Gahanna Fall

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↑ Elementary School students participate in the new program

How one schools-parks partnership is growing a love for the outdoors in Gahanna students → By Mary Szymkowiak

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n a recent beautiful September school day, 75 Royal Manor Elementary School students waded into a creek, imagining themselves as reallife naturalists. This customized program is just one of many born from a creative collaboration between the Gahanna Parks & Recreation Department (GPRD) and Gahanna Jefferson Public Schools (GJPS), and this partnership is stoking a love for the natural world in area students. Teacher Shanna Mann said her third-grade students were able to record their findings, thoughts, and feelings during the Creekside Exploration program, inspiring the students to produce narrative stories that stuck with them long after the end-of-day bell rang. “This was a phenomenal experience that many students claimed was their best day of school ever,” she said. “There is nothing better than providing students with authentic opportunities to engage and apply their classroom learning,” Mann continued. “This partnership between GPRD, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and Royal Manor

UNIQUELY GAHANNA • NOVEMBER 2021

Elementary created an exciting, hands-on learning opportunity that enriched the science, reading, and writing curriculum, and promoted an appreciation for and stewardship of our local natural resources.” For this particular program (this one was the only program that saw ODNR as a partner as well), Recreation Supervisor Sarah Mill and her team called in the city’s arborist and horticulturist to help lead guided tours, making the hands-on experience even more engaging for students. “It makes sense for us to seek ways to engage with our local schools,” Mill said. “These are children and educators who live and learn in the Gahanna Community, and these opportunities give them a chance to see their parks and open spaces in a new way.” According to Karlin Wolfe, GPRD Coordinator, this type of work often has a lasting positive impact on local students. “Stream studies help foster an interest in nature exploration—teaching students about water quality, how to observe the effects of pollution, and the sensitive balance needed to