AgriLife Extension modules help students learn about nature

SAN ANTONIO — If your child’s response to the old joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” is “What’s a chicken?” then he or she would benefit from educational modules available from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, according to Nora Tapia, the agency’s youth outreach coordinator for Bexar County.

The City Critters learning module introduces  kids to some of the wildlife they might encounter in both urban and rural areas. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

The City Critters learning module introduces urban
kids to some of the needs and habits of wildlife they may encounter. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

Tapia said the modules are available through the Wildlife Module Curriculum Enrichment Program of the agency’s 4-H Youth Development program.

“Data collected by AgriLife Extension from elementary school teachers throughout Texas show children in this grade have limited knowledge of wildlife and resource conservation,” Tapia said.

Currently about 80 percent of Texans live in urban areas such as San Antonio, she said, and while young people support protecting the environment, they have a poor understanding of environmental issues and how ecosystems work.

“To help urban youth better understand the natural environment, AgriLife Extension has developed museum-quality educational modules and made them available to elementary and middle schools,” Tapia said.

The modules, which target mainly third through seventh-grade students, are comprised of hands-on displays, interactive computer programs, videos, lesson plans and printed information on renewable natural resources, urban-dwelling wildlife, aquatic ecology and water issues.

The modules are:

City Critters — A multimedia module consisting of an 8-by-10-foot pop-up and static animal display. This module addresses the role of wildlife conservation and importance of natural resources management, along with increasing awareness of urban wildlife species.

Something’s Fishy — A multimedia module with information on aquatic science, aquaculture, sport fishing, water quality and water conservation. The module consists of a 3-by-8-foot 3D display with full-size fish replicas, interactive CD, lesson activities, videos and water test kits.

Wildlife Success Stories and Endangered Species — A multimedia module focusing on wildlife species recovered through proper environmental management and the status and recovery efforts toward currently endangered species. It consists of an 8-by-8-foot display, interactive CD, videos and lessons.

Predators in the Classroom – This module addresses the biological and social impact of animal predators, such as coyotes and mountain lions, found in Texas.

Wildlife Success Stories and Endangered Species is one of the multi-media educational modules available from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

The Wildlife Success Stories and Endangered Species educational module focuses on positive outcomes in wildlife preservation and the need for people to give some animal species a helping hand toward survival. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

Modules can be requested by educators for two-week periods throughout the year. Host teachers give   instruction for the module curriculum and are provided with an instructional binder. A description of each module is given, along with a response form that may be printed and submitted to schedule the units.

For more information, go to http://wildlife.tamu.edu/publications/extension-education-programs/ and look under the “4-H School Enrichment Module” tab.

Tapia said Wildlife Success Stories and Endangered Species, City Critters and Something’s Fishy modules were sponsored jointly by AgriLife Extension and by the Texas Wildlife Association. City Critters received initial funding through the International Paper Foundation, the Renewable Resources Extension Act of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We’ve used the endangered species and City Critters modules and currently have the City Critters module on display in the science lab,” said Lisa Rollins, science specialist for kindergarten through fifth grade at Ed Cody Elementary School in San Antonio. “The kids like to see the representative animals in the display and they like the flexibility of watching videos, reading the guide and having other ways to learn using the module components.”

She said teachers from several second-grade classes with a total of about 120 students allowed their students to interact with the Wildlife Success Stories and Endangered Species module as part of their science instruction. About 125 fifth-grade students have already interacted with the City Critters module so far.

Pre- and post-test methodology is used to measure the educational impact of these modules, which provide curriculum enrichment in the areas of math, science, language, reading and other subjects in keeping with state-mandated requirements, Tapia said.

“Currently, there are more than 2,000 students from Bexar County elementary and middle schools who benefit annually from using these educational modules,” she said. “We would like to get even more schools, teachers and students involved in this curriculum enrichment program, so we’re looking for additional funding to update the modules and expand our reach.”

For more information, contact Tapia at 210-467-6575 or Nora.tapia@ag.tamu.edu.

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