Join an Earth Watch team's study of traditional farming and wetland preservation in the Xochimilco Wetlands of Mexico to enhance current studies on wetland conservation and agriculture connect with other professionals who can encourage student learning on these efforts.
This experience informed every aspect of my instruction from our studies on integrated pest management to landscape design and storm water management. So much of what I learned has already been applied to my courses and I have only been home three weeks. We are also involving other classes - getting the Spanish class to help us translate the integrated pest management posters we were shown on the chinampa and construction is helping us build a chinampa of our own.
I have realized how managing the environment at the local level can affect things globally and sharing the way we manage our resources can aid in global change on a larger scale than local movements alone. We share so many migratory birds and wetland plants. It only makes sense to have our students reach out to others in similar ecosystems to find solutions to help all of our environments. Too, sharing our projects and successes with us is rewarding and validating.
I had not expected that we would share so many environmental challenges and that many of our solutions would overlap and inform the others. I also had not expected many of the practices I teach at school to be used not only in this area, but in traditional Aztec farming. I always look for ways to incorporate other subjects into my teaching (agriculture) and this adds a new opportunity to do that. Some examples include soil blocking and eco friendly pest management with companion planting.
I think it is very validating for my students to see first hand that the steps they are taking to save our own estuary by repopulating the native riparian and wetland plants and managing our own storm water at school can make a difference globally. I think that students will see my enthusiasm for learning new things inform our lessons and hands on activities. I also feel my students will have a new found appreciation for ecotourism.
We have already started making a mock chinampa at school. My greenhouse class will begin the process of soil blocking (I already had the supplies just had not related the practice) once the chinampas are complete. My agriscience students are using the story of the threatened axolotl to understand the importance of managing the fertilizers we put into our waterways as well as the relationship this has to our own bacteria problems in Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
We are reaching out to a few schools in Mexico City area to see if they might be interested in partnering with our Spanish class to connect on our shared flora and fauna particularly, the migratory birds we have in common. I am sharing this experience with my school faculty at an upcoming meeting and I have also shared my video compilations on social media and will be placing in on my own webpage in the next few weeks. Here is a link to my channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QaxZQm9BY0&t=18
I think as teachers it often feels like we have achieved a goal if we get our lessons to a point where they are stable and we can just go in and teach. It's easy to forget that this lessons the chance for a flexibility and improvement but most importantly, it may not be keeping us engaged at the level our students need to witness if we are to model life-long learning. I just can't help but to wonder what else is out there and how can it support what we are doing at our own school farm.
I think it is important for students to see that their teachers value life long learning and that their teachers stay current and innovative. It is important that we remain challenged in our teaching even to the point where we are learning alongside our students as it is only then that we can understand the questions they are asking as they climb the ladder to expert. I enjoy taking this journey with my students, formulating questions and finding answers together.
This experience has taught me the value of ecotourism and putting together my videos and sharing them with my students, friends and family has created an awareness to environmental problems that I would not have been able to create without this experience. It has also invigorated my desire to teach students methods of agricultural practice that are sustainable, historic, and still working well today. So many of the major concepts I teach can be tied directly to this area. What else is out there