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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Belfer

Standards of Excellence

Hands-on learning has always been my way of educating myself. I needed to SEE how things worked before I fully understood the concepts. It's part of the reason I followed the path of the informal, or non-formal, educator instead of a formal education certificate. All of my job experiences are based around showing instead of telling students what they're learning.

With working with schools throughout my career, I had seen on our educator copies of lesson plans, the standards of learning for different subjects, but especially science and language arts. I never paid them any mind until I began creating resources for the educators themselves. I had to take a really deep dive into what our education system was "standardizing" for our students to learn and how they acquiring knowledge.

Without getting into the politics of it all, I'm happy to say that the new North Carolina Essential Standards for Science, which were changed in 2023, require students to "model" more science concepts. For those who are not in the know, "modeling" on standards means SHOWING, not telling. Now, obviously this will pose a challenge for formal educators who still need to test their students at the end of the grade as part of state testing, but this is wonderful news for me and Marine CSI!

Everything we do is hands-on learning modeling! So now comes the challenging task to give our Watershed Walkabout program a facelift and make the necessary changes to adapt to the new standards. These standards will be fully implemented into schools coming in the 2024-25 school year and I have to be ready! This means some of the older, lesser used activities will be going into the vault for future use, some will be scrapped entirely, and new ones will take their place. It gives me an opportunity to spread my creative wings a bit and focus on the activities I want to teach, rather than just some I chose for their cost-efficiency back in Marine CSI's infancy.

With our 6-year anniversary coming up on June 18th, and with a new curriculum on the horizon, it's a great way to move forward in a smooth transition. We will be inviting more preschools and PreK classes to be a part of our new Young Ecologists program, we will be offering more experiences to even more schools, and we will be expanding our reach west to Duplin and Columbus Counties.

As a sneak peak of some of the activities we have planned, I'll share with you our migrating bird activities for middle schoolers: Beakology Decoded and Migration Mayhem. Each will discuss the need for migrating bird species to find the right kind of food on their long migrations from South America to Canada along the Great Atlantic Flyway. One dives into the beak modifications for each species and how they are specialized for each type of feeder. The other is a great outdoor game that demonstrates what happens to their habitat between their nesting and feeding grounds.

Stay tuned because changes are coming, but the standards of excellence in education will remain the same!

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