Environmental scheme to help boost reading skills launched

Primary school pupils are to benefit from a new environmental programme designed to improve literacy skills.

The Bermuda Education Network, a group set up to create specialist programmes in the public education system, has teamed up with eight other organisations to deliver the course to P2 pupils.

It is an expansion of BEN’s Horizons programme, which has focused on science and social studies education for Primary 5 classes for the past five years.

Becky Ausenda, BEN’s founder, said there was a reading achievement gap between pupils from public and private schools.

She added: “The greatest challenge to real equity of educational outcomes is a lack of opportunity for some children to have language-enriching experiences.

“Reading comprehension research shows that children need concrete experiences in order to build the background knowledge they will need to be successful readers.

“If we collaborate effectively with other education groups we can make a big difference to reading outcomes because collectively we have the resources necessary to expand Horizons through a range of different experiences.

“This term we hope that parents and caregivers will take up the challenge of talking more about nature and science with their children and we hope to get back to physical expeditions and opportunities to explore history and cultural topics as soon as possible.”

The education departments at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, the Bermuda Zoological Society, the Bermuda National Trust, the AgraLiving Institute, the Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation and Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art have helped BEN to plan lessons to boost the curriculum and improve vocabulary.

Contributions were also made by the Carter House Museum and the Bermuda Botanical Society.

The lessons for the autumn cover nature and the environment and have been adapted for remote learning.

Each unit includes a picture book connected to a curriculum theme, which teachers can use for reading and writing assignments and free copies will be available to pupils.

Other resources include virtual lessons with the BZS and BUEI and a video from the AgraLiving Institute about their education and research garden at the Botanical Gardens and factors that affect plant growth.

Chris Faria, the AgraLiving Institute’s founder, said: “As the newest member of the network, we are excited to be part of a community effort to enrich language and literacy.

“AgraLiving’s contribution is to teach children how to grow their own food while connecting with Mother Earth and to plant the seeds for environmental activism from an early age.”

Dr Jamie Bacon, the BZS education officer, added: “This collaboration signals our organisations’ shared commitment to closing reading achievement gaps at the primary level.

“Each of our organisations has a role to play in providing experiences that expand horizons.

“With every activity that we each provide, students are acquiring new vocabulary that will open up more avenues of exploration and will allow them to make more and more connections.”

The BNT will offer a virtual tour of Spittal Pond Nature Reserve in Smith’s through its website with commentary on Portuguese Rock and Jeffrey’s Cave, biodiversity, birdwatching and the rare “checkerboard” geological formation.

Links to the resources are at www.ben.bm