GREENVILLE – “Insects”, “Honeybees” “Properties of Rocks” and “Positively Plants” are just some of the titles of Mandy Martin’s programs.
Martin, a Naturalist with the Darke County Park District, works very hard to increase the park’s presence inside the classrooms. One main reason for her efforts is that in the last several years schools have lost some of their funding, making visits to the park unafforable, she said. Another is she enjoys the relationships.
“When I go in the schools I get to know the kids and the teachers,” she said. “Building that relationship can lead them to come out here and get them familiar with the park. Even if they can’t come as a school group, they can bring their families out.”
According to Martin, most of the school programming is focused on kindergarten through fourth grades, but the District is open to programming for older students. All of the lessons offered are based on the Ohio Department of Education’s Science standards, Martin said. Darke County Educational Service Center Science Specialist Angela McMurry and Martin work together to make sure her programs match the school’s curriculum. Mandy makes it convenient for the teachers to utilize the park’s programming.
“The teachers can’t invite you in just for the fun of it,” she said. “They have to make sure what they are teaching is to the standards.”
For example, the “Ohio Wildlife Timeline” program meets the science standard: examples of species that have been endangered due to environmental changes and habitat changes over time. While Martin provides a list of suggested programs, she stresses to the teachers that she takes recommendations. Martin has worked with the Darke County Park District for almost 13 years. In the last two years, the Board wanted to increase its outreach to schools. Park District President Roger Van Frank believes that it is the District’s responsibility to bring the Parks into the classroom.
“We provide additional support and knowledge with our subject – matter experts to the stewards of tomorrow,” he said. “If we can just gain the interest of a few of our stewards of tomorrow by our visits to the schools, they will be able to continue the educational needs of our grandchildren and support and protect our parks in the future. “
From 2015 to 2016, Martin has had an increase of 896 students and in increase from nine school visits to 20. She attributes the increase to many reasons, such as: the timeliness of contacting the teachers – they are stretched so thin; the methods of contacting them, to make it convenient; and the personal contact.
“They like having that person reach out to them, making it simple and easy,” Martin said.
Martin does all of the complicated work to simplify the programs for the teachers. For example, she goes to Woodland Primary School quite a bit. The school has eight or nine classrooms per grade.
“I’ll do the whole day with each class one at a time, instead of 50 kids in one room. It gives them that individual attention,” she said.
In February, Martin will present her favorite program “Symbolic Migration”, to the Ohio Parks and Recreation 2017 Conference and Trade Show, in Sandusky, Ohio. Symbolic Migration is a fall program in which she had 12 classrooms participating. The program is through a website, Journey North which tracks wildlife migration data and seasonal changes. Martin had classrooms focus on the migrations of Monarch butterflies, which have crashed. In 2013, the population was the lowest it has ever been, she said. The Monarch goes to Mexico in the winter, but are losing their habitat their also. The program allows students to exchange home-made butterflies. They make individual butterflies and a larger class-room butterfly. Martin sends those to Mexico and the students from Mexico send their butterflies to the students here. When the butterfly pictures reach Mexico, photos can be seen, via Journey North of the children in Mexico holding some of the butterflies belonging to students here.
“It’s such a neat program,” Martin said. “It gets the children thinking about Monarch butterfly conservation. They are learning about saving this iconic species that is close to being on the endangered species list.”
Ansonia Elementary Kindergarten Teacher Melinda Thompson loves the ability of seeing the butterfly migration with the technology, she said.
“The kids loved being a part of creating their own ambassador paper butterfly and are looking forward to getting one from someone somewhere in North America come spring,” Thompson said. “Making the classroom butterfly was a way to show our culture, while learning about the children who live in Mexico.”
“Mandy has a wealth of knowledge and she brings excitement with her when she does presentations for our students,” she added. “I am very grateful for our Darke County Parks for bringing science curriculum into our classroom with hands on activities.”
Martin’s enthusiasm about the Park District’s involvement in the schools is palatable.
“My biggest hope is that the teachers take advantage of these programs,” she said.
For more information on school programs contact Mandy Martin at 937-548-0165 or by email at [email protected]