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 in this video clip from TED-Ed
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? (For more about this, see “Last Child In the Woods“.) 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.
Entry filed under: Biodiversity and Ecology, Creativity, Environmental Education, Life Science Topics. Tags: 7th grade science, environmental project, lesson plans, NGSS 7th grade, PBL, project-based learning, wilderness education.