Lake Zurich 3rd-graders present solutions to Cuba Marsh problems
Third-graders' investigation of environmental problems at a forest preserve and presentations before two government agencies this week showed how some Lake Zurich students are gaining what educators call 21st-century learning skills.
May Whitney Elementary School teacher Christine Hosteland's class presented findings and solutions regarding Cuba Marsh to the Lake Zurich Unit District 95 board Thursday night. They appeared before Lake County Forest Preserve District officials Monday.
Cuba Marsh is near Barrington and Lake Zurich in unincorporated Lake County. The preserve spans 781 acres and features marsh, woodland and grassland.
As part of a push toward the 21st-century learning model, the May Whitney students used strategies -- not just books in preparation for a test -- to investigate, research and comprehend solutions for a real community problem at Cuba Marsh. Hosteland's effort came in her role of having an elementary demonstration classroom.
May Whitney Principal Chris Martelli said he was pleased with how the students learned by going to Cuba Marsh.
"The hope is, is that if we give them an authentic problem like this, that their engagement level and their intrinsic motivation goes up," Martelli said.
Hosteland's assignment to the 21 third-graders was to probe the environmental problems at Cuba Marsh. Forest preserve district environmental education manager Eileen Davis joined the children for the roughly two-hour investigation as they learned the third-grade life science standards while addressing an authentic problem.
"I started teaching them about life cycles," Hosteland said. "And all of a sudden I said, 'Why am I teaching them? They can teach themselves.' And I said, 'Go find whatever you can about life cycles.' They just ran with it. They grabbed iPads, they grabbed books and were just teaching each other (at the marsh) instead of me teaching them."
Students gained communication skills from the assignment because they collaborated on a report about the marsh that found European buckthorn and garlic mustard are threatening the natural habitat.
Possible solutions from the children include pulling the garlic mustard from the ground, roots and all, in the first year of a life cycle. They recommend placing the garlic mustard in a black bag so the sun turns it into liquid.
To deal with the European buckthorn, the third-graders suggest felling the trees and painting herbicide on the stumps. They said the community could visit Cuba Marsh to help get rid of the invasive plants on specific pulling days.
Davis told the District 95 board the third-graders were a good example of Lake County residents engaging with the forest district.
"On a professional level, it was really, really rewarding to work with these students," Davis said.
Hosteland said the class is expected to return to Cuba Marsh in the spring to yank the garlic mustard.