Williams Elementary Outreach
Hopkins Forest Educators
For more information about Hopkins Forest, visit http://hmf.williams.edu.
Interested in working with elementary aged students? Are you considering a career in education or do you just like kids? The HMF Educator position enables you to work with in Hopkins Forest, developing curriculum and teaching natural history to visiting elementary students. You would be the host/guide/instructor for several 2-3 hour field trip sessions throughout the semester. Some of the topics we teach are the history of the forest and the New England landscape; natural succession; geological history and formations; tree diversity and biology; and biodiversity and adaptation in different habitats –including soils, streams, and wetlands. There is potential to include many other areas of study as well. Field trips are primarily outdoors and are hands-on and experiential in approach. On weeks when no trips are scheduled, you would be involved in planning and setting up future field trips and evaluating past programs in order to develop some standard curricular modules for Hopkins Forest.
Testimonials from Students & Elementary Teachers
- My primary activities included designing a 6th grade field trip curriculum, preparing a field trip site/leading at that site, and designing a data sheet for the field trip. I was working closely with Drew Jones. I’d like to increase the use of the Forest for outreach efforts; the kids loved their experience, and many will probably come back to the Forest because of this experience. – Erica Lansberg ’14
- This spring I planned the field trip, learned about Hopkins Forest, and conducted the field trip. Drew was really helpful in making sure we knew a lot about Hopkins Forest. – Ellie Wachtel ’17
- This fall I spent my time creating lesson plans, leading field trips, and preparing for field trips. Drew and Jennifer were always prompt and responsive with emails. Drew really understood that we were unfamiliar with the forest at first. – Will Gutierrez ’16
- The exploration was terrific along with using the keys to identify the life found in the stream, pond and forrest. Hopkins Forest offered extended classroom learning, engagement with nature, and unstructured exploration. Loved finding the caddisfly homes made from different materials and relating that to early cultural activity being determined by the environment. Thank you. The Williams leaders and Drew were wonderful guides in this exploration. – 6th grade teacher Jane Culnane
- Experience was the best visit for my class ever. – 6th grade teacher Tony Coniglio
- It was a very good trip! Loved the explanations for history and use of land. – 6th grade teacher Tricia Bitteker
Letter from Drew Jones
So here’s a question: what do red-velvet mites, red-spotted newts and mayfly nymphs all have in common? Answer: they all abound in and around Hopkins Forest in spring and were the subject of a recent ecosystem investigation by sixth graders from Williamstown Elementary School. On a sunny morning in early May, the 65 students, representing the entire 6th grade, came out to the forest to explore three distinct habitat types within Hopkins Forest and to compare the fauna that dwells within them.
Guided by Williams students, Erica Landsberg ’14 and Ellie Wachtel, ’17, the kids spent about 45 minutes at each of the three study areas: a small farm pond, a first-order woodland stream and the soil beneath a sugar maple grove. In the wetlands, students used dip nets to sift through the substrates and extract such varying creatures as newts, diving beetles, water striders, cranefly larva, caddisflies and two-lined salamanders. By contrast, the upland creatures were highlighted by red-backed salamanders, wolf spiders, centipedes and, of course, those flashy, albeit diminutive red-velvet mites.
At each site students were asked to take a close look at their captures and record at their findings. Aided by magnifying boxes, field guides and taxonomic keys, they were able to identify many of these small animals and to discern some of the distinguishing characteristics of each: the keeled tail of the newt, the thin foliate gills of the mayflies, and the chewing mandibles of the ground beetles. The bottom line was to make the connection between habitats and their resident creatures and to identify which adaptations most closely tie an animal to its environment. What makes an organism more successful in the forest soil, for example, than the depths of the stream? There’s really no better a place to make these discoveries than out in the forest, (pond, or stream).
This spring’s ecosystem exploration was one of several field trips that we hosted for the local elementary school in Hopkins Forest this past year. In the fall, Williams students Sara Hassan ‘15 and William Gutierrez ‘16 hosted visits — one featuring a forest history investigation and the other a foray into tree biology, identification and measuring. This partnership between Williams and the local elementary school has been facilitated by the Williams Center for Learning in Action, which sponsored the “student educator” positions at Hopkins Forest and assisted with coordination. We hope to expand the program in the future in order to introduce many more local primary-schoolers to the wonders of hands-on learning while giving our undergraduates experience in this important area of education.