Nine years ago David Foster, associate professor of biology and environmental science, and his wife, Meg, began coaching local fifth- and sixth-grade students to compete in the York County Soil Conservation District Environthon Competition. Every year since then, the Fosters have devoted energy to nurturing children’s curiosity about nature and teaching them about conservation.
Beyond the Classroom
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In the same way, associate professor of biology and environmental sciences David Foster, in 1999, saw a need in his community and filled it, when he and his wife, Meg, agreed to coach the county-sponsored Environthon Competition for their son’s and daughter’s third- and fourth-grade classes. Nine years later, with their two children now a junior and senior in high school, the Fosters continue coaching local elementary school students preparing for the same event “as a way to get young people thinking about conservation,” he explains. From January through May each year, the Fosters meet with fifth-graders twice a week, teaching them to identify Pennsylvania’s various species of birds, trees, salamanders, and fish, and to understand the state’s forestry practices. “We take kids’ innate desire and curiosity about the world and nurture it,” explains Foster, adding that by learning the names and habits of the state’s various wildlife species, children begin to care about them and learn how to care for them. “We’re teaching them love of creation and how to grow up to be responsible adults,” he says.
For the last three years, Messiah education students have helped the Fosters coach the Dillsburg fifth-graders. Their work in the elementary schools has also informed lesson plans written for Messiah College’s Oakes Museum, which offers science and environmental programs complying with state standards for kindergarten through twelfth-grade.