Canvass National Parks in the western United States, conducting a bio-blitz at each site with the iNaturalist.org app, to observe the connection between cultural stories and the science of trees and lead students in the creation of cultural stories with visual storytelling.
I am more adept at iMovie and iNaturalist and ways students may use them to extend learning. I have broader understanding of forest ecosystems (trees belong to a complex interconnected system; they are much more than plant parts and their functions) I have discovered that I learn best through a connected system of activity, research, and social and environmental interaction, which has created a personal connection to how my students learn best as well.
My focus has been on our senses, studying parts of the forest and noticing changes over time. After this fellowship my focus will shift to discovering the interconnectedness of forest systems, and exploring why changes occur. Across curriculums, I will work to create a sense of kinship to town and place by introducing local stories and people. I will connect to--rather than separate from--people and the environment with new technology.
Many aspects of my FFT Fellowship were originally outside my comfort zone. Every day I was introduced to new environments and new people and it was a stretch for me to plan a trip with so many variables. I challenged myself to maintain the flexibility to change plans on short notice to adapt to the unknown. It was empowering to be able to execute these plans without opting out because I was faced with uncomfortable situations--challenges many of my young students encounter daily.
Students will practice documenting and sharing ideas digitally-a great skill in a new digital world. Learning digital storytelling resources will also allow students who are just beginning to write gain confidence in communicating ideas. Students will have a clearer focus during our forest studies. Because of my fellowship, I hope to excite new appreciation for forest and community connections. Children will be empowered to use story and science to become advocates for change.
Forest ecology, visual storytelling, and technology use are all things that I can now speak to because of my fellowship. I will encourage colleagues to use video recording as a tool, and help with the technical aspects of using iMovie and iNaturalist. I will collaborate in creating ongoing place-based curriculum, in creating a bioblitz event, in inviting community members to share stories and memories and history, and in facilitating a community event as a culmination of the year’s study.
Student learning will be celebrated at each new discovery. Students will also share with buddy classes and at all school meetings. I will conclude the year with a collaborative, multidisciplinary event combining science and storytelling. Students will present to, and exchange ideas with, community and peers. This event will include an “action” component that works to address an issue students have identified and engages others joining together to work toward a solution.
Even small changes can affect our environment, school and community--both in positive and negative ways. During the year, I will encourage students to notice things that could have possible negative impact on our environment and support them in making plans for positive action to create changes. Social issues in the school, littering, erosion, loss of animal habitat, and loss of knowledge of town history and resources might be the focus of some of these plans.
New people, places, and perspectives have changed me and will change my teaching. Everything is connected. It is easy to view learning as the study of discrete skills. I knew about integrated learning, but this fellowship allowed me to live it--creating an inquisition and learning loop and a passion for the subject. When I became passionate, I was driven to learn more and to pass that knowledge on. This is the learning and teaching model I will strive to foster in my classroom.