Earth Studies, now in its 16th year, is a comprehensive, outdoor-based Nature education program that takes place among the ponderosa pines of the 611-acre Pueblo Mountain Park. Started in 2002 to serve the 5th grade students of Pueblo School District 60, the program currently consists of several full days of experiential education spread over the school year. Lessons are built around natural science themes and cover state and district educational standards in all the major academic fields (science, geography, reading, writing, mathematics, history, health, physical education). MPEC provides all bus transportation, and each student receives an Earth Studies workbook.
NUMBERS: For the 2017-2018 school year, MPEC is serving 53 classes, around 1,350 students. Since 2008, Earth Studies has served every fifth grade student in Pueblo City Schools (averaging 1,250 students). Extensive evaluation data collected over the last decade from thousands of students covering academics, impact on self esteem, and impact on attitudes towards Nature have been consistently positive.
IMPACT: There is no denying that students in our urban Pueblo school district, and throughout the country, are becoming increasingly disconnected from the natural environment. There is much research to support this observation that so many of us have made. For example: According to a recent GOCO presentation, out of the 50 United States, Colorado ranks number 1 in seniors participating in outdoor activities, but ranked number 24 in children under 12 participating in outdoor activities, and number 36 for children from families with limited financial resources getting outdoors. This disconnect should be a core concern of our community, and there should be a push to provide sequential, directed educational experiences that help learners of all styles make associations with the their world, each other, and the variety of abstract ideas they encounter in the traditional classroom setting. Through MPEC’s award-winning Earth Studies Program, we strive to offer students the opportunity to synthesize information about themselves and their environment. Being able to teach kids the foundations of science and exploration in a natural environment that offers limitless examples is an amazing opportunity for these students. Beyond the academic objectives, Earth Studies also gets kids outside – hiking, exploring, using their bodies as well as their minds.
Awards and Recognition
- 2003: Earth Studies won the Best New Program Award by the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education
Thanks: Along with fees paid by participating schools and districts, the Earth Studies program over the past many years has been supported through grants and major donations by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Mercy West Ministry Fund, Pueblo Day Nursery Children’s Foundation, Kathy & Alex Martinez, Sierra Club Youth in Wilderness, Chris Hulett & Sarah Felt, El Pomar Foundation, Anne Stokes-Hochberg, Tony Grampsas Youth Services, New Belgium Foundation, National Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation, the City and County of Pueblo, Burt Foundation, Xcel Energy, Target, Evraz Corporation, ENT Credit Union, United Way of Pueblo County, Kathryn Higgins, Patrick & Mindy Meiering and donations by numerous MPEC members.