Dunes in the School

BY NANCY FLASHER 

PROVINCETOWN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

 

Thanks to an ongoing partnership and application process provided by the Cape Cod National Seashore and Peaked Hill Trust,  Provincetown Schools’ middle school students, their parents and school staff have have taken part in field studies in our local dunes and dune shacks.  A mix of day hikes and overnight stays include immersion studies in cranberry picking, beach and dune habitat, groundwater access and the rich cultural heritage hidden in the Provincetown dunes.

Our Cape Cod 5 proposal is aimed at securing funds to help bring the dunes experience back home in a project entitled, “Dunes in the Schools.”  The goal of this project proposal is to connect our field experiences to our class-based studies through a series of follow-up activities that involve reflection and communication about the dune shack experience, with all of its cultural and natural history connections.

Participants will create reflective and instructional exhibits to be shared with the wider school community audience through painting, drawing, writing and construction.  This work will be shared in the annual Peaked Hills Trust Residency Program exhibition. We also plan to create some more permanent and interactive exhibits at school that can be used to educate the entire school.

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We are excited to connect this kind of amazing field study back into our classrooms and school building. Securing funds that allow us to choose materials to help us creatively express and share our collective experience supports our efforts to better integrate this kind of life changing and placed-based learning.

 

How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)

The success of this project will be determined in 4 key ways, both in the classroom and in the community:

Students, parents and teachers who took part in field trips to the dunes and dune shacks will be asked to contribute visual, spoken and written reflections about what was learned as part of their experiences in the dunes.  This will help us determine the value of such experiences for our students.

In turn, these reflections (paintings, drawings, writings, photographs, spoken word essays and video clips) will be integrated into a proposed school-based permanent exhibit (ribbon boards) that will be visible to all, and especially to our younger students who will one day also travel to the dunes and the dune shack as part of a growing “dunes in the school” tradition.

In a school building that houses students in grades K-8, our middle school students are often interacting with our younger students. They are also demonstrating what they know by mentoring and teaching younger students. In addition to the proposed ribbon board displays, selected students will build interactive hands-on displays that engage younger students in learning about the dunes and beach environment. These exhibits could be housed in the school media learning center.

Lastly, all the reflections, completed ribbon boards and interactive exhibits will be displayed as part of the annual Peaked Hill Trust Residency Program public exhibition. This event brings all dune dwellers and community members together for a mixed media showing of what has been learned by time and life in the dunes.

 

Benefit to the students and the school

The “Dunes in the School” project will benefit students in countless ways I’m sure, but I will aim to describe 3 specific ways:

Any experience worth having is strengthened by the act of reflecting on its meaning, and then expressing those thoughts in a variety of ways that are then shared with mixed audiences of peers, friends, family and the public.  This project will build on our school’s commitment to continue building reflection skills into our learning activities.  Reflective learners take greater ownership of their work and learn to hear and better respect the “voices” of other points of view.  The act of reflection also helps connect field experiences.

The growing tradition of taking our students to the dunes and the dune shacks is gaining positive and promising momentum.  Taking the time to process these hands-on and real-life experiences by documenting them and building these exhibits helps us formalize and build these important school and community partnerships with local and federal agencies.  It also provides the basis for curriculum development that holds a place for valuable, place-based learning opportunities. It also helps students protect and learn about local history, geology and natural habitats.

Lastly, being asked to construct and then share the exhibits with a variety of audiences at school and out in the community, helps build student confidence and communication skills as they are required to share their experiences, while also teaching others about what they learned through these experiences.

 

Budget (Please detail how funding will be used. Itemize as appropriate.)

Ribbon board materials for portable exhibits (foam core, fabric, ribbon, glue and wall fasteners)  $100.00

Wood, fasteners, handles and paint for construction of  interactive exhibits about beach and dune habitats $150.00

Printing costs for photographs of dunes and dune shack to be exhibited on ribbon boards $100.00

Art supplies (paints, artist pens, exhibition paper, mounting materials) for reflective paintings & drawings $100.00

Printing and mounting costs for interpretive signage used in exhibit $50.00

 

Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable.)

Dune Shack Field Trips and Residencies (October 2013)

Community Projects Class Reflections on Dunes and Dune Shack Time (November & December 2013)

Collective Exhibit Construction Activities (January-March 2014)

Peaked Hills Residency Program Public Exhibition (May, 2014)

Provincetown Schools Exhibition Installation (June 2014)