Earthkeepers Enrichment Center
• The Earthkeepers have designed and installed a Butterfly Garden, a Buddy Bench, an Outoor Classroom, 3 Literacy Pods, and a sand play area called "Imagination Station" on their playground at New Durham School (NDS).
• The Earthkeepers have created a school culture of excellence, kindness, inclusion, and stewardship through their after school program projects. They are proud of their academic successes, and celebrate accomplishments outside traditional academics. Their positive energy is infectious! They are peer leaders.
• There are 165 additional elementary school children who want to be Earthkeepers, but the after school program is at capacity...
• The NDS classroom teachers, administrators and parents wholeheartedly acknowledge and support the positive impact The Earthkeepers have had on the school culture.
• There is a big, beautiful, light-filled classroom that is empty at NDS. It has a south facing patch of land outside the big windows, also empty...
• The "Earthkeepers Enrichment Center" has a nice ring to it.
• We have an opportunity to expand the Earthkeepers program to include all students at NDS by creating the Earthkeepers Enrichment Center. We only need to raise the funds for staffing for the 2016-2017 school year!
The Earthkeepers began as an after school enrichment program for educationally disadvantaged students in grades 1 - 6 at New Durham Elementary School in January 2015. It was a crowd funded project with support from patrons of Winnipesaukee Soap Company, and local and summer residents.
In the spring of 2015, The Friends of The Libby Museum of Natural History in Wolfeboro set a goal to provide museum quality nature education to elementary school children in The Governor Wentworth Regional School District (GWRSD) who could not otherwise benefit from The Libby Museum’s summer programs. While GWRSD provided classroom space, healthy snacks, tutoring, transportation, and support through the Home Link coordinator & the school counselor; the Libby provided program content, materials, and museum staff educator, Susan Berry. A handful of unlikely heroes set about creating a small garden to tend, but what blossomed was a school-wide culture of environmental stewardship, kindness and caring. Known as "The Earthkeepers" these students formed strong bonds with the natural world and with each other, inspiring their classmates and families to do the same.
About our video (above):
The first project at New Durham Elementary School was the design and installation of "The Earthkeeper Butterfly Garden" - which quickly became the "Pollinator Garden" and ultimately “The Wildlife Sanctuary” as the student participants’ enthusiasm and knowledge base exploded! These children quickly assumed a leadership role at school and their passion ignited positivity and project interest in the entire school community. Many of their classmates expressed a desire to join the Earthkeepers after school program, which was unfortunately closed to further enrollment because of staffing logistics and the original intent of the after school program - which was to serve a very targeted student population. However, it was clear that we had tapped into a unique opportunity to build on the success of the program, and to include more of the student body while maintaining the leadership roles of the afterchool participants.
At the “The Wildlife Sanctuary” dedication ceremony, many parents and grandparents were on hand to share their children’s success and enthusiasm. This event led to positive family activities in gardening, beekeeping and nature exploration as the children shared their new interests with their families.
The Libby Museum Without Walls was created in Spring 2015 with the intention of expanding the reach of the project. After school programs were held at Ossipee Central School and New Durham Elementary School. The Libby Museum Without Walls/Earthkeepers was named as a co-benficiary of the 2015 Wolfeboro Festival of Trees, and the Friends of The Libby were awarded a $10,000 grant specifically for The Libby Museum Without Walls at New Durham and Ossipee Central Schools. Six 9 - 12 week after school programs have been funded to date. In order to serve a greater number of students, a school-day program was planned and tested.
The first school-day Earthkeepers project was by grade level over 8 consecutive days using the “Artist in Residence” model. 168 students at New Durham School created Holiday ornaments from natural and recycled materials for The Libby Museum’s tree at The Festival of Trees. This project's goal was to raise the the funds for a Buddy Bench, which would be the Earthkeepers’ after school project in early Spring 2016 and would be used by the entire student population. Earthkeepers researched buddy benches and their successful implementations in other schools around the globe, held a school wide coloring contest, selected design elements from over 200 entries, and painted the bench which was rescued from the landfill, repaired and repurposed. Students from New Durham served as “Libby Ambassadors” at the Festival of Trees and spoke to patrons about their Earthkeeper program and the use of Buddy Benches to foster inclusion and kindness at school.
