Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from IslandWood! 

Here is Clancy showing us the power of silence and wait time while asking students questions, with a bit of Halloween flavor! 

A few of the amazing EEC instructors prepping for their teaching day! 

And an awesome stump covered in sulfur tufts. Mushroom Mania!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Beach Field Trip!

Wow, these past few weeks have been a whirlwind!

The beautiful golden Big Leaf Maple leaves are starting to fall, the Alder branches are almost bare and there is a brisk chill in the air. Autumn is here and our first semester as graduate students is in full force.

One of my favorite aspects of the IslandWood Graduate Program is that our learning is hands on too. Our professors strive to model the kind of teaching they expect from us in the School Overnight Program. Not only do we read books and write papers, but we too get to play, explore and wonder.

So today I want to keep my post short and share some amazing photos from our class field trip to the beach. We had the chance to chat with professional divers, play games and get up close and personal with some of the incredible creatures that make up the Puget Sound marine eco-system.

Sea stars and moon snails, Oh My! The group shared many laughs and smiles playing with these mysterious ( and slimy) ocean critters. 

It was the perfect chance to step back from the world of academia and experience the excitement, curiosity and adventure that touch our students each week!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What is a Scientist?

What does a scientist look like?  It’s a simple question that most people can quickly answer.  I encourage you to think of a few words to describe a scientist before reading past this sentence.
As a formative assessment each week, many of the Education for Environment and Community (EEC) instructors ask that same question of the fourth and fifth graders we have the privilege to educate, and we give them time to draw their interpretation of a scientist in their field journals.  Here is what we frequently see: men, crazy hair, words like “mad”, white coats, mystery liquids with bubbles in beakers, and eye glasses.  Did you think of some of those too? 

How is it that all the students have the same image in their mind about what a scientist is though, and how can we change that view?  Developmental psychologist Jean Piaget would say the answer is through disequilibrium.  I had the opportunity to see this in action this past week while observing Kelvin, an EEC instructor.  He asked the students if they viewed themselves as scientists.  The team all responded in the affirmative, and then he asked them to describe a scientist.  The students immediately gave an expected stereotypical answer as described above.  Kelvin’s next question served to cause a disequilibrium that was truly amazing to watch.
                              “Well, if you’re scientists, where are your white coats?”

The question was followed by silence as the students struggled to find the connections between their previous statements.  There was no standard “this is what the teacher wants” kind of answer so they were forced to synthesize information into a new pathway, create a new understanding.  This was true learning, but the question remains of how did all the students already have a similar preconceived idea of a scientist?

We all move through life as part of a specific and identifiable community, sometimes moving fluidly between multiple.  Our chosen communities are often related to hobbies, socio-economic status, academic goals, chronological age, geographical location, and moral belief systems.   That is a lot of groups to mingle with, but what is the linking force that cements our status in those communities?  It is often the way we think and what we chose to think about. 

Socialization can be an amazing tool for expanding understanding of any topic, but socialization within the bubble of the same community built on thinking the same way is not going to cause disequilibrium.  Growth can come from understanding and appreciating the contributions, differences, and similarities present in other communities.  At the end of the day, we only have one Earth, and we all have to share it.  What simple question do you have a stereotypical answer to, and where can you find new meaning?


Monday, October 14, 2013

Why I Chose IslandWood ...

After just completing my first week of solo teaching, I know I made the right decision to come here to IslandWood. To be completely honest, the transition into graduate school has been challenging. Busy schedules, homework, very little free time... Moving to IslandWood has been an incredible lifestyle change for me, especially after spending the past year in Latin America where time moves quite a bit slower. Yet, after waving goodbye to my first round of students from the School Overnight Program on Thursday afternoon, I knew that my choice was worth it.

Since graduating college, I have been working with students through experiential education programming with a focus on global citizenship and community development. Most recently, I spent the past year working as an instructor for Where There Be Dragons, facilitating learning adventures for students across rural Latin America. It was abroad, spending time in and trekking through small agricultural communities, where I realized the incredible interconnectedness of human and ecological communities. I discovered the ripple effect of my actions as a North American and their full impact on my friends abroad. I learned to share these stories to inspire my students to take action.

 It was through this work that I realized I wanted to pursue education in the United States, to make these communities and connections come alive to students. I care passionately about empowering our youth with the skills they need to make a difference. I want them to explore the world around them and see wonder, inspiration, and solidarity. Working abroad helped me teach to those values. Every day my assumptions and worldviews were challenged and changed. When looking for a graduate school, I wanted to find a program that would support me in teaching this way.

I chose IslandWood because of the school’s emphasis on integrating stewardship and community into education, and in particular, environmental education. In the future, I believe that we must create a more holistic curriculum that focuses on empowering students to be community minded citizens and global activists. IslandWood’s unique vision stood out to me amongst the many M.Ed programs I was looking at. In fact, IslandWood’s way of doing things spoke to me so much that it ended up being the only graduate program I applied to. It seemed like my perfect program.

And now that I am here, I know that it is the perfect program for me. I look forward to sharing the delightful moments, the reflections, the wonder and inspiration, and the many challenges I will experience this year with you all. And please, feel free to ask questions in the comments if you would like to hear more about anything in particular or have questions about what we’re doing. I would love to hear from you! 



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Education Through Outdoor Adventures

Visiting intertidal creatures at Blakely Harbor, inspecting macro invertebrates at Mac’s Pond, investigating fungus in the forest, answering questions about flora and fauna, and looking over the bog from the tree house are just a few examples of the adventures experienced while leading a team of ten fifth graders through the 255 acre campus.

The adventures in the forest, bog, marsh, pond, estuary, and stream are only accents to our purpose as graduates because we are also instructors while in the field.  Islandwood’s Education for Environment and Community (EEC) graduate program is going strong with a new group of graduate students, and I am very excited to be part of the 2014 class. 

I am originally from Texas, and I have lived in Seattle for a little more than a year.  After graduating from Texas Tech in 2008 with a major in Kinesiology and minor in Education, I taught eighth grade science for a couple of years before relocating to Seattle.  I am certified to teach middle level science in Washington State, and after completion of my Masters in Education from the University of Washington, I plan to return to the classroom. 

A focal point for my blogs will be on the experience and instruction at Islandwood as they intersect the outdoors, science, art, and theory.  I am particularly interested in the connections between Islandwood's outdoor instruction and the application of educational theories.  

This will be an amazing year, and I am very excited to share it with you through the EEC blog.