Some kids never grow out of the “play in the dirt” phase. And at EarthWorks, that’s encouraged. We believe that hands-on learning (also called experiential learning) is when children learn the best. For over 30 years, we’ve watched students learn lifelong lessons through roleplaying at Exchange City. We know that innovative and hands-on learning opportunities are effective … and fun. At EarthWorks, we’ve taken that same idea but applied it to science to offer students in 3rd – 5th grades an innovative way to comprehend ecosystems and how habitats work.
What is EarthWorks?
EarthWorks is a laboratory that comes to life. The success we’ve experienced in experiential education at Exchange City since 1980 gave us the idea to create another program in 1996, but with a different focus. At our 35,000 sq. foot laboratory, students discover a love of nature and the environment as they walk through each of our five habitats. With live animals in each habitat, they get hands-on experience to study creatures native to Missouri habitats and determine if they have what they need to survive. Students become scientists to not only discover what each habitat is like, but to determine if the habitat has what it needs to sustain life.
At EarthWorks, students become scientists. Our challenging academic experience is aligned with the Missouri and Kansas State Standards and uses research-based instructional strategies throughout the program curriculum. Students are immersed in a real-world experience that fosters active learning through an integrated Science/Communication Arts curriculum. Learning through our EarthWorks program actually begins in the classroom. Students go through a 6-week environmental science curriculum (provided by EarthWorks) and the culmination of those lessons is a one-day field trip to EarthWorks.
Each student becomes a scientist at EarthWorks. They are placed in habitats where they are to follow several steps to determine survivability. Students study live animals in each habitat and search for food, water, shelter and space to determine if creatures native to that habitat will be able to live. In each habitat there’s a surprise – a natural disaster has occurred! Students work together to determine if life can be sustained. EarthWorks consists of five habitats native to the Midwest. Students visit each of these five habitats during their EarthWorks trip:
Through our creative program students learn scientific concepts such as: food chain; natural disasters; experimentation; green living and more.
Like Exchange City, each student scientist at EarthWorks has a job. Students are divided into groups to evaluate different elements within the habitat. Just like a city requires many different roles, so does evaluating an ecosystem. Some of the roles students may have as scientists may include:
- Plant/Fungus Jobs (botanist, forester, Horticulturist, mycologist)
- Dirt/Rock jobs (Earth Recycling Coordinator, Geologist, Interpretive Naturalists, Paleontologist)
- Invertebrate Jobs (Entomologist, Invertebrate Zoologist, Microbiologist, Parasitologist)
- Vertebraate Jobs (Fisheries Manager, Herpetologist, Mammalogist, Ornithologist, Scatologist)
- Vertebrate and Invertebrate Jobs (Scientific Illustrator, Soil Ecologist, Wildlife Biologist, Zoologist)
- Water Jobs (Air Scientist, Biochemist, Hydrologist, Watershed Manager)
Benefits of EarthWorks
Students … and especially budding scientists … love EarthWorks! It’s designed to fit hand-in-hand with the curriculum taught to 3rd through 5th graders and enhance understanding of the world and our ecosystem. Students experience several benefits and hone many skills when they study the EarthWorks curriculum and experience the life-sized laboratory:
- Collaboration and teamwork
- Decision making
- Problem solving
- Making observations
- Collecting data
- Drawing conclusions
- Understanding of Midwestern habitats
- Hands-on learning with real life animals
- Lessons in recycling and conservation