At school, Earthkeepers wrote and performed three one-act plays teaching the student population how to effectively use the Buddy Bench on the playground. They created awareness posters which students signed and pledged to use the Buddy Bench as directed. The bench was very well received and used with great success by all grade levels. Once again, parents and grandparents joined the Earthkeepers as the Buddy Bench was installed on the playground. The Buddy Bench project became the model for our expansion vision of the Earthkeepers program - from afterschool enrichment for a dozen students to a school- wide culture celebrating kindness and inclusion.
Next, Earthkeepers set their sites on creating the much beloved Outdoor Classroom - its design and expectations for use, and presented “The Outdoor Classroom Rap” original music and performance ... to educate and inspire the use of the new creative learning space nestled in a grove of pines on the outskirts of the playground. When the Outdoor Classroom was vandalized on a weekend, Earthkeepers expressed their sadness and vowed to repair and restore the project during a Friday assembly. A loud cheer and thundering applause from the school community illustrated how much the Earthkeepers and their work was appreciated, and how much the Earthkeepers meant to the student body and school culture.
And the Earthkeepers are just getting warmed up! Plans for 2016/17 include the design and installation of a fitness trail with activity stations and... a dedicated classroom where aquaponics and other earth-friendly activities can be investigated, where station components can be created, grade level science projects will be supported, and an Earthkeepers website will be created and managed. It will be a peaceful sanctuary of learning, collaboration, and kindness.
The development and maintenance of a positive school environment requires intention and daily work. The Earthkeepers environmental stewardship, social curriculum, academic collaboration and supplemental education services support consistency throughout the building. Earthkeepers play a vital role in reinforcing the school culture, “The Wildcat Way” - Be Safe, Work Hard, Play Fair, Be Kind through an appreciation of the natural world.
We'll continue to do this by creating opportunities to meaningfully express the foundations of our school through creative, service-driven projects. Moving forward, we wish to have the ability to interact and collaborate with teachers at every grade level in organizing school enrichment, and to discuss current school, grade-level, classroom, and student happenings. We want to celebrate achievements, share struggles, and brainstorm solutions.
• Earthkeepers will share common expectations, language, and procedures throughout the building via The Wildcat Way. We will create events throughout the school year to help maintain our culture of caring for the environment and each other, and enhance the school climate. During Friday Celebrations and special events, Earthkeepers will present on conservation, stewardship, school culture, and academic themes, giving students a chance to practice public speaking while recognizing and nurturing abilities outside typical academic skills.
• Earthkeepers will work together to collaborate on school-wide and grade-level activities. We will build on themes for the year, and plan family activity evenings and special assemblies. We will create an Earthkeepers website to showcase creativity and encourage collaboration from students, teachers, families, and the community.
• Through the Earthkeepers Enrichment Center we will enhance core curricular studies in the classroom through creative art, music, literature, hands-on activities, and technology. By understanding each grade's units of study, we'll focus on grade-level science and nature topics to enrich grade-level study.
• Several GWRSD grade level teachers and para-professionals, the school counselor, and the Home Link coordinator will serve as advisors and also help out with Earthkeepers. Earthkeepers facilitators will be regularly involved in conversations and meetings to ensure student success in learning. Being included in these meetings will give us tools to work with special needs students. Because we want to work with all students in different areas of their school life, we'll want to collaborate with special educators and classroom teachers to paint a whole picture of an individual student or class. It's particularly rewarding to share a struggling student's successes and lay the foundation of greater student learning and success.
• Earthkeepers tend to be very hands-on and project-oriented, so expanding classroom study into the natural world, art, music, and media will provide access to content through a variety of avenues. Earthkeepers love learning, are excited about school, and naturally assume positions of leadership.
