Participation in the From Beneath the Ashes program has been the
most rewarding experience of my 28 years of teaching. I have always been
a strong advocate of hands-on/minds-on learning and outdoor education, and
it is exciting to work with enthusiatic teachers at Fermilab. I come away
from my contacts with Fermilab's programs, revitalized and that excitement
spreads to my students, colleagues and throughout my school community.
In 1991 Bernie Jokiel, a teacher at Washington Middle School in Aurora, Illinois joined the development team for the New Explorers program, From Beneath the Ashes. Inspired by his work at the Fermilab Education Office, he authored an Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy Impact II grant which sparked the local school board to set aside a ten-acre Nature Center for the use of Washington students.
Mr. Jokiel, his Nature Center and his work with the Fermilab Prairie Experience programs, From Beneath the Ashes and Particles and Prairies, have had far reaching effects on the education of Washington Middle School students. Every one of the 650 students at Washington Middle School has direct involvement with the Nature Center, planting and tending prairie grasses and forbs. Mr. Jokiel's team of four teachers including Science, Social Studies and Mathematics each year teach 150 students an interdisciplinary curriculum that has, as its basis, the Fermilab Prairie Experience.
Bernie Jokiel's work has gained the enthusiastic support of his Superintendent and has involved partners from the surrounding community. West Aurora Eagle Boy Scouts have organized projects involving brush clearing and prairie burns at the Nature Center. The Aurora Tuesday Garden Club has donated money and prairie seeds for the Center, and the local Rotary Club has supported the Center with regular donations.
Bernie Jokiel's involvement with the Fermilab Education Office and its Prairie Experience Instructional Units has affected the entire West Aurora school district. The West Aurora High School's Earth Club uses the Nature Center and the Quadrat Study unit from Particles and Prairies to learn about and monitor the developing ecology of reconstructed prairie plots. In 1994, Mr. Jokiel, with the co-operation of the West Aurora Superintendent of Instructional Improvement authored an Illinois State Board of Educaiton Science Literacy Grant to advance the Prairie Experience Instructional Units throughout the school district. The fifth grade teaching staffs from all ten elementary schools (about 20 teachers total) used the Fermilab Prairie Experience Instructional Units in their 1995/96 curriculum. Money from the grant will also support the staff development of the 7th and 8th grade teachers by paying their registration fees for the Particles and Prairies Teacher Workshop, and it will pay for three additional computers for Washington Middle School.
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