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Hazlett makes plans for Fairview

December 10, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

CLEAR SPRING - The new head teacher at the Fairview Outdoor Center in Clear Spring plans to make the facility an even shinier "star in the crown of Washington County schools."

Ed Hazlett said his goals for the outdoor school on Draper Road include drumming up more community support for the facility, increasing the number of program options and the length of stay for fifth-grade residential students, expanding day programs for other students, and partnering with local, state and federal agencies to pool resources and strengthen high school environmental programs.

"The time students spend at Fairview is a lifelong memory. This place is very cool. And in a few years, it's going to be amazing," said Hazlett, a retired Montgomery County, Md., educator who took the helm of the outdoor school about six months ago after the Washington County Board of Education cut the school's principal position to help plug a budget shortfall.

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Hazlett, of Frederick, Md., spent the last 12 of his 35 teaching years working in outdoor education.

"The focus in this county is on making meaningful instruction for children," he said. "We're a big part of that at Fairview and we want to be a bigger part of it."

Hazlett recently started a Fairview newsletter to spread the word about the school. In October, he held the first organizational meeting for Friends of Fairview, a group of adults from the community who support the outdoor school. The group will function much like a PTA with a social edge, meeting monthly to discuss outdoor education issues and plan outdoor social gatherings, Hazlett said.

Friends of Fairview will likely help raise funds for the school, but fund-raising will not be a primary mission, he said.

Hazlett wants to double the number of program offerings for the fifth-grade students who now spend about three days at the center, and increase their stay to between four and five days, he said.

About 1,800 fifth-grade students from throughout the county will participate this year in the environmental education program at Fairview, and many other pre-kindergarten through high school students visit the school for day trips, Hazlett said.

Fifth-grade students learn team problem solving through the school's Challenge Course and study stream dynamics in the Aquatics program.

They formulate and test hypotheses about optimum conditions for bass fish survival in the healthy habitat program, look for signs of animal life during the wetlands study and make cultural assumptions following digs in the archaeology program, Hazlett said.

He has developed a new orienteering program, in which students use maps, compasses and global positioning systems to find poles placed in the facility's grounds.

Hazlett said he plans to add geology and forestry units to the curriculum at Fairview, and provide the technology for high school students to record their field study data using a system of laptop computers and software.

In cooperation with the county Soil Conservation District and the schools system's student service learning coordinator, Hazlett is planning a program in which fifth-grade students will install barrels to catch rainwater at Fairview and return the following year to create gardens watered by the overflow. The new program will be funded by a $4,000 Chesapeake Bay Trust grant, Hazlett said.

"We're aiming to become a model for homeowners," he said.

Hazlett is working to establish a partnership with the National Park Service to strengthen the Potomac River water chemical analysis program for high school students. He hopes eventually to open a planetarium/observatory in a Fairview building for which the wiring and plumbing is already in place, Hazlett said.

He also wants to expand the school's day programs by closely linking outdoor activities to social studies, science and math lessons being taught in classrooms. Students learning about shapes, for example, could visit Fairview to find shapes in nature.

Ideally, students will have visited the outdoor school many times before reaching fifth grade, Hazlett said.

He plans this spring to offer a three-credit outdoor education training seminar for classroom teachers, and hopes eventually to secure enough funding to add more teachers to his current staff of one full-time and two part-time instructors to help him fulfill his program goals, Hazlett said.

"I want the environmental education program to grow and expand and it's not going to happen without county support," he said. "This isn't about politics. This is about providing valuable learning opportunities for our children."

The power and beauty of Fairview's educational programs is that the students often don't realize they are learning because they're having so much fun in a nonclassroom environment, Hazlett said.

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