Right now, we are all whizzing through space on an amazing planet which we call the Earth. This planet is a discrete entity, whose finite life support systems are all on board. These systems are powered by energy from the sun, its “mother ship”. This residential program is referred to as “Sunship III” because it’s all about our Earth, the third planet from the sun.
The students are invited to the McKeever Center to tour the Sunship, or “SOL” — the “Ship Of Life.” During their experience they will examine its “System Of Life” by learning about the concepts of energy flow, cycles, and interrelationships; its “Sections Of Life” by learning about natural communities; and finally their own personal “Styles Of Life.”
The goals of the Sunship III program are threefold:
- To help students develop stronger feelings for the natural world through outdoor adventures and special learning experiences
- To teach the basic ecological concepts of energy flow, community, cycles, change, and interrelationships
- To provide opportunities for students to examine their own lifestyles to determine how to minimize their impact on the Earth’s finite resources
During their tour of the Sunship III, students will examine (perhaps for the first time) how they fit into life on the planet. They will discover how they affect these systems for good or bad, and how to take responsibility to lessen their impact. The program concludes with a Closing Ceremony designed to motivate students to share their new understandings when they return home and carry out plans to lessen their impact on our life support systems.
The McKeever Center provides four to six trained student teachers and interns to work with the students. Each school must provide Monitors who will check energy use permits, issue “fines”, assist during activities, etc. In addition, the teachers and parent leaders will conduct special activities, leisure time and evening activities, as well as chaperon the lodges.
The three days at the McKeever Center are very busy. Each day is filled with a full schedule of excellent hands-on learning experiences.
Each activity falls into one of three categories. The following are brief descriptions of each activity.
DISCOVER THE SYSTEMS OF LIFE
- At a place called Solarville, students will meet the pizza maker, use special money called “Solarians” to buy toppings for their pizzas, and then enjoy their pizzas for supper that evening. . . until the “tax collector” comes around! (Energy Flow)
- At the Cycle Factory each student will work a shift to operate the cycles of life — air, water, and soil. (Cycles)
- A visit to the old Temple of SOL will reveal how everything on this Sunship is connected. (Interrelationships)
- The concept of change is revealed during a study of the contents of some old crated on loan from a Pittsburgh Museum. (Change)
EXPLORE THE SECTIONS OF LIFE
- Using Explorers tools, venture into an “unexplored territory” to investigate the area and bring back data about the area. (Community)
- Search a gallery for a special natural object — an “Objet Trouve” — to borrow for a unique indoor exhibit.
- Attend a special celebration — an opportunity to get to know a natural community.
DECIDE THE STYLES OF LIFE
- Students will analyze their daily lifestyles. Do they have more desires than needs?
- Students will analyze their future lifestyles … the real cost of things that they want will be revealed to them.
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