The Re-Wilding Project Begins!

I am so excited to have stumbled across this ray of hope in the apocalyptic gloom of environmental issues. That nature is resilient and can recover from serious insults vis the following examples: The bringing back of the Atlantic rainforest on a large cattle ranch in Brazil – see The Instituto Terra. The resurgence of the Californian marine ecosystem as the otter population rebounds. The enormous changes to the landscape itself with the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone, rivetingly described in “Feral – Rewilding the land, the sea and human life” by George Monbiot

And when I think about it, there are more and more wild animal sightings right here in Contra Costa County: Foxes, wild turkeys, owls, raptors scoping out country roadsides, coyotes, pelicans and blue herons, egrets like white angels by the lagoons near I-80.

In our local cafe, ice cream parlor and restaurants are pictures of old Orinda with the 1950s cars and wide open hills. Wait, wide open grassland, with almost no trees. And now Orinda is covered in trees, it’s a forest of gardens, many of which are not fenced, allowing deer to flit in and out of the shadowed gulches and small clearings. Allowing them also to suck off rose buds and eat the most expensive nursery plants first.

The beautiful Oak woodlands of old California come back when cattle are excluded. Look at the fingers of forest that remain in the deep arroyos and folds of the tawny hills, places where cows fear to tread. The remnants of this climax community are waiting to spread back, with the cover and biodiversity that will support more of the once-rare native species. It’s happening right here, almost beneath our notice. It’s not just here either: The total amount of woodland has increased in the United States and in Europe as farming becomes more efficient. Marginal farms are falling back to wild land.

What can we do to help nature rebound, and to capitalize the deep longing for wilderness in the hearts of our children? That’s what the Re-Wilding Project is about. Along the way, students will need to learn photography and surveying skills, they’ll need to identify local species and learn about food webs and trophic cascades. They’ll  research what steps they could take to restore wildlife based on examples elsewhere and writing grants to get permission and money to re-wild their strip of hillside behind the school. And then they’ll do it – plant native species, put up bird boxes, take out non-natives or whatever they can justify – and come back when they are grown to see the change they effected.

Today, we started. I’ll be uploading the full lesson plans and links at the end of the project. In the meantime, if you wish to follow along, follow this link to our lesson plans which have been tried and tweaked over the course of the day. Note that the project started on Feb.8th, 2016.

Highlights of the introduction were having students share local wildlife sightings and consider if sightings have been getting more common over their lifetimes. It was fun to see which wilderness pictures they particularly loved as they looked up their favorite places in nature and considered if these places were really ‘wilderness’. Finally, we had a quiet time when they wrote what wilderness means to them and looked up definitions of the word. A word which has many meanings, one of those ideas that each of us knows intuitively. Read more on this in a genuinely inspirational, surprisingly gripping book: “Satellites in the High Country” by Jason Mark.



February 8, 2016 at 4:14 PM Leave a comment

Plant 2 Trees Project Overview and Resources NSTA Oct.2015

The down and dirty, step-by-step guide for teachers who want to do this project with their students. Goes with the workshop given at National Science Teachers’ Association conference in Reno, October 2015.

Continue Reading October 20, 2015 at 12:21 PM Leave a comment

The nuts and bolts of connecting the science to solar oven design

How to help students understand how to construct and use cross sectional diagrams and ray diagrams to understand the science of solar ovens. Then apply it to their own.

Continue Reading September 22, 2015 at 2:03 PM Leave a comment

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How we are trying to ensure the solar oven challenge results in students learning some science along with how to fool around with foil and duct tape.

Continue Reading September 21, 2015 at 12:22 PM Leave a comment

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Continue Reading September 16, 2015 at 1:45 PM Leave a comment

Build a Better Solar Oven: Investigate Optics!

Teaching optics on a need-to-know basis for the “Build a Better Solar Oven” project.

Continue Reading September 15, 2015 at 1:36 PM Leave a comment

Design Thinking: Design a Better Solar Oven!

Post 1 in a series following the invention, implementation and tweaks of a new PBL project. Follow along, try it yourself, post questions and suggestions!

Continue Reading September 8, 2015 at 12:30 PM Leave a comment

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