For 12 years, the Dallas Arboretum has partnered with Dallas ISD in an after-school grant funded program, supported by United Way and other generous donors, that provides after school enrichment in the areas of life and earth science.
S.S. Conner, Edwin Kiest, Ignacio Zaragoza and Highland Meadows elementary schools currently participate in the program. STEM First, for third-graders, and STEM in Action, for fifth-graders, provide participating schools with two nine-week units integrating real-world issues as they relate to the science content.
In the fifth-grade unit, students take an active role in investigations that are centered on a hydroponic tower. They discover how a plant is an important part of food chains/webs and how living organisms depend on plants. They examine plant structures and functions that are necessary to support healthy plant growth.
Through soil, water, and photosynthesis experiments, students are able to explain how plants survive in their environment. They explore pollination and its role in the plant life cycle. Students engineer and build their own community with the knowledge they gain.
In the third-grade unit, students investigate the composition of soils, how they are formed, and its importance to plant and animal life. They observe the characteristics of environments and how they support life. Students discover the structures and functions of plants, examine the insect life cycle and investigate the interdependence between flowering plants and insects.
Along with the program, teachers can submit for a $1,000 stipend each year to support a school project that focuses on sustainability. Last year, Kiest Elementary used the funds to have students build a greenhouse for their campus, while Highland Meadows used their funds to purchase supplies to expand their current garden beds, replant fruits, vegetables and flowers, and install a compost bin.
In the spring, the students take a field trip to the Dallas Arboretum, including the eight-acre Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden that was built to teach nature and science in a hands-on way to help students improve their science knowledge.
KERA recently profiled the partnership between Dallas ISD and the Dallas Arboretum. Go here to read that story.