Agricultural & Natural Resources: Richard Louv’s words, “Time in nature is not leisure time, it’s an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own),” underscores the critical role of nature in children’s well-being. Inspired by Louv’s concept of “nature deficit disorder,” The Nature of Teaching (TNT) was established in 2009 to connect youth to nature. The Nature of Teaching became an ANR signature program in 2019.
The primary focus of TNT is to engage K-12 youth with nature to foster environmental awareness and reap the positive health benefits of outdoor experiences. The program achieves this by integrating nature-based education into the school environment through standards-based curriculum. Through this, TNT not only connects students with nature but also provides lessons that align with Common Core and Next Generation Science standards.
During K-12 Educator workshops, participants learn how to implement TNT curriculum such as building scent stations (pictured above). Photo by Jarred Brooke.
The curriculum of The Nature of Teaching is divided into three key areas: Wildlife, Health and Wellness, and Food Waste. The Wildlife curriculum enhances students’ understanding of the natural world, while the Health and Wellness curriculum emphasizes the health benefits of connecting with nature. The Food Waste curriculum explores the environmental impact of food waste. Educators have access to more than 60 free standards-based lesson plans suitable for K-12 classrooms. In addition, TNT includes five informal curriculum units that are not standards-based and are more activity-focused. These informal lessons are great for field days and after-school type programs.
Extension educators around the state have delivered TNT lessons to K-12 students since TNT became a signature program in 2019. In 2022 alone, 2,424 K-12 students benefited from TNT instruction, highlighting an impressive average knowledge increase of 16-31% in natural resources topics. The Nature of Teaching further supports K-12 educators through teacher workshops, with 17 teachers attending a workshop at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge in 2022. Attendees reported a significant boost in knowledge and confidence in connecting youth with nature.
Veronica Bullock teaching a TNT lesson, Adaptations for Aquatic Amphibians, in a Union County classroom. Photo by Jennifer Logue.
As part of the signature program, Extension educators deliver three educational sessions using TNT formal curriculum to at least 15 students. Educators are also asked to provide students with pre- and post-tests to better understand student learning outcomes. Most educators deliver TNT in their local school system over several weeks. However, others deliver TNT through school clubs, after-school programs, or other avenues. The signature program requirements for Nature of Teaching are on the ANR Intranet. Educators are encouraged to work across program areas to deliver TNT.
Starting this year, The Nature of Teaching will be co-led by Jarred Brooke, Extension wildlife specialist, and Veronica Bullock, ANR educator, Franklin County. Jarred and Veronica have a long history with the TNT program and are excited to lead TNT into the future.
For educators who are interested in TNT, we will host a webinar on April 2 at 10 a.m. EDT to discuss future changes to the Nature of Teaching Signature program. You can register for the webinar here.
To see this article and others, please visit ANR Newsletter-February 2024.
Visit Nature of Teaching to learn more and explore the different lessons.
Virtual Workshops, Nature of Teaching
Nature of Teaching, Website, Purdue College of Agriculture
The Nature of Teaching, YouTube channel
Transporting Food Waste, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Benefits of Connecting with Nature, The Education Store
Nature of Teaching: Common Mammals of Indiana, The Education Store
The Nature of Teaching: Food Waste Solutions, The Education Store
The Nature of Teaching: Food Waste and the Environment, The Education Store
The Nature of Teaching: Trees of the Midwest, The Education Store
The Nature of Teaching: Adaptations for Aquatic Amphibians, The Education Store
Trees of the Midwest Webinar, Nature of Teaching YouTube channel
Adaptations For Aquatic Amphibians Webinar, Nature of Teaching YouTube channel
Jarred Brooke, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Veronica Bullock, ANR Extension Educator
Purdue Extension Franklin County