Students discover nature’s classroom at STEM Environmental Education Center

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In Seagoville, Texas, on a sprawling 500-acre plot, a new adventure awaits students every day at the STEM Environmental Education Center.

Entomology students made custom bug projects with insects they found outdoors.

Trading urban surroundings with the great outdoors, Dallas ISD’s campers in the Summer Science Enrichment Program learn about aquatic science, entomology, astronomy, ornithology, and geology while making memories and friendships amid scientific discoveries.

“My favorite part about camp is that we get to meet new people and have fun during the summer. It’s a different experience,” fourth-grade student, Summer N. said.

When the fourth-grade students rotate through each EEC teacher’s area of expertise, they step into nature’s best classroom encountering mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

Every corner of the center is occupied by a chance to learn. Plants line the building, baby ducks can be found nestled in shady areas, and the anatomy of a tree is exemplified by the life-sized model standing in the middle of the play area.

Bob Gorman, the EEC’s supervisor for over 20 years, says this is many kids’ first time in nature.

“Yesterday, they saw a copperhead snake across the road. I love every minute of working here because I love kids and animals, it’s perfect,” he said.

Campers end the day by journaling their observations to practice their writing skills, and all of the lessons are designed for fourth-grade students by certified district science teachers who align lessons with TEKS, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science.

Rikki Schramm, EEC teacher and this year’s astronomy lead, loves being in nature and runs the facility’s vegetable and flower garden.

Her campers conduct independent research on the distance of the Earth from the sun, the life cycle of stars, and crater formations. Her class also witnessed the launch of a tomato rocket approximately 825 feet into the air. One camper said it was like watching a firework.

Ms. Schramm and Dallas ISD campers preparing to launch a tomato rocket.

“I like the wide variety of subjects I can teach and getting to work with kids from all over the district, of all different ages,” Schramm said. “It’s really nice sharing the joy and excitement of being around animals, the forest, and feeling the magic of it all, especially because they’re used to being in the city.”

For the first time in years, recent rainfall filled the center’s pond enough for kids to enjoy canoeing. Harry Monroe, the EEC’s aquatic expert with decades of experience, introduced campers to “Snappy” the snapping turtle to learn about tertiary consumers, and taught them how to measure water’s pH level.

“There’s so much out here they can connect to and care about. In order to want to take care of the Earth, you have to get invested at a young age,” Schramm said. “By them going outside, seeing all the animals and wildlife we have, it makes them want to come back to the EEC.”

 

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