The entire seventh grade class from Jim Hill in Minot recently paid a visit to Roosevelt Park Zoo. That’s around 250 students. This wasn’t your typical field trip. North Dakota United and Minot Education Association member Pete Stenberg moved his classroom outdoors for a cross-curricular lesson.
“So it’s a perfect chance to do some of our scientific observations, scientific inquiries [and] scientific method-type stuff,” Stenberg said. “The social studies department, they’ll use their world geography and be able to go over some of the different home locations of the animals in their natural environments. [And] math, we can do square footage or square miles and so forth.”
It’s also a day for community service. Two hundred and fifty students — working working an hour each — adds up to over six 40-hour work weeks. Even while raking leaves, Stenberg encourages his students to pay attention.
“We try to emphasize to the students that there should be learning all of the time,” he said. “When we go out to the park on their own with their friends or if they go skateboarding to observe the different wildlife or living things around them–try to solve problems when they’re out and about but it’s just a great situation. Students enjoy it, teachers enjoy it and it’s nice for the community to see that we do utilize our facilities here in Minot.”
Stenberg says the zoo is a perfect educational facility — especially for 21st Century skills. He wants the kids using their phones — sharing information and questions. Stenberg says he often learns as much as he teaches.
“Every day is new, especially at the middle school, that’s why I’ve been at Jim Hill 28 years,” he said. “Somebody may have had a bad day but when they come back it’s new and everything is exciting and you just continue on. And the kids are the one’s that want to make me want to come back every year because at the end of each school year even though it’s been 182 days I’m not ready to say I don’t want to do this anymore because every year its 182 days worth of exciting students and new things for me to learn and also I’m hopefully I’m passing on things to my students.”
The zoo provides a memorable learning environment. Stenberg says past students have told him how much they enjoyed the day.
- Story and video by Tom Gerhardt, NDU Communications