LENS Students Take an Educational Walk on the Wild Side

Project Based Learning leads to new signage for Fishing River Trail

Kearney, Mo., November 5, 2021: Kearney School District fifth-graders Grant Buhman and Cole Langston became producers so that other community members could be consumers.

In this case, Grant, Cole and their LENS classmates researched their local ecosystem and created educational signage recently installed along the stretch of the Fishing River Trail that winds through KSD’s south campus.

Evenly spaced from the trailhead on East 19th Street and south to Meadowbrook Drive, hand-painted triangle signs and printed flowcharts portray and explain the cycle of life that joggers and walkers can discover in their own backyards.

The project started with a lesson plan by LENS fifth-grade teachers Jamie Luppes and Amber Hiley to teach students about how ecosystems are structured around producers and consumers, according to Grant.

“We researched on our Chromebooks about the ecosystem of the certain area that we got,” Grant said. “Then we would draw out our animals in their natural habitat, and then we transferred that over onto wood and painted it.”

Jaci Berntt stood with two of her classmates in front of their sign on a crisp, overcast Thursday and expounded eloquently about how the American Hornbeam bird helps produce the plant matter eaten by an herbivore Cottontail rabbit, which may, in turn, become fuel for a Barred Owl.

“Everything should work in balance, and it’s happening all around us every day,” she said.

The ecosystem exhibits are an ideal example of the Project Based Learning (PBL) that is the driver of all teaching and learning at LENS, according to Principal Rebecca Parker. As KSD rolls this instructional method out across other schools, the level of educational engagement among the students involved in this project is evidence that PBL works.

“This project is conveying so many important and foundational lessons and skills for our students that go beyond just the primary subject matter,” Dr. Parks said. “They are truly engaged in their learning.”

Dr. Parks’ assessment was reinforced by young Mr. Buhman.

“I feel like you’re out here in the wilderness, sort of, observing what’s happening on the board, instead of just sitting there on the computer. It’s hands-on,” he said. “I have definitely learned more doing it this way than if we were just sitting in a classroom.”

The best part of the project for the students is knowing that their work is going to benefit everyone who uses the trail, according to Cole.

“Everyone should come out here and walk the trail now so that they can learn something new,” he said. “It’s always good to learn something new, and I think this is a really interesting topic.”