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MAY 16, 2022— With temperatures in the low 70s, a slight breeze, and not a cloud in the sky, you could argue it was the perfect day last Tuesday. For students in Mrs. Jesmer's Universal Pre-Kindergarten class, the conditions meant something more: Nature Walk day.
With iPads in tow, and a pep in their step, students lined up to walk out of their classroom, and into their community. The walk takes students from the Primary School, up Route 21, across Main Street, and down Church Street to the Erie Canal Heritage Trail.
Once students get to the trail, they then use the iPads to take pictures of their surroundings. When we went along for the trip, students stopped to snap pictures of dandelions, ducks, and everything green in between. These walks take place during the Fall, Winter and Spring.
"So what it basically does is it teaches them all the changes in the seasons," Jesmer said. "They are seeing it, you know we’re talking about the breeze, the wind, all the temperature changes. But it’s also their community right? They’ve got a vested interest, and we walk around and see familiar things and what Palmyra has to offer."
Jesmer says the walks incorporate New York State curriculum as well as elements from the International Baccalaureate's Primary Years Program, as students work to identify colors and shapes. Even before students reached the canal path, Jesmer had her class identify and read out loud the road signs for both Route 21 and Route 31.
Additionally, Jesmer said the walks reinforce what students recently learned in their "Farm to Table" unit, which saw classes growing beans.
"It's the seeds, the soil and water needed to grow," Jesmer said. " They connect it all back to this walk."
From the walk, Jesmer said she will upload the pictures the kids took, which will then be used as part of their ongoing unit. Students will be asked to identify what they took pictures of, a move that Jesmer says will help build their vocabulary and spelling.
“If they took a picture of a duck, they'll be able to say I saw a duck," Jesmer said. "And then we can indentify what letter duck starts with, and they sound out it."
Beyond the math, science and vocabulary lessons, Jesmer says students learn the value of teamwork and sharing as they use the iPads in shifts throughout the walk. It all ties back to presenting learning in a fun way, as Univeral Pre-K is play-based.
“It’s a higher level thinking, but they can do it!" Jesmer said.