Members of the Environmental Science Team extend a warm welcome to Darren Lochner, Minnesota Master Naturalist Program Coordinator. Darren has recently joined a statewide team of regional and campus-based individuals focused on the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program, which is a joint endeavor of the University of Minnesota Extension and the State of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Darren will be working closely with a team from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Extension to develop a new program under the Minnesota Master Naturalist umbrella: Master Naturalist Explorers. This new program will pair current adult Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteers with staff in existing after-school programs to offer fun, outdoor, science-based educational opportunities for 4th and 5th graders to learn about the ecology and natural history of their schoolyard, neighborhood, nearby natural areas, and the entire state.
Master Naturalist Explorers will address the problem that children are spending increasingly less time outside and, consequently, know less about their environment and world. It responds to the needs identified in Minnesota's 2009 Outdoor Education Legislative Report to increase outdoor learning opportunities for children and to train educators who are often uncomfortable taking youth outside for lessons. It also addresses outcomes outlined in the Minnesota Greenprint to provide increased environmental education opportunities for youth both at school and during play.
The goals of the project are 1) to create a series of outdoor, sequential, earth and life science-based lessons with targeted learning outcomes that address the new MN K-12 Science Standards, 2) to prepare adult volunteers to deliver these lessons in after-school programs for 4th and 5th graders with the aim of improving their performance on the 5th grade Science MCA exams and 3) to establish a permanent program to offer these lessons throughout Minnesota. The weekly lessons will focus on the physical changes in the seasons and their effects on plant and animal life i.e. phenology. These lessons will be divided into three units linked to The Minnesota Weatherguide, a natural history calendar.