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Project Wild Reaches 44 Houston Schools
HOUSTON — Houston teachers in 44 elementary schools are learning to bring nature and the outdoors into the classroom using award-winning program Project WILD "Wildlife in Learning Design." This is the largest training of its kind ever undertaken by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
While Project WILD has been taught before in various Texas schools, it hasn’t yet been implemented in a school district this big, said Cappy Manly of TPWD’s Urban Outdoors branch, who is coordinating the environmental education effort.
"We have never done anything on this large of a scale." said Manly. "And the word is getting out. It’s starting to domino."
In other areas of Texas, such as the Magnolia district just north of Houston and a school district in Laredo, teachers have also requested Project WILD training. Project WILD/Aquatic WILD is a Kindergarten through 12th grade environmental and conservation education program emphasizing awareness, appreciation and understanding of wildlife and natural resources.
Interest in these nature-based learning programs and the need for science education has been fostered largely by the new science component of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test last year. The TAKS test is a statewide assessment program for all grade levels and was first implemented in spring 2003.
"We need to know we’re addressing the needs of the teachers and at the same time meeting the mission of our agency," said Manly, adding that Project WILD facilitators must be familiar with the test before training teachers.
Houston-area 3rd and 4th grade teachers, 230 in all, gathered in the Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District in northwest Houston to participate in the three-hour program on Aug. 9. Cypress Fairbanks is one of the largest districts in the state and has a reputation of high student performance. The workshop was offered as part of teacher staff development days for teachers of 44 elementary schools. Manly is also discussing training with 1st and 5th grade teachers for next year.
Participating teachers receive the Project WILD manual with 122 activities including wildlife and wildlife-issue content information. Teachers are provided background information about Texas wildlife, management of wildlife, habitat and habitat enhancements, and current wildlife issues. Participants are required to prepare for the second installment of the six-hour program, which will take place Oct. 6.
Manly trains facilitators to teach these workshops, but since they all "have day jobs," she said, expanding the program is difficult. Facilitators of Project WILD, besides providing teachers with knowledge and activities for the classroom, encourage them to nurture student interest in the outdoors by taking them on field trips to state parks. "We teach people how to think about wildlife, not what to think," said Manly.
Check out the Project WILD page at (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us).
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