It's somewhat surprising that one of my biggest passions has become nature and science education. Growing up, I was what you would call an "indoor kid." The likeliest place to find me would be curled up in bed with a book - even on sunny days, my parents had to urge me to go play outside. I was fascinated by animals and nature, but in a purely cerebral way - I preferred to read about trees and wolves, rather than investigate them in the real world. And in high school, I avoided science classes like the plague. The few that I was required to take I found to be mind-numbingly boring, filled with analyzing periodic tables and memorizing dry facts.
It wasn't until college that I truly engaged with my sense of wonder about the earth, that same sense that I hope to instill in students today. Two experiences shaped my nascent love of science and nature - A dedicated, inspirational science methods instructor showed me that teaching about science can be deep, fulfilling work that connects with children's deepest curiosities about the world. And a volunteer trip to Costa Rica ignited my passion for environmental activism in my personal and professional life.
After graduating from the School of Education with a degree in elementary education, I was torn between becoming a classroom teacher and pursuing the environmental education route. So I decided to do a little of both and see which connected to my soul. Over the course of several years, I taught in a variety of environmental education positions. I ran a summer garden program at a Montessori school, I did Americorps teaching gardening and healthy eating in Chicago Public Schools, I worked as a naturalist at a nature center in Michigan, and I volunteered on a community farm in New York. I loved the work I was doing, but craved a deeper connection with students than could be found in the typical one-hour programs I was leading. As a classroom teacher, I realized I could give my students deeper experiences learning about science and nature by connecting it to the rest of the school curriculum. I believe that classroom teachers, who spend nearly 40 hours a week with their students, can make the biggest impact on children's knowledge and connection to the earth.
These days, I'm finishing my Reading Specialist Masters at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where my focus is on integrating science and literacy. My special interests are inquiry-based learning, literacy engagement, and environmental and social justice. I'm also a Wisconsin Master Naturalist (albeit a pretty lousy one compared to the incredibly knowledgeable naturalists that make up that crew) and spend my summers at a local nature center leading outdoor adventures with kids.
During the school year, I teach kindergarten in a public school. Like you, I struggle to fit in the daily demands of a rigorous curriculum while still maintaining a sacred space of joy and wonder where every child can bloom. In my eight years of teaching, I have slowly gathered resources and connections that help me keep inquiry, curiosity and joy at the center of my classroom. I hope to share many of those resources in this space. Feel free to read, use and offer ideas for your classroom as well!