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Two education instructors from Old Dominion University have been awarded more than $15,000 by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to develop a curriculum that introduces learning experiences about the environment to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten-aged children.

Cleteus and Catherine Smith, a married couple who both teach at ODU's Child Development Center, will use the grant to introduce the children to the environment by providing them with hands-on experiences, while also learning from experts currently working in the environmental field.

"We noticed that there was not very much being taught about the environment on the pre-kindergarten level," Cleteus said. Catherine added, "This grant provides a way for us to develop a curriculum where we can determine what kinds of experiences would be beneficial and which ones might not work."

One of the many activities the children have already experienced was cleaning a Norfolk wetland area. "The children helped out with Clean the Bay Day, where they helped clean up trash and debris," Cleteus said. "We want the children to learn that they are responsible for taking care of their environment."

As part of the curriculum, the children also learned first-hand the importance of oysters to the Chesapeake Bay when they helped launch a 1,000-oyster spat on an oyster-growing float in to the Elizabeth River this summer. "The children are learning that oysters help to clean the bay," Cleteus said.

In addition to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Smiths are working on the curriculum project with Margaret Mulholland from ODU's Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the city of Norfolk.

The goal of the project is to help early childhood educators teach about the environment and to incorporate the knowledge gained within the science curriculum of a public school system.

This article was posted on: September 5, 2007

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