Eastwood Elementary goes back to nature

Eastwood Nature Day retools activities with STEAM Hub assistance

For about a decade, a particular late spring event has been a red-letter day on the Roseburg Public Schools calendar. Fourth-graders throughout the district cluster at Eastwood Elementary School in late May or early June to enjoy the outdoors and study ecosystems as part of Eastwood Nature Day.

This year, however, organizers will be taking a break and regrouping. The Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub has awarded Eastwood Nature Day $3,100, a sum that will be used to revamp the program and bring it in compliance with new educational standards. Nature Day was one of five educational projects recently chosen as a STEAM Hub mini-grant recipient.

Eastwood Principal Nicki Opp said the advent of Next Generation Science Standards has shown that Eastwood Nature Day needs to be aligned with the new curriculum. In addition, the event’s longtime coordinator has moved out of the area and will need to be replaced.

“It makes sense to step back and take time over the next year to get in alignment to meet the new standards, and to adjust some activities to the third-grade level that will align with changes to the standards,” Opp said.

In the past, about 400 students have converged at Eastwood annually to visit six stations on school grounds. Volunteers including Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife retirees, former science teachers and Native American storytellers have been on hand to help children experience the wonders of wetlands and riparian zones. Students have been able to examine water samples under microscopes, observe wildlife from riverbanks, learn the traditions of a Native American plank house and study salmon life cycles at the campus fish hatchery.

Activities at Eastwood in the past have been open not only to Roseburg Public Schools students but also to visiting groups of children such as homeschooled kids and students from Cobb Street Learning Center.

With the help of the STEAM Hub mini-grant, organizers hope to extend the benefits of Eastwood Nature Day even farther afield.

“The ultimate goal is to complete lesson plans and have kits for neighboring districts who don’t have the resources to pull off a nature day on their campus, to check out and teach the activities themselves on our campus,” Opp said.

With planning and a little restructuring, Eastwood Nature Day could be a springboard to helping hundreds more student each year understand and better appreciate the great outdoors.