The Earth Force Program involves an in depth six-step model that combines the best of civic engagement, environmental education, and STEM. Youth work together through educator facilitation to design and implement a project to explore root causes and address a policyor practice related to the environmental issue that they identify in their community. Earth Force's focus is on civic engagement that helps learners to become active participants in their communities by conducting balanced research, building strong community partnerships, and making decisions as a democratic group.
7th Graders decided to work in the woods where the Discovery students play at recess. They identified the problem in the woods being that the students go past the border which causes the native species to get trampled and leave a niche for the invasive plants to take over. The 7th Graders decided to create a border based on the problem they had been facing in the woods. The new border is now a rope fence that spans between the trees outlining the original border. The next step was to remove the invasive species. The students learned about the invasive and native species by research and a guest speaker, Mr. Pavlovic, a plant ecologist at the U.S Geological Survey. After learning about them and identifying them in our woods, the students went out to pull them. After the students pulled the invasives, they planted native species that were donated to us by the Friends of the Indiana Dunes. When the pulling and planting was done, the students wanted a way for the other students to have more fun in the woods. The 7th graders turned to an expert at this task and invited Kim Swift from the Indian Dunes National Lake shore Douglas center over to help them discover what might work. That's where the idea of a natural playground was born. We also recruited the assistance of Discovery's recess aides. They gave us the rules of the woods and gave us feedback and ideas. This playground would consist of wood cookies, tree stumps, a sound wall, boulders, and a balance course. The wood cookies and stumps came from trees that fell from a big storm and that were donated from families and were cut into the correct size by Mr. Kokot. The balance course consists of bigger logs that would form a path. The sound wall consists of 3 pallets with a random assortment of containers and chimes attached to the pallets with doll rods the students can use to hit the containers and chimes to make noise. On April, 22nd at the Porter County Fairgrounds, the Discovery 7th Graders will have a booth to display are project. A group of students is also planning on presenting to all the grades on how to play in the new nature playground and why it is important not to go past the border.
Earth Force 2015 - 2016
In 2015-16, Discovery 8th graders chose to focus their Earth Force project on honey bees and the problem of colony collapse disorder. They set up 3 bee hives at the school and learned how to care for them, using beekeepers’ equipment and tools. They also planted a pollinator garden nearby, with 6 raised beds of pesticide-free native flowering plants. To educate others about the importance of pollinators, they had a booth at the Northwest Indiana Earth Day Celebration, made presentations to younger classes at Discovery, led tours of the beekeeping area, and made a final presentation at the Field Museum of Natural History with other Earth Force participants. The wooden benches they constructed and painted provide seating for visitors to Discovery’s beekeeping area. Care of the bees and gardens passes to the next class of 8th graders each year.