Purpose & History
The New Canaan Nature Center’s LINKS/Habitat Connections program is a multi-district school-year program that brings together children from the neighboring public-school districts of New Canaan and Norwalk to experience diversity, increase cultural awareness, and gain access to environmental and STEM education. The LINKS program reaches approximately 725 children annually and, in the past 26 years, over 19,000 students in lower Fairfield County, Connecticut have been served through LINKS. Previously funded by the State of Connecticut through the Inter-District Cooperative Grant Program (ICGP), the New Canaan Nature Center is currently looking for alternative funding to continue our long-standing tradition of providing this valuable program to our local school communities
LINKS/Habitat Connections Primary Goals:
• Increase high academic achievement of all students in reading, writing, mathematics, or science through interdisciplinary, experiential learning activities and support services.
• Reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation to ensure opportunity and access to environmental education for urban and suburban students of diverse socioeconomic and racial/ethnic backgrounds.
To Achieve These Goals, LINKS includes:
- Environmental & Interdisciplinary Education: LINKS provides equal access to the natural environment for urban and suburban students by using the outdoors at the New Canaan Nature Center as our primary classroom. LINKS integrates Connecticut state standards in science, math, social studies, language arts, and citizenship, while employing culturally responsive teaching strategies and 21st Century educational methods. LINKS further incorporates the Inquiry Learning methodology used by participating school districts and works closely with district science staff to complement in-school learning, thus increasing student academic performance.
- Student Collaboration: LINKS enables New Canaan and Norwalk public school students to interact and learn about nature and each other. Students build trust and a sense of community through buddy partner pairing, remote communications, collaborative field studies, and team-building activities.
- Parent/Family Involvement: Parent/family involvement is encouraged throughout LINKS, providing the opportunity for parents and caregivers to contribute their unique perspectives, provide valuable feedback to ensure satisfaction, and to support and encourage learning about diversity beyond participation in LINKS. LINKS families also engage in special events that include two Saturday core events – “Fall Family Kickoff” and “Stewardship Finale” – which allow students to utilize and celebrate the knowledge and experience gained in LINKS, and to prepare for future sessions.