Service Learning with Fifth and Sixth Grade Star Throwers

Artistree partners with The Prosper Valley School for a Barnard Brook stewardship project.

This October students at The Prosper Valley School (TPVS) teamed up with Artistree staff to make a difference in our community. This is the second year in a row that Artistree has partnered with fifth and sixth graders in the service-learning Star Throwers program focusing on ecological stewardship. The learning experience is coordinated by sixth grade teacher Andy Wood and is designed to connect and reinforce the students’ classroom curricular content to experiences outdoors and to community in six different locations.

“Star Throwers” is inspired by the writing of anthropologist Loren Eiseley, who in 1978 published an essay called The Star Thrower. In the essay, a narrator tells the tale of watching a boy explore a beach filled with starfish that had washed ashore. At first, the narrator thinks the boy is just collecting the starfish for himself, but soon they realize that the child is trying to rescue the animals by throwing them back into the sea. The lesson in the story is that every effort of kindness–no matter how small–has the potential to make a positive difference in the world.

Last year, Artistree educators and TPVS students and staff worked together to learn about Artistree’s vernal pool. Fifth and sixth graders made signs labeling the different species found in and around the pool and built a seating area where visitors can rest, observe, and learn. This year, students and staff are busy at work on stewardship of Barnard Brook, the waterway that runs through Artistree’s fields before heading south toward the school.  

Watching fifth and sixth graders collaborate, problem solve, and get out into nature with their teacher and Artistree instructors is truly satisfying. The students worked diligently with hand tools to create a more attractive and functional brook access for the benefit of Artistree’s summer campers. Artistree instructor Finnie Trimpi commented, “I really enjoyed seeing kids outside, making meaningful observations and connections to their classroom learning while getting their hands dirty.”

Several rainy days have interrupted the program schedule this fall, but the students hope to complete the project before the snow flies. Artistree is grateful for our sustained partnership with neighboring Prosper Valley School and excited for future collaborations that make a difference in our local area.