Today felt like the first day of school here at Merck Forest, at least that’s what Christine Hubbard, education director, said to the visiting fifth grade students from Dorset School. It was, in fact, the first day of the new pilot program: the Merck Forest and Farmland Center / Next Generation Science Standards School Partnership Program, or MFFC/NGSS School Partnership Program.
Chris has been working for months to coordinate and create this new take on education at Merck.
As she wrote in her fall newsletter article, “With the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards by the State of Vermont in June 2013, schools and teachers are shifting their classroom instruction to reflect the new standards, or expectations for student learning. After talking and working with several local schools: The Dorset School, Sunderland Elementary School, and Mettawee Community School, Merck has developed a multi-day program to help teachers meet the new standards. The developing program will focus on the 5th grade curriculum this fall, and will incorporate 6th grade in spring, 2016. Students will come to Merck for several field experiences focusing on decomposition, biodiversity, and non-native and invasive species, using the various farm and forest ecosystems found at Merck. In addition, Merck staff will also be visiting students in their classrooms to prepare them for some of their experiences on the farm and in the forest.
Students will have the opportunity to explore with a hands-on approach. They will be involved in a variety of scientific methods: making observations, collecting and analyzing data, and critiquing their discoveries. In addition,they will be constructing models to show decomposition, as well as mapping the various ecosystems from a strategic vantage points on the farm. A final culminating Expo will allow students to showcase their work.”
The overall goal with creating an education program like the MFFC/NGSS School Partnership Program is to foster collaboration between Merck and area schools, “helping to bring a high-quality science experience to local students”. In fact, with much of the new literature out on how spending time outdoors, getting in touch with nature, and A Forest for Every Classroom-esque experience, is critically important in helping students learn. With a 62 acre farm, over 3,000 acres of forest, and an enthusiastic teaching staff, we know that Merck Forest will be able to serve as the outdoor classroom for many area schools.