Seventh and eighth grade students are visiting Minnesota’s Crosby Farm Regional Park along the Mississippi River once a month for the entire school year. This interdisciplinary exploration combines math, science, geography, and writing with a focus on environmental education. 

Math, Science, and Humanities

Throughout the school year, Friends School of Minnesota middle school students learn about the ecology of this urban, natural area by doing a variety of hands-on science activities. They apply their math skills as they estimate the park’s deer population, measure changes in elevation from the river to the top of the bluff, and estimate current speed and height of the river. They also explore the region’s geography and practice creative writing.

Crosby Farm Regional Park
Minnesota's Crosby Farm Regional Park includes floodplain forest and adjacent steep, wooded slopes cloaked mostly in oak forest, a scattering of wetlands and small lakes, and the Mississippi River shoreline.

Plots of Their Own

Students choose a 5m x 5m plot within the park which they will return to on every trip. Plots might be on the floodplain or up the wooded slopes.

Student recording his observations at his plot in the autumn.
Student recording his observations at his plot in the autumn.

At their plots, middle school students:

  • record their observations about plants and animals and notice how these change with the seasons – making these phenology notes about their plot
  • do reflective writing
  • gain a sense of natural place within our urban setting
Students return to their plots each month throughout the year, recording the changes they observe.
Students return to their plots each month throughout the year, making notes about the changes they observe, journaling and doing creative writing.

These plots become a safe and memorable place for many students – alumni often talk about visiting their plots from years back.

River Notes

Each trip begins with a hike to the Mississippi River. Students collect data on air and water temperature, river rate, height of river, and general observations of the weather and environment.

Science teacher Shane guides a 7th grader as he measures the Mississippi River.
Science teacher Shane guides a 7th grader as he measures the flow of the Mississippi River.

Making “River Notes” helps students record the natural changes in their environment over the course of a year. Often we are faced with floods, droughts, high winds, and, of course, ice.

Student learn techniques used by scientists doing fieldwork.
Eighth grader nets pond life.

Connecting to the Will Steger Foundation

Students have been part of this Crosby Farm Regional Park  exploration for over a decade. This year students will be able to take this data and post it on the Will Steger Foundation website dedicated to documenting changes in the natural environment. With the support of Will Steger and staff, students learn about the important of observation and scientific journaling in noting patterns of change within the local ecosystems.

Student Teachers

At the end of the year, the 7th and 8th graders will host an environmental education day at Crosby Farm Regional Park  for the entire school. They will plan, prepare, and teach a variety of “workshops” helping students experience the work done at Crosby Farm.

Friend School of Minnesota 7th & 8th graders at Crosby Farm Regional Park
Friends School of Minnesota 7th & 8th graders at Crosby Farm Regional Park.