Saturday, April 21, 2018

Becoming a Teacher Naturalist

In a sense, I became a child naturalist at a young age as my dad brought us on one outdoor exploration after another. We were always hiking, swimming, biking, and exploring in the woods, at the ocean, and along mountain trails as children. These explorations brought us great joy and a sense of adventure.

Then when I became a teacher, I was drawn to the community where I teach, in part, by the natural beauty of the land. The community members have taken conservation and environmentalism seriously and have protected lots of natural land and water throughout the community. As a young mother, my husband and I explored many of those paths, trails, and waterways with our own children. Later my children continued to explore the land and waterways with countless local adventures such as canoeing to school, hiking to the area's highest peak (small as it may be), running through the outdoor trails, swimming in the local lakes and ponds, and biking from one town and nature sanctuary to another.

Where I live is Thoreau land and there is a deep commitment to the natural lands and water--and this deep commitment is visible via the countless environmental organizations that exist. As a teacher I have wanted to forward this sense of appreciation, understanding, and stewardship to my students, and over time I have participated in a number of activities to do this, but I must say I am not satisfied with what I've done and feel that I can do more. Many families and teachers in our school system have committed substantial time to composting, gardening, creating nature trails, and studying the local landscape with students. This has been wonderful, and I believe we can still do more. My part in this is to work with my grade-level colleagues to develop our river/wetlands environmental education with the local Audubon Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary and the National Wild and Scenic River System/Program. We are fortunate to be the recipients of a grant to support our efforts.

What does this mean for me as an educator?

In the weeks, months, and years ahead this means that I'll do the following:
  • Embed the state science, technology, and engineering standards into our Junior River Ranger booklet and program.
  • Tour the lands and waterways myself to explore and learn about natural habitat and to plan for students' trips and explorations.
  • Read books and information about the local lands and waterways.
  • Attend related events.
  • Develop our program with system leadership, families, students and colleagues.
  • Assess our efforts and develop our collective work and study.
This is an exciting aspect of my work as an educator because it is timely, engaging, meaningful, and well supported. There is much to do, and I look forward to the work ahead. I am also open to your thoughts and suggestions.