That’s what the Earthkeepers Enrichment Center is all about.
We are grateful to receive both encouragement and financial support to extend this caring, responsible and respectful culture beyond after-school activities, into the school day and include community partnerships and parental involvement.
The Earthkeepers Enrichment Center’s goals at New Durham Elementary School:
• We will provide after-school programming for educationally disadvantaged children in grades 1 - 6, 2 days/week beginning September 2016.
• We will provide school-day programming to support classroom learning, facilitate project-based alternatives, implement school wide collaborations on special projects by grade level, offer special interest group projects, and structure earned-incentives for individual students, 3 days/week beginning September 2016.
• We will create a student-driven and managed Earthkeepers website where all students, parents, teachers and community members can access ideas, inspiration, and information.
• We will host quarterly parent/family participation events encouraging families to extend Earthkeeper activities together.
Thank you for taking the time to read about the Earthkeepers Enrichment Center. We hope that you are as excited about this project as we are!
Most of our children spend the majority of their time in front of screens, and most don't have the background knowledge and direct experiences in the natural world that many of us take for granted. Their desire to learn and grow when exposed to nature's classroom is apparent. As educators we believe that students should receive the best education possible and with the support from people like you, we can ensure that they will benefit from the inspiring, nurturing and restorative activities that only Mother Nature can provide. Many children in our population are educationally disadvantaged, and the Earthkeepers Enrichment Center will provide them with affirming and empowering opportunities that they otherwise may not experience. We want to be up and running when school starts in September. We can do this!
Finally, we believe that it is important to state that this is truely a crowd funded project. There is no state or district funding for this project.
The Friends of The Libby have generously approved the funding needed for the after school component, and Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Seige have provided the initial Angel Investor funding to open our doors at the Enrichment Center. We need your support to keep them open.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
For example, thirty Earthkeepers entered the 2017 Clean Water Week Poster Contest hoping for the opportunity to be recognized by the NH Water Pollution Control Association and New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and a chance to meet the Governor!
National Clean Water Week is celebrated every year in June to remind everyone of the importance of protecting our water resources. Members of the NHWPCA keep our waters clean in NH by operating wastewater treatment plants which help to eliminate pollution in our rivers, lakes, and streams. The Poster Contest was established to help spread the word about the need to keep our waters clean and unpolluted.
Students contributed in ways that were meaningful to them - by doing research, presenting their findings to the group, brainstorming ideas, creating art, or managing the project flow.
Working together to solve problems and complete projects deepens students' learning and builds collaborative skills. Through project based learning we are supporting social and emotional learning and we are creating a healthy school culture by helping students develop skills to manage their emotions, resolve conflicts, and make responsible decisions.
Innovations, creative strategies, and best practices combine multiple academic subjects to prepare students for a world where all knowledge is integrated. You may visit the student-managed Earthkeepers website portfolio at https://sites.google.com/a/govwentworth.k12.nh.us/ndsearthkeepers
Yes, project based learning works!
We thank you all for your generous support of the Earthkeepers Enrichment Center. We have the funding to keep the doors open through the end of Quarter 2.
If you would like help us keep the doors open, and would like to give a tax deductible contribution as part of your holiday giving plan, please write a check directly to New Durham Elementary School marked Earthkeepers in the memo and you will receive a tax receipt. Mail to: New Durham Elementary School c/o Susan Berry Earthkeepers ,7 Old Bay Road, New Durham NH 03855. Thank you!
"By the end of the day most of our outdoor gear is wet from recess, so we really need dry mittens and hats when we go outside after school during Earthkeepers."
Earthkeepers also gave the Sugar Hill "Elders" hand painted Gratitude Rocks to continue their tradition of sharing happiness and remembering to feel gratitude about the good things in life - like warm mittens and new friends!
15 elder knitters are busy working on winter gear, feeling needed, valued and loved by these wonderful children!
I am so blown away by the unwaivering support that so many of you give to this program - what a gift to these kids - this extended family of truly beautiful people who care so very much! xoxo! Susan