This week’s E-Connections shows how one teacher is developing global awareness and scientific thinking in young students.
Last year, West Mercer kindergarten students learned to compare biodiversity on Mercer Island and Borneo with their teacher, Sabrina Hetland, who then traveled to Borneo over the summer for a unique primate conservation project.
During a classroom presentation in early June, Mrs. Hetland showed her young students photos of different plants, birds and insects from Mercer Island and Borneo. Looking at an owl, one student said, “I saw one of these in Pioneer Park!” But no one had seen the brightly colored hornbill in the neighborhood. “He lives in Borneo!“ they exclaimed.
The brightly colored blooms of a rhododendron look similar to the wild orchids growing in the jungles of Borneo, and a colorful Borneo spider is only slightly familiar to the ones we see in our gardens. The kindergarten students spent time in small groups discussing the similarities and differences of the species. Then they decided together which place they belong to.
“I am very impressed by your scientific thinking,” said Mrs. Hetland. "All scientists observe, ask questions, and discuss their hypothesis with other scientists.”
"My trip was amazing and such a life-changing experience," she said. "When you close your eyes, while sitting quietly, you hear the most diverse and breath-taking sounds." Hetland observed the day-to-day research at the Danau Girang Field Center and conducted inquiry research in the jungle, comparing the visible animals on the riverbanks to those in the interior of the jungle. The conservation projects in Sukau encourage community participation, with special emphasis on children. "Their goal," says Hetland, "is to help the people and animals live in peace while conserving the amazing and rare animals around them."
Hetland believes her trip strengthened her science skills and helped her become a better teacher. "I also feel a call," she said, "to find ways to connect my students and community to the wonderful conservation projects that are going on in the village of Sukau."