Fishing: Get in the Habitat! in St. Paul Schools

by Michelle Kelly, Education Specialist

November 2008

Diagram of the water cycle St. Paul Public Schools utilizes MinnAqua lessons to help meet science standards.

The lessons in the Minnesota DNR MinnAqua Program’s Fishing: Get in the Habitat! curriculum guide are aligned with MN Academic Standards for grades 3-5, and the Environmental Literacy Scope and Sequence. Its lessons engage students in learning that is relevant, place-based, interdisciplinary and fun – all within an environmental context of fishing, aquatic education, and natural resources management.

The St. Paul Public School District (SPPS District) has recognized the value of providing resources for teachers and students that advance education through environmental literacy and has incorporated several Fishing: Get in the Habitat! lessons into its new elementary science academic standards and curriculum framework.

This framework document was developed by the St. Paul Public School District to create a culture of high aspirations for its students and to provide coursework that:

  • is guaranteed, viable, and appropriately challenging in every classroom
  • is relevant to students' lives and goals
  • develops from student performance data
  • aligns with state and district standards
  • is accountable to a community of practice

The SPPS elementary science framework was the culmination of a three-year effort by teams of Saint Paul teachers. The framework lists the districts’ science standards and benchmarks that were adopted from the MN State Academic Standards as well as from the National Science standards. The framework also identifies curriculum resources used within the district and aligns lessons and activities from those resources with the adopted benchmarks. This framework is meant to provide St. Paul teachers with resources to address the base level of instruction necessary to meet standards for science in Saint Paul. The new science framework is aligned with the SPPS BluePrint and Project for Academic Excellence effort for curriculum review in all subject areas.

Well over a year and a half ago, before the final publication of the Fishing: Get in the Habitat! curriculum guide, MinnAqua Education Specialist Michelle Kelly worked with Randee Edmundson (former SPPS district science coach now serving in the Peace Corps in Tanzania) and the district’s science framework team to identify the lessons and activities from the MinnAqua curriculum guide that specifically addressed holes that the team had identified in the elementary science framework. There were holes where curricular resources used in St. Paul schools such as the FOSS kits, resources from DSM, NASA, VBLC, Sci ST, various websites, and BAC, etc. did not address some of the framework's listed benchmarks. There were several of these holes at the 4th grade level that MinnAqua successfully filled, and they were added to the SPPS academic standards and curriculum framework for elementary science. Of course, there are many other academic benchmarks in the science framework that MinnAqua lessons address, as well, but MinnAqua lessons were plugged in where other curricular resources already being used in the district left a critical gap.

To support St. Paul elementary teachers in using their new science framework, MinnAqua provides free Fishing: Get in the Habitat! training workshops to St. Paul teachers, where they can receive the curriculum guide, and has also provided 15 copies of the curriculum guide to the St. Paul School’s Materials Resource Center (MRC) that are available for teachers to check out.  Fishing: Get in the Habitat! is also available online.

Gene R. Carter, past executive director of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development has said that “Across disciplines, teachers find that incorporating the environment into the curriculum, sometimes as a central focus, using local issues explorations, community service-learning projects, outdoor learning experiences, and themes that cross disciplinary boundaries produces very positive results. Students are engaged in learning, feel challenged, and often perform better in school when they are studying their local environment. Learning about the environment can help students meet academic standards while providing them with the knowledge and citizenship skills they will need to participate effectively in environmental decision making.” Are you incorporating the local environment into your teaching? We’d love to hear your stories!

And, if you are serving on a district’s elementary curriculum team (science, social studies, language arts or math), or are a district content area coach or curriculum specialist and are interested in seeing how the MinnAqua Program’s Fishing: Get in the Habitat! lessons can fit into your district’s curriculum framework and be a resource for your teachers in using the local environment as a focal point for teaching, please contact Jeff Ledermann at [email protected].

For more information about the SPPS science framework contact: Bill Lindquist, SPPS District Science Team, Elementary Specialist, [email protected], 651-214-0480



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