Purpose & History
The Interdistrict Cooperative Grant Program (ICGP), established under section 10-74d of Connecticut General Statutes, provides state funding to local / regional school districts and nonprofit organizations to support interdistrict programs designed to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation and improve student academic achievement (particularly in the areas of science and mathematics). As part of this program, the State Department of Education requires a minimum of 30 face-to-face contact hours between participants. The LINKS school year marks the 19th anniversary of the New Canaan Nature Center executing this innovative educational program. To date over 15,000 students in lower Fairfield County Connecticut have been served via LINKS. Approximately 650 students in Norwalk and New Canaan will participate in LINKS 2012-13.
LINKS Primary Goals:
- Increase academic performance of urban and suburban fourth grade students by supplementing existing district curricula with hands-on, interactive, interdisciplinary studies and cooperative problem solving related to environmental issues.
- Reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation by involving a cohort of urban and suburban students in integrated partnerships for cooperative learning and teamwork.
LINKS Program Overview:
- LINKS students meet face to face for at least 30 hours during the year and work in partner pairs or groups to participate in hands-on, interactive science and environmental activities presented by the New Canaan Nature Center and develop relationships during staff-led activities and free time planned and supervised by their teachers.
- Program components include cooperative challenges, academic lessons, environmental education activities, reflective debriefs, as well as both structured and unstructured social time.
- Students will continue to maintain contact and strengthen partner bonds between sessions while completing pen pal letters, take home assignments, and preparatory materials for future sessions in coordination with their partner.
- The overall theme of the program is student exploration of three habitats (forest, field, and pond) and their connections to each other and other habitats/ecosystems. This scientific study will serve as a catalyst for students to better understand human diversity as it relates to human diversity and discover ways to improve the quality of life in their own communities.
LINKS Learning Objectives:
- Student will develop positive relationships that support teamwork, group discussion, problem solving, decision making, and multicultural acceptance and understanding.
- Students will work cooperatively in integrated partner teams during eight face-to-face meetings throughout the academic year.
- Students will learn about similarities and differences between each other, the LINKS community, their respective urban & suburban communities, and other larger human populations.
- Students will learn and put to practice the proper methods of scientific inquiry and sampling
- Students will apply knowledge of predator, prey and habitat relationships to predicting the consequences of diverse environmental events.
- Students will use observation and deduction skills about the adaptations and habitats of various wildlife species while examining real natural artifacts and observing live animals.
- Students will understand the diverse components that comprise habitats and ecosystems and the importance each element plays in the day-to-day survival of that system.
- Students will understand the connections that exist between various aquatic ecosystems as well as the connections that exist between various human communities.
LINKS budget & funding
A large portion of LINKS program fees, including bus transportation, are covered by the state grant. However, in light of major budget cuts in the State legislature, LINKS faces a $32,805 deficit as we enter into the second year of our two year grant cycle agreement. Because we have witnessed over the past eighteen years the value of the LINKS program for students, teachers, and the communities we serve, the Nature Center continues to administer LINKS while actively seeking additional funds from donors and other grants. The New Canaan Nature Center appreciates your support and will kindly accept any support you can offer to help us bridge the gap and maintain the LINKS program. A donation of even $10-20 per program your child attends can go a long way if many families contribute.
For more information regarding LINKS, please contact Geoff McCann at (203) 966-9577 x38.