Working with Return of the Natives (RON) students

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Return of the Natives (RON) is a school and community base environmental education program that strives to teach students off all ages about ways they can care and protect the environment.  Recently, a group of 1st-4th grade students visited Elkhorn Slough Reserve to learn more about watersheds and pollution. I had the opportunity to interact with the group during their visit to the Marine Lab where they got to look at plankton and other microorganisms. We have an activity that we always have students off all ages do before looking at their dish samples. We have them place their fingers on the stage and look at their nail and cuticles in order to explain the purpose of a microscope, and it’s always fun to see the different reaction.

This group in particular was very special to me because it was my first time that I had a student that spoke no English and little Spanish, he had a different dialect. I was told that he had just arrived to the US a few weeks ago. One of the things that I saw from him right away was that he was not afraid of being in a group with staff that did not understand him well. Some of the staff did their best to communicate with him using their limited Spanish, but how exactly they communicate I am not sure.  I also notice that his group members were very understanding and explained things to him as well. Throughout the lab I was explaining everything to him in Spanish and then saying it in English. I also explored the organisms in the dish with him. After a while he got more confortable and would tell me what he was seeing in the dish with a few words. After a while of exploring the dish sample, I noticed that he was more interested in looking at his finger through the microscope. After looking at his dirty little fingers under the microscope he would look at me and laugh. Overall, to look at organisms under the microscope you don’t need to know English, it is just as fun and interesting either way. He had a blast and so did the other students. They all came out with a better understanding of the tiny things living in the water; therefore better understanding the importance of watersheds.

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