Education

Iowa City preschool teacher wins grant of more nature programming

Melanie Harrison will receive her award, grant money in April

Melanie Harrison (center), teacher, talks with Amelia Herndon (left), 4, and David Dragisic (right), 3, as they plant flowers in a preschool class at Apple Tree Children’s Center in Iowa City on Thursday, Mar. 15, 2018. Harrison is a 2018 Recipients of the Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children’s TYLENOL®, Children’s ZYRTEC® National Child Care Teacher Awards. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Melanie Harrison (center), teacher, talks with Amelia Herndon (left), 4, and David Dragisic (right), 3, as they plant flowers in a preschool class at Apple Tree Children’s Center in Iowa City on Thursday, Mar. 15, 2018. Harrison is a 2018 Recipients of the Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children’s TYLENOL®, Children’s ZYRTEC® National Child Care Teacher Awards. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — An Iowa City preschool teacher won a $1,000 grant to bring the outside inside her classroom.

Melanie Harrison, a preschool teacher at the Apple Tree Children’s Center in Iowa City, won the 2018 Terri Lynne Lokoff Children’s TYLENOL®, Children’s ZYRTEC® National Child Care Teacher Award.

The award augments a preschool teacher’s budget for programming.

Harrison said that since she started at Apple Tree Children’s Center three years ago, it’s been her mission to win the grant. Each year, one teacher from the center enters to win the award. Last year, one of the teachers received the grant to help purchase science and math toys for the children to start their Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education.

This year, Harrison entered with hopes of adding more nature-centered curriculum for her 3- to 4-year-old students.

“Our school is located downtown in Iowa City. My classroom is the interior of the building, so we don’t have any access to outside,” Harrison said. “I wanted natural materials for the children to experience nature more authentically.”

Harrison said she already has taught units on different ecosystems and plans to do a unit on recycling in April, but the $1,000 grant will allow for more tools.

In the application, Harrison detailed her desire to grow more plants inside the room, a light that would help them grown and a Lightbox — a tool that would allow the students to look at X-rays of animals, insects and plants.

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“We’ve tried to grow plants before, but we’ve never been able to make anything happen because there are no windows,” Harrison said. “We’re hoping to grow some vegetables. I’m excited that we can plant the seeds and see the growth day-by-day.”

Additionally, she said she’d like to add a hydroponic fish tank to show students how an ecosystem works. A hydroponic fish tank has fish in the bottom of the container with plants growing on top. A hydroponic fish tank simulates nature, where fish waste is collected through a filter and used to fertilize the plants on top. The roots then clean, filter and add nutrients to the water.

Not only will the tools allow the students to begin learning about biology, anatomy and other sciences, the curriculum could act as a catalyst for the next generation of environmentally-friendly Iowans, Harrison said.

“I just felt like it was important for them to have a connection to nature so they would have a reference point for taking care of our earth and realizing the important of making Earth a safe place for everyone to grow up in,” Harrison said.

Harrison will receive her award at a ceremony in Philadelphia this April.

l Comments: (319) 368-8516; makayla.tendall@thegazette.com

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