ECO: Environmental Classroom Opportunity
“An environmental focus through an experiential lens!
What is ECO?
The Environmental Classroom Opportunity Program is an experiential classroom with an environmental focus. ECO is a public school, alternative choice for sixth-grade students in the Marcus Whitman Central School District. ECO is located in the Marcus Whitman Middle School in Rushville, New York.
The ECO Student
Students request to participate and are selected by lottery. This provides a student population that is diverse in terms of academic skills and socio-economic background. The ECO experience develops a strong sense of community among the students. A personal willingness to participate actively in the ECO curriculum is expected of each student. An interest in the outdoors that is not dependent upon the weather or season is necessary. An ECO student learns in a non-traditional classroom that is defined by his/her current challenge and responsibility.
ECO is a “Family Affair”
A commitment by parents to be responsible participants is required. Seven “whole school” meetings throughout the school year for parents and students focus on ECO Program discussion and student presentations. Parents are welcome to participate in learning activities as opportunities are available. Teachers provide parent-student-teacher conferences for all students in the fall.
An Engaging Way of Learning
ECO learning involves aspects of traditional curricula explored through experiential activities with an environmental focus. Several overarching themes connect ECO learning: Outdoor Recreation, Environmental Issues, Field and Forest/Flora and Fauna, Business Enterprise, Watershed Studies, Service Learning, and Community. Real-life application happens through many field-based activities, school community responsibilities, and a public audience for sharing and demonstrating learning. Some of these activities and responsibilities include: water quality testing, greenhouse plant propagation, gardening, fish stocking in public access streams, and maple sugaring.
A Different Way of Teaching
The instructional team utilizes block scheduling to provide time for learning projects and teaching sessions. An instructional day may offer a new schedule determined by learning needs, rather than by a programmed bell. Instructional groups vary in size from one student to all students. Flexibility is a key characteristic to the instructional process in terms of student needs, time requirements and space allocation.
“Caring for tomorrow’s environment by learning and serving in today’s!”