Nature Up North Teacher Workshop: A Community of Educators
It has been a busy two days at the Nature Up North teacher workshop. Twelve educators from across the North Country convened to share our ideas for diverse learning experiences with an emphasis on local, natural features.
During the workshop, Nature Up North director Dr. Erika Barthelmess and project manager Jake Malcomb introduced us to Place-Based Learning. Their goal was to inspire us to take the students into the nature around them, connecting them to their natural surroundings, and enhancing their apprecation for the community they live in. Erika and Jake introduced us to the brand new look of their website and the many features it has to offer. They highlighted the exciting 'Encounters map' on their website, as a way to engage students in the observation process of scientific learning. We all took a trip to Falls Island, in downtown Canton and using basic technology, were able to track encounters that we had with the nature around us. Then, back in the lab, we were given time to learn how to share those 'Encounters' on their new and improved webpage. We as educators experienced firsthand the joys of connecting with nature in local settings and sharing them with others.
Erika and Jake also introduced us to Citizen Science projects, which encourage "volunteer scientists" to participate in gathering data for local and global studies. Nature Up North features its own local study: the Fall Maple Monitoring project. Through simple observations that can be done in the backyard, anyone in the North Country can contribute to the monitoring of local maple tree phenology. There's only one place to look for a maple tree, and so on Wednesday morning, with tape measures and clipboards in hand, we walked to a stand of trees on the SLU campus and began our measurements. Contributing to such a large-scale project is an interesting experience, but more importantly we were outside, enjoying the morning sun while Jake quizzed us on maple leaf identifications. Everyone went about their task with a level of interest and energy that is rarely found during traditional lessons in the classroom, and we can't wait until our students are measuring their own maple trees.
The themes of learning through experiences, with an emphasis on place and relevance, will certainly benefit our students as they continue to explore the world around them. Too frequently, it is easy to close the blinds over the classroom window and develop tunnel vision while meeting the latest learning standards.
But at the Nature Up North workshop, we took time to record our encounters, reconnect with the world around us, and brainstorm ways to share our enthusiasm for our own natural world. Eating bagels together, sharing natural encounters, planning for the future, and doing "real-life science," this workshop was a complete success. Don't miss it next year!
In closing, we will leave you with this haiku:
Sharing new ideas,
and encounters aplenty...
at Nature Up North.
See you on the trails,
Conner and Matthew