earthlabStudents from Millennial Tech Middle School at EarthLab Beautification Day this spring. The California Department of Fish and Game donated plants, seeds and native plant propagation supplies to support the event.

Elementary and middle school teachers are putting the finishing touches on a series of exciting interdisciplinary lessons for students attending the Summer Academy at Groundwork San Diego Chollas-Creek EarthLab, an outdoor environmental learning space in Southeast San Diego.  The summer academy will help to bridge the elementary to middle school gap in science, engaging 60 incoming sixth graders from San Diego Unified School District’s Lincoln Cluster schools. The San Diego Science Project’s Director Kathryn Schulz is leading the Summer Academy curriculum development efforts.

“We’ve written an interdisciplinary curriculum focused on water quality and water conservation in San Diego County that incorporates dynamic, hands-on science activities at Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek EarthLab,” Schulz said. “Students from area schools will experience a rich learning environment that strengthens their literacy and critical thinking skills across science, math and language arts disciplines. It’s an exciting alternative curriculum, with outside learning taking place at the EarthLab and inside instruction at nearby Millennial Tech Middle School,” she added. The EarthLab Summer Academy will be held July 31 to Aug. 11, 2017.

Teachers, too, will benefit from the EarthLab Summer Academy experience.  In a series of pre-academy professional development training days, Summer Academy teachers will work to integrate new California State Standards — English Language Arts (ELA), mathematics and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) — into their instruction, and discover how to design and implement inquiry-based, interactive activities for a variety of educational settings. Sixteen teachers from Millennial Tech and Knox middle schools, Gompers Preparatory Academy, and Balboa, Chollas-Mead, Horton and Johnson elementary schools have been recruited to teach this summer.

“We’d like teachers to experience a multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning science at the Summer Academy, then take this experience into classrooms in the fall,” Schulz said, adding, “Learning science this way, by incorporating literature, mathematics and hands-on activities, leads to a much deeper conceptual understanding of science.”

Funding for the Groundwork San Diego Chollas-Creek EarthLab Summer Academy is provided by a $90,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. Groundwork Executive Director Leslie Reynolds and Dr. Bud Mehan, UC San Diego Emeritus Professor of Education and founding director of the campus’ Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence (CREATE), are PIs on the grant. JoAnna Proctor, director of EarthLab Education, serves as director for the EarthLab Summer Academy.

Collaborating with Schulz on Summer Academy curriculum development are educators Marci Sponsler, environmental engineer and educator at San Diego Unified School District, Dr. Ovie Soto, interim co-director of Math for America San Diego, Jessica Nascimento, chemistry teacher at Hilltop High School and curriculum specialist at Sweetwater Union High School District, and Dr. Megan Strom, lecturer in the Dimensions of Culture Writing Program at UC San Diego’s Thurgood Marshall College.

Groundwork San Diego Chollas-Creek EarthLab is a four-acre open space Climate Action Center at the corner of Euclid South and SR 94 in southeast San Diego. On field trips or visiting with their families, students and community members visit EarthLab to learn about California native plants, ecosystems, composting and other environmental subjects through hands-on, garden experiences.

EarthLab is also a designated UC Community Station and physical hub that connects UC San Diego’s research, teaching, and learning resources to area schools and community organizations. CREATE, which houses the San Diego Science Project, focuses on leveraging campus resources to create and support K-20 (kindergarten through graduate school) learning opportunities, such as the Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek EarthLab Summer Academy, through its collective CREATE STEM Success Initiative.

For more information about the 2017 Summer Academy at Groundwork San Diego Chollas-Creek EarthLab, contact Kathryn Schulz, director, San Diego Science Project (kschulz@ucsd.edu).