Palmetto Middle School Chosen to Pilot Environmental Literacy Innovation

October 24, 2008

WILLIAMSTON, SC – October 24, 2008 – The South Carolina Department of Education, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Palmetto Middle School will launch a partnership next week that uses natural and social resources and conservation education to connect students to the outdoors. This innovative program will kick off during a special open house scheduled to take place Tuesday, Oct. 28, from 4-6 p.m. at the school.

The “Natural Resource Schools: Educating Outdoors” partnership is the first of its kind in the nation.  Its goal is to improve student achievement and behavior through natural resources and conservation education by increasing environmental literacy, desire to learn, critical thinking skills and problem solving ability.

“I congratulate Palmetto Middle for being chosen as South Carolina’s first natural resource school,” said State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex. “This pilot program is a unique way to get out kids outdoors for a variety of activities and to help them understand the connection between human beings and natural resources in our world, and in our state.”

As the pilot for this innovation, Palmetto Middle School will serve as a model for using natural resources, conservation, the outdoors and community for integrating instruction and curriculum,  promoting  research and investigations, improving student learning, enhancing extended-day activities and implementing service projects.  Program activities, based on student and parent input, are slated to begin in January 2009. 

Thirty percent of children nationwide are overweight and a contributing factor is the decreasing amount of time kids spend playing in nature, said DNR agency director John Frampton. Natural Resource Schools integrate natural resources, outdoor skills and conservation education into all aspects of the classroom to improve student achievement and their knowledge about the importance of natural resources and conservation.

Superintendent Rex has made increasing public school choice a focus of his administration.  He said that the potential exists for Natural Resource Schools to become a choice option for parents and students across the state. South Carolina’s current curriculum choices include magnet programs, schools-within-schools, alternative schools, virtual schools and charter schools. Some of the state’s public school choice programs include single-gender initiatives, middle college/early college, Montessori Education, evening high school, language immersion, academic academies, arts integration and international baccalaureate programs.

Tuesday’s open house at Palmetto Middle will feature Department of Natural Resources’ demonstrations and exhibits that include nature photography, archery and crossbow, shooting simulators, hunting and boating safety, hiking and outdoor survival skills, law enforcement, fishing and climate information.  Parents can volunteer to become trained program instructors to assist teachers as students explore both their academic standards and the great outdoors.