Conant's Naturalist Program

Extending classroom learning into schoolyard explorations and experiences has offered valuable learning opportunities to Conant students through our Naturalist Program. Originally, teachers and parents worked with naturalist Bev Morrison to develop an environmental education program that is connected specifically to Acton's science curriculum and encourages exploration and discovery in the Conant schoolyard and the adjacent Acton Arboretum. Parents, trained as Environmental Aides, have continued the program. They take small groups of Conant students (4 to 6 children) outside and help them discover how nature works and how to communicate and share their observations and ideas. Most importantly, the children discover the joy of learning through their own observations. As Bev Morrison wisely stated, "An excited learner becomes a lifelong learner." Read more in the Program Guide.

Conant's younger students seasonally visit the schoolyard to experience the rhythms and cycles of the natural world. The older students are more focused on specific subject areas. Below are the primary focal points for each grade level:

Kindergarten

The walks focus on sensory observations and seasonal changes. The students learn how to focus, observe and communicate their observations.
Guides: Fall Walk | Winter Walk | Spring Walk

Grade 1

Students focus on the difference between living and nonliving things and on animals that share the schoolyard. They develop respect and appreciation for the animals that live there.
Guides: Fall Walk | Winter Walk | Spring Walk

Grade 2

Students focus on plant parts and their functions and how plants cope with seasonal changes. They learn to identify several common local trees by their leaves and buds.
Guides: Fall Walk | Winter Walk | Spring Walk

Grade 3

Students supplement their classroom study of birds with two walks focusing on the observation of birds in the Conant schoolyard and their habitats.
Guides: Bird Habitat Walk | Bird Nature Walk

Grade 4

Students learn to identify trees by their buds and how to use a dichotomous key. They observe the changes in the trees from winter to spring.
Guides: Early Spring Walk | Late Spring Walk | Indoor Winter Walk | Outdoor Winter Walk

Grade 5

Students study the bog eco-system and the forest eco-system of the Acton Arboretum.
Guides: Fall Walk | Spring Walk

Grade 6

Students select a small area in the Conant schoolyard and study this ecosystem throughout the year, recording the water, air, and ground temperatures and their observations of the living and non-living things. They also estimate the wind speed and record how a standard shadow lengthens and shortens throughout the year.
Guides: One-Page Prompt Sheet | Volunteer Guide | Site Selection Guide
The Naturalist Program, funded by the Conant PTO, has been very successful and demonstrates a valuable, working partnership between Conant teachers and parent volunteers. Teachers have observed positive changes in students who have been a part of the program over the years. They state that students display a confident approach in learning new scientific concepts and that their observations and communication skills have improved significantly.