Laura Holtkamp loves nature and teaching students. This year the Loveland Intermediate School (LIS) fifth-grade science teacher found a unique way to bring the outdoors inside the classroom: Ecocolumns.
“This is all a part of our study of ecosystems,” explained Holtkamp, “We use two-liter bottles to build a terrestrial ecosystem as well as an aquatic ecosystem. The two ecosystems are combined into a column to show how water from a terrestrial ecosystem moves into aquatic ecosystems.
“The students spend time learning about the biotic and abiotic factors of each ecosystem as well as cycles and processes that are taking place.”
Processes like the water cycle, the carbon dioxide and oxygen cycle, photosynthesis and the flow of energy through an ecosystem. In addition, the students are also learning how to make scientific observations, and have integrated a photo journaling project into the lesson.
“We hope to compile an observation journal with both photos and written observations,” said Holtkamp. “The student groups have each created their own ecocolumn that now has live plants, fish, crickets and worms. I have created an ecocolumn for each class to observe that has no living animals and will demonstrate the effects of common pollutants such as acid rain, road salt and fertilizers on the plants, soil, and water.
“As a child, I was often in the woods, hiking, rock climbing and exploring. My parents instilled this love of nature in me and this unit is a wonderful way to pass my own love of the natural world on to my students. It allows all kids to experience nature in the classroom, especially when they can't get outside or don't have a place to explore.”
Photo caption (Left to Right): LIS Students Lexi Holtman, Tash Beck-Meyers, Patricia Garney, Danny Dunlop