Aligned Impact Muscatine County (AIM) has been working with community partners and local elementary schools to bring in organizations for enrichment activities as an extension of their class learning. Enrichment activities in elementary classrooms are designed to enhance the learning experience of students beyond the regular curriculum. These activities are meant to stimulate students’ intellectual curiosity, promote critical thinking, and develop their creativity and problem-solving skills. Muscatine County Conservation has played a key role in these activities. Some of these activities have included learning about bird habitats, parents and offspring, animals, fossils and dinosaurs, plant ecosystems, plate tectonics, and geocaching.
“As in all of our programs, we try to ignite interest by putting the spark in them so they want to learn more. We bring different topics so everyone enjoys something,” says Michelle Berns, Naturalist for Muscatine County Conservation Board. “We want everyone to learn more about animals and the outdoors. I really love the outdoors and anything I can do to get someone interested in the outdoors. It’s my peace. Being outside makes people slow down in this fast-paced world.”
One activity Michelle did with Kindergarteners was learning about what animals need to survive. She took stuffed Audubon birds that made bird sounds. The room sounded like a forest of birds! The kids had to make sure the birds had enough space in their habitat, and they used hoola-hoops to show that space. The students had to go hunt for worms to feed the birds.
Muscatine County Conservation came into a first-grade classroom at Jefferson Elementary and talked about animal adaptation. This lesson went with Animal Survival, the lesson they were learning in science. The students were able to see and touch different animals that they may not have seen up close before. “I specifically remember the frog crawling all over her and the Locust skin,” says Kaci Small, a 1st-grade teacher at Jefferson. “A lot of students made comments about how they have the (locust) shells in their backyards.” Kaci also states that this particular lesson has helped one student become more interested in animals. It made him want to find more books in the school library about frogs and toads.
Enrichment activities in elementary classrooms can be a fun and engaging way to supplement the regular curriculum and keep students motivated and excited about learning.