INTERLUDE: GRALAND CLASSES EMPHASIZE ENVIRONMENT, LIVING THINGS

I am labeling this series an interlude, for the articles represent some pieces I recently unearthed in the corner of a filing cabinet drawer. I consider them slices of Graland life that might interest you, dear alumni and Graland friends.

The first comes from an issue of the Denver Post from February 25, 1970. Those of you who studied science with Mr. McKenna will not be surprised by its content.

“Next to a poster showing Denver’s polluted air hangs a formerly white cloth. Three grimy smudges appeared on the cloth when some of Mr. McKenna’s science students subjected it to the exhaust from his Volkswagen. McKenna emphasizes environment and the interrelation of all living things in his fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade classes at Graland Country Day School, 30 Birch Street.

“After studying pollution, some of the students followed up the study by making ‘pollution posters’ in Mrs. Philip Emery’s art classes. ‘We want the kids to be aware-- let’s face it they already are-- but also we want to get them involved,’commented McKenna. The posters which line the halls of the school, show the students’ concerns about one of the problems of their time.

“After watching a recent television film,The Wolf Men, science students (all 150 of them) wrote letters to Keith H. Miller, governor of Alaska. The letters with accompanying drawings protested the state’s treatment of the wolves. The children received a reply from the governor this month defending the state’s policies.

“Said McKenna, ‘We are not finished yet. The children were incensed. They’re writing letters to the University of Alaska and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Sixth graders have been reading The Web of Life by John Sorter which tells of some of the horrible things that have happened when the predatory relationship is upset.

“. . . The children have become aware of similar problems in Colorado. They are investigating a Meeker, Colorado science teacher’s charges that sheep-herders of that area have put their own bounty on coyotes. Reports of animal carcasses found poisoned in the hills around Aspen have also been of concern to the students.

“Some of the sixth graders are even carrying their work home with them. One group is comparing the growth rates of sunfish in some of Denver’s polluted pond water with the growth rates of the same kind of fish in water from an outlying pond. Another group generated polluted air in one tank of mice and will compare their growth with that of mice raised in clean air. ‘The experiments aren’t over yet, so we’re not sure how they’ll turn out,’ said McKenna.

“ . . . McKenna uses no text. ‘What they learn is what they observe and feel. . . Of course, if a student wants to look something up, I don’t discourage him.’ Then, he laughed.

“The sixth graders are preparing for May when McKenna will take them in three groups for a week at a time to Rocky Mountain National Park. There in the laboratory of Glacier Basin, they will study ecology first hand.”

In another article in the Denver Post published on September 26, 1971, there was a reference to Mr.McKenna’s trip and an intriguing follow-up to the kids’ studies in Rocky Mountain National Park: “As the environmental studies are completed, sixteen youngsters will be chosen to form an ‘eco-team’ which will teach what they’ve learned to other youngsters in other schools. This year, Mr.McKenna hinted the kids may also be teaching teachers about environmental and ecological activities.”

What an amazing man!
 
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Graland Country Day School

55 CLERMONT STREET    DENVER, CO 80220    303.399.0390   
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.