Katie Woodbridge

Winnona Park Elementary School, Decatur GA

Interview craftspeople, farmers, and entrepreneurs in Otavalo, Ecuador, to develop a case study documenting the stages of production of various goods and create a non-fiction book and museum-in-a-box that enlivens economics and models primary source research.

Where I've Been

  • Otavalo, Ecuador
  • Quito, Ecuador

My Fellowship in Images

This is a seed that I normally would have walked right by. However, because my team interviewed some jewelry makers in La Calera, I know it can be used to make beautiful beads for jewelry.
This is my team on one of our field trips with our teachers. It was great to tour with them and get their perspective on each neighborhood and learn about the locals' shops and craftsmen and women.
This man gave us a beautiful demonstration of several instruments, and then he showed us how he and his family use natural resources to make all of the instruments in his shop.
It was fascinating to watch how vendors set up and tour down their sites at the market in Otavalo every day, rain or shine. The rainy days were particularly impressive because they didn't slow down a bit.
Graduation day! These teachers were amazing. I had no idea how much I could learn in only two weeks of Spanish lessons.
This is my host dad, my colleague, and me in Eduardo's shop. He taught us so much about his culture and family traditions, what a hard working father!

Your Personal and Professional Growth

How have your knowledge, skills and capabilities grown?

When I set out to teach the third grade economics standards, I had a definite gap in my knowledge of living in a market economy where bartering, trading, and using natural resources and manual labor in entrepreneurship are the norm. Now that I have experienced this type of economy, meeting craftspeople and learning the value of a dollar in this setting, as well as learning about the relationships among producers and consumers, I have filled that void.

As a result, in what ways will your instructional practice change?

I can create more authentic, meaningful experiences for my students to teach economics, bringing the experience that brought the standards to life for me into the classroom through my writing, photos, videos, and books. The Market Day my students will participate in will be a true representation of the market in Otavalo, as opposed to something somewhat imaginary. Because my understanding of this content has grown so much, I know I'll be better prepared to tackle the subject matter.

What is the greatest personal accomplishment of your fellowship?

I gained the confidence to interact with people whether or not we speak the same language, come from the same place or share the same values and beliefs. I was out of my comfort zone and I tackled many "firsts:" speaking Spanish, interviewing strangers, living with a host family, and leaving the US to learn. Now that I have done this, I know many doors have opened for me to take more deliberate steps to expand my cultural understanding at home as well.

Impact on Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your experiences positively impact student learning in new ways?

I will increase students' motivation to learn about economics, boost their craftsmanship, and increase their retention of information by facilitating entrepreneurship. The new economics unit will have an authentic audience, problems to solve, multiple perspectives to consider, and products made with natural resources. Kids will be given an in-depth look at the market in Otavalo, which also supports the 90 minutes of Spanish instruction they receive every week.

What are your plans for working collaboratively with colleagues?

My team will be co-writing a nonfiction text about Otavalo. We'll plan our expedition from the final product backwards to the kick-off. We'll be sharing the resources we purchased on our trip and back at home, sharing our personal documentation of the trip, and trouble-shooting together along the way.

Imagining the Future

How do you envision celebrating of your students’ new learning?

I look forward to our Celebration of Learning, an hour-long event during which students will share their experiences and learning with parents, teachers, and community members. They will learn songs from Ecuador, create artwork in the style of Ecuadorian artists, create goods or services to sell at their Market Day, and write nonfiction books. All of their hard work and craftsmanship will be on display and they will use a portfolio to help them share the processes they used to achieve it.

Are there issues or challenges in your school, community or the greater world about which you and your students might try to make a difference?

In Otavalo, we heard many stories of how the currency there changed to the dollar in the year 2000. This impacted families in many different ways, and even now many Otavalenos who lost their life savings face struggles. We hope to connect with them again, and we are considering how we might raise and donate money to give back to the community that taught us so much.

How would you describe to a friend or a grant funder the most fundamental ways in which your fellowship has changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

I used to be nervous to talk to strangers, especially in another language. Now I'm confident in doing so and realize that making mistakes in another person's language goes far in showing that I care. I used to think that a market economy was a thing of the past, but living with a family who relies on that system changed that. LastIy, I have shifted my perspective on "natives" as the Otavalenos faced similar struggles to those of the Native Americans in the United States.