Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Project WILD

I just finished the Project WILD – Wildlife in Learning Design courses! Well, almost. My kids aren’t old enough to worry about going through the Science and Civics course that’s offered for high school students, so eventually I will go back and do that one, but I am done with all of the one that my kids can use right now. Yay!!

If you haven’t heard about this group of programs, then it’s definitely something to look into. They have a short video and a longer one that tells all about the program. We’ve used the activity guides so many times – both in our classroom and in group activities with our homeschool group. They’re fun, fast and easy to put together – definitely worth the time it takes to go through the training course.

Project Wild’s mission is to provide wildlife-based conservation and environmental education that fosters responsible actions toward wildlife and related natural resources. Project WILD accomplishes its goal of developing awareness, knowledge, skills and commitment by linking students and wildlife through hands-on activities brought to life through creative use of the activity guides available through program workshops. These activity guides are available to teachers, parents and youth leaders through professional training workshops. They are balanced and aligned with state standards of education and are designed to be easy to incorporate into current classroom activities. Getting the students intimately familiar with wildlife and conservation results in the making of informed decisions, responsible behavior, and constructive action concerning wildlife and the environment.

I’ll be honest – my first exposure to Project WILD was when a mom in our group showed us her activity guide. I wanted one, and if that meant enduring a 6 hour training course to get one, then so be it. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how informative and entertaining the classes have been. Just going through the workshops, I realized how much we tend to take for granted – resources that we don’t think twice about today are going to be major players on the environmental front as our children get older. As much talk as there is about environmental awareness, I think that wildlife education and conservation is an under-served area. Having these materials on-hand, with a good run-through during the training workshops has made it easier and more likely that I think about how to bring wildlife conservation into the running theme of environmental awareness.

The classes themselves were quite similar. We learned about Project Wild (or the specific category) and then did several of the activities. Afterwards, we chatted about how we might tweak or change the activity to suit older or younger kids, or how we might use the activity concept in another lesson. Towards the end of the class, we had a crash-course in learning how to use the book – how to look up an activity that fits the needs of your specific lesson. Most of the activities are organized in several ways; alphabetically, by topic or category, by age group, by time frame and whether it is an indoor or outdoor activity. So you can look up an activity that is specific to your current topic, or just as a quickie if you want a group activity that’s outside that takes 30 minutes – easy to find. It may sound odd, but I left with a very good understanding and ideas of how to use these books the next day with my kids. You’re more likely to use the materials you’re familiar with and I felt that the training courses I went through prepared me very well. Special thanks to Amanda Adair, Mary Kay Manning and Mary Anne Weber for putting on wonderful classes!

Practically speaking, we’re using these books quite a bit. I’ve been able to incorporate the activities in the guide with our science, literature, geography, math and art lessons seamlessly. Some of the activities work well in lapbooks and unit studies, as well as just add-ons to whatever else we’re doing. The books are kinda bulky, and since they’re bound, it makes handling them and copying pages a pain, so I sliced off the binding and put my books into binders. I put the Project Wild, Aquatic and Growing Up into one binder (since they’re all in a similar format) and the Flying Wild book into a binder of its own.

The Growing Up Wild book is huge – it’s a spiral pad that’s around 24″ x 11′. It was extremely difficult to store, so I folded the pages almost in half and put them in the binder. Then I just fold the page I want out to use it, or take it out of the binder completely.

Having the pages loose also makes it easier to pull an activity out when we’re going somewhere. For example, I tend to write posts at night and schedule them for the next day. So as you’re probably reading this, the kids and I are meeting up with some friends and frolicking along the Texas coast. Since we’ll have several kids there, and we’re going to be near the water, I know I am going to want something from either the Aquatic or Flying books – maybe both.  Having an activity available on-hand makes it easy to incorporate something educational into our play.

Project Wild is a national program, so check here to find your state’s info. The other programs are part of Project Wild, but also have their own web pages or sites: Project Wild Aquatic, Flying Wild and Growing Up Wild (early childhood, ages 3-7 – however I am finding enough activities that my 9 year old ADHD/SPD child enjoys that I am glad I went through the training course. Growing Up Wild is the only book that is available to purchase without the training course.). Project WILD is not the only program like this, I also found information on Project WETProject WetCity and Project Learning Tree, which is through the Forestry Service.

Another perk to these types of classes is TEEAC certification. I am not entirely sure just yet what all those lovely stickers mean for me yet, but since I have a handful, I am motivated to collect more – enough to make up the 45 hours required to get TEEAC certified. I am thinking that when the kids are older, I might like to go into EE work – through one of the state or national parks, so I am sure that this will help with that. Learn more about the Texas Association for Environmental Education here.

Are you using Project Wild materials? Or other similar EE materials?

Warmly,

~h

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