Kendra Buresch is a biologist who worked for Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole for 15 years, and for the Nature Conservancy as a field biologist before that. She received a 2015 Vision Fellowship to develop curriculum to teach young children about the Vineyard’s ecology. The curriculum will be used alongside the hands-on process of creating ‘Habitat Patches’ at local elementary schools with the children, and will be geared towards the next generation science standards, which will be integrated into kindergarten through third grade. Along with the Habitat Patch that Kendra and students have already planted at the Chilmark School, Kendra plans to begin one at the West Tisbury School this fall. The Chilmark Habitat Patch contains plants from sand plain grasslands, wetlands, and oak woodlands, to name a few, and has proven to be an interactive way to engage young minds.
Kendra’s goal is to introduce the program to other schools, including the Oak Bluffs Elementary School or the Edgartown Elementary School, where there’s a greenhouse. If a greenhouse were available, kids could collect their seeds, grow and take home their own plants, and have a plant sale. The curriculum will also involve field trips to conservation spots, and hands-on experiments and research. “The idea is that, if you learn this as a kid and grow up with it, you’ll become an adult who wants to be a steward of the land.” And, she says, “once the kids understand that habitat is everywhere, that knowledge will ‘trickle up’ to their families.”
As part of her Vision Fellowship, Kendra will attend conferences, including the National Environmental Educators Alliance Conference, to interact with other educators and get feedback on pieces of her curriculum. Kendra says,“I want vineyard kids to know about their island. I want them to know that nature, that habitat, is everywhere. It’s in the backyard and the school yard. It’s not just at Felix Neck or in Menemsha collecting crabs.”