
tain information, and work with another with enthusiasm definitely inclines me to believe we all received a successful out-
come from this partnership. Our project gave our students the opportunity to bring thoughtful ideas and allowed them to
show off their familiarity of native plants. I know this to be true because many of the students displayed good reactions. For
example, Julie had informed us that Nathan did not really participate in classroom activities but it was great to see him come
into the classroom and express his passions in art and point out what he contributed to the sign. It surprised me to come
back to the classroom and see them identify plants, and remember what the plants look like because they planted them
themselves. There are various other experiences where our students took pride in their work, and even just being able to
see the daily changes in them continued to encourage me and offset my initial assumptions. I can now say I am able to see us
fostering our goals of this partnership. I believe I have accredited there is more to learning than in a formal classroom set-
ting, my interactions with the students are teaching both of us how we can access a deeper learning and engagement with
the world around us. As for the future, I am confident this experience has enlightened myself and the students to cultivate
the authentic experiences necessary for the future.
Report 3, Page 14

Individual Reflections
Nick

The past several weeks working with the


Los Arboles Middle School has been an eye
opening and fulfilling experience. I grew up
in Marina and actually attended Los Arboles
in 6th grade, so returning to my old stomp-
ing grounds was a really quite odd for me at
first. As soon as I stepped onto the campus,
I began to have flashbacks of all the different
memories I had at the school. I even recog-
nized a few members of the staff that had
been around when I was only twelve years
old.

Before working with the students at Los


Arboles I really wasn’t sure what to ex-
pect. My experience with environmental
education was fairly limited and I wasn’t
quite sure what types of work we would be
doing with the students and if I would even
be interested in any of it. When I found out that one of the possible topics for our capstone was planning out and developing
a native plant garden with interpretation, I was immediately intrigued. Throughout the course of several class meetings, I
learned a lot about the joy and the challenges of teaching students about environmental literacy and environmental stew-
ardship. One of the biggest challenges that my group and I faced throughout the semester was how to come up with a plan
that worked with both our native plant group and Julie Hawes, the instructor of the environmental literacy class we were
working with. This taught my group and I how to flexible with planning and to realize that the plan you have in place isn’t
always the plan you’re going to end up with.
Out of the many skills I gained throughout the semester of working with the students at Los Arboles, I would have to say my
ability to interpret environmental literacy has improved the most. When I first attempted to explain some of the key charac-
teristics of our local flora, I felt that I was over explaining things at time. I was able to adjust my approach to teaching the
students by simplifying the information and this became a far more effective method for teaching the students.

As a facilitator and leader of this experience with the Los Arboles students, I feel that it went very well, and it was a positive
adventure for our whole group that taught us key skills in problem solving and environmental literacy. I think we were able
to make a real impact on the student’s engagement and interest in environmental stewardship. A couple of our students
seemed to really blossom when they were involved in our project. Nathan and Jorge seemed to be willing to working hard at
whatever task was thrown their way and seemed to take a lot of pride in the work that they contributed to the native path-
way. I believe that this experience has benefitted both my native plant group and every student from Los Arboles that
helped us develop our beautiful native pathway!
Report 3, Page 15

Literature Cited
Singleton, J. (2015). Head, heart, and hands model for transformative learning: place as context for changing sustainability
values. Journal of Sustainability Education, 9. Available from https://is.gd/zoHpUA

Smith, G. A., & Sobel, D. (2010). Place- and community-based education in schools. New York, NY: Routledge.

Our finished pathway and sign.


Our group would like to express our gratitude for the help of Julie Haws and Tori Derr in
facilitating this project, as well as plant donations from Return of the Natives.