Here at Regents School of Austin our campus is blessed to have a science and nature center. It includes a barn with stalls for farm animals, a large chicken coop, an amphitheater-like area for outdoor events, a classroom with tables and benches, and a sizable garden area for students to plant both fall and spring crops. Each class in grades K through 4 has on its weekly schedule a science and nature studies period in which the center is the classroom.
The nature center began about 13 years ago as a labor of love. A number of Regents families sought and received permission to reclaim an under-utilized corner of the school property that had been the site of a homestead and farm for several generations. The original farmhouse was gone and the barns and outbuildings were in disrepair. The families organized volunteer workdays and raised funds in order to give the students at Regents the fabulous facility now known as the Regents Science and Nature Center.
With the facility in place the teachers were invited to bring their students and plant gardens, take nature walks, or visit the animals at the barn. Many came and learned. Some came often, some came occasionally, and some came not at all. I worked here part of the time, when I wasn’t farming, to help the students with their gardens.
When Rod Gilbert became our Head of School, he decided all students should have the opportunity to learn at the Nature Center. He added Science and Nature Studies to the class schedule for kindergarten through sixth grade. I came on full time to work with the classroom teachers and develop curricular connections for the students. This will be our eighth year on the class schedule and we continue to grow and flourish.
The Regents Mission Statement is at the core of all activities and lessons. It states:
“The mission of Regents School is to provide a classical and Christian education, founded upon and informed
by a Christian worldview, that equips students to know, love, and practice that which is true, good, and beautiful, and challenges them to strive for excellence as they live purposefully and intelligently in the service of God and man.” Each lesson or activity should include elements that lead to understanding (to know), attract attention and stimulate the emotions (to love), and reinforce the acquiring of wisdom that informs the will (to practice). Using (and honing) our skill of observation and tapping into our curiosity, we begin to explore our world. With grade level science curricula and a Bible we discover the creatures and materials that are a part of our amazing planet. We are participating in what is probably the original pedagogy! Rom. 1:19-20 states; “…what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes- His eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, because they are understood by what has been made.” As we begin to discover “His invisible attributes…” we can begin to see ourselves in a more biblical way. After all, He has made us in His image! Pursuing a deeper understanding of God by studying the created world leads directly to a better understanding of ourselves as bearers of His image. It leads to a better understanding because it is the habitat designed specifically for us. This is surely at the heart of any true educational endeavor- to know our God and to know ourselves. Science and nature are simply the vehicle for this journey.
In Kindergarten we begin the year in Genesis with the creation account. We study the five senses and see how they can gather information about our environment. We study insects, the solar system, wildflowers, oceans, and we grow lots of carrots in the fall.