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Hands on Learning for St. Francis Students

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Pictured from left to right - front row: Maven Kotyluk, Hannah Ransom, Chloe Austin, Denver Prevost, Braden Boucher, Landon McGibbon, Abby Prevost
Back row left to right: Amadeo Folino and teacher Rhonda Martel

June 20, 2014 - St. Francis Catholic Elementary School teacher Rhonda Martel wanted to do something different for her students. As a teacher of the Junior Communications class, she knew that many of her students would be more engaged with hands on learning and looked for a way to bring this experience to her classroom. Made up of students ages 7-10 who have been identified with Autism or a communication learning disability, Martel knew that this class would really benefit with a unique hands on activity that would blend learning with a physical activity that the students would enjoy. Martel decided to apply for a grant she saw online through Learning for a Sustainable Future and Environmental Education. Successful in her application, Martel received money for her class to plant and grow a butterfly garden on the property of the school. Fortunately, there was an already existing empty planter that they chose for their project. Bringing the learning into focus, the class researched the lifecycle of the butterfly, migration patterns, and what kind of plants were good for and also attracted butterflies in our community. The students then started their garden from the dirt-up. They set up, planted, weeded and watered their selected plants that included perennial sage, milkweek, Shasta daisies, and Miss Ruby butterfly bush. The students take turns watering and weeding their garden and are quite excited each day to check out its progress. For the summer months, they have even set up a partnership with the daycare in the school – Jubilee Heritage Daycare, which will have some of its students take over the watering and weeding duties during the summer months to sustain the garden for the class into the fall. Martel was thrilled with the end result and knew that her class was quite proud of their butterfly garden. “It is so nice for my students to have this type of hands on experience and see the garden take shape from just soil, to flourishing, healthy plants,” Martel explained. “ It is these types of experience that really engage our students and give them the opportunity to have positive hands on learning, success and fun at the same time.”

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