Students in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences cleared rocks Saturday and Sunday to make space for a desert tortoise’s habitat and an outdoor environmental education classroom at Copperwood Elementary School in Glendale.
The classroom and desert tortoise habitat are one of three parts of the $10,000 Heritage Fund grant co-written by Pamela Marshall, an ASU associate professor of mathematical and natural sciences, and Janet Sharkey, the project manager. They received the grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and it includes building a mini-desert botanical garden with native plants, a pond and a nature play area for children.
Marshall and Sharkey started working on it on Oct. 19 and hope to have the entire project finished by November 2014.
Sharkey said she had been inspired by Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods,” which addresses American children’s continually decreasing time in nature. The three-step grant would help get children outside and could help them learn with hands-on activities, she said.
“(The book) really sparked me to get kids outdoors and learn through hands-on exploration,” she said.
Marshall, who is helping develop the curriculum for the program, said students start out with an interest in science, because they want to know more about things, but, as they grow older, they may think it is boring.
“Educating kids about the wonders of the Earth will help us preserve it for future generations,” she said.
She said she hopes the program will keep them engaged and wanting to pursue a career in science or at least have an interest in science.
“If kids think of themselves as being part of nature, part of Earth, they will want to protect it,” she said.
Marshall said this project was not just going to be for science, but for other subjects as well.
In addition to ASU, the program also includes collaboration with the community. Marshall and Sharkey said the program has received $40,000 in donations and kind, which includes volunteering time, services and materials.
One of the companies working with Marshall and Sharkey is Goodman’s Landscaping Maintenance, LLC.
ASU alumnus Nicolas Potoglou, who works at Goodman’s Landscaping, said his boss had asked if people wanted to do volunteer work. He said he had done a lot of volunteer work before this and he loved it.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” he said.
Life sciences junior Cindy Hum said volunteering to do this was a great way to help kids.
“I wanted to volunteer to give back to the community,” she said.
Life sciences junior David Seto said that when he was younger, he never got the experience of going outside for class, so he thought this would be a great opportunity for kids.
“(It will be) a better learning experience for the kids,” he said.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @misslorijarvis.