During the New Roots Charter School Fall Intensive Week, Sense of Place, students engaged with nature, themselves, one another, and community partners learning about this place we call home. 

Fieldwork and service learning activities included habitat restoration, planting and harvesting food at the New Roots “big farm” at EcoVillage, urban beautification, and bird habitat restoration at Stewart Park. 

Additionally, during their educational cruise on the ‘MV Teal’ floating classroom with Discover Cayuga Lake, students learned all about the ecology of our lake, tested water oxygen and temperature levels, and collected plankton samples to observe under the microscope.

Sense of Place is named for an Education for a Sustainable Future standard woven throughout our four-year curriculum:

Students will recognize and value the interrelationships between the social, economic, ecological,  geological, and architectural history and current condition of the  place in which they live and contribute to its regenerative capacity  and continuous health. They will also be able to rotate from a local perspective to a global perspective by developing geo-spatial  literacy. 

The weeklong immersion experience is an opportunity for students to become oriented to learning in our community’s natural and public spaces. Community-based learning is a fundamental part of a New Roots education, one that is directly connected to interdisciplinary academic studies.

The week also included the school’s first community meeting of the year, opened by Sachem (Chief) Sam George who shared the Words Before All Else. Also known as the Thanksgiving Address,” these words are an expression of gratitude for the people gathered and the natural world, and are used to open important gatherings by members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. We are honored to have this rare opportunity to hear this address spoken by Sachem Sam George in the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ language.

Real-world, interdisciplinary learning experiences like these not only inspire deeper understanding and motivation, they also give students a sense of connection and greater wellbeing. The perspective and insight gained through experiences like these are useful in higher education, career, and civic life. 

In these times of unprecedented mental health crisis among youth, the most essential may be the positive impacts of spending time in nature, which has been linked with cognitive benefits and improvements in mood, mental health, and emotional wellbeing. 

Sense of Place week laid the groundwork for a year of meaningful learning, inviting students to use knowledge and skills from all academic areas and real world experiences to produce highly individualized expressions of learning. Shared in student-led conferences, this work was also the first piece collected for portfolios, a collection that will be built and reflected on over the course of the year to express the full range of each student’s learning and growth.

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For more information, contact Michael Mazza, Director of Community Engagement at New Roots Charter School, at mmazza@newrootsschool.org.