Seventeen teachers from the Upper Valley came together to learn about Place-based Ecology Education (PBEE) at the Wellborn Summer Institute held at the Common Man in Claremont. At the beginning of the four day workshop, many of them seemed hungry to learn like young caterpillars, whose sole purpose is to feed and grow.
They were fed the following six Aspirational Practices of PBEE that would be reflected on throughout their experiences:
Grounded in Place
The theme that tied the week together was Watersheds, so they were given many opportunities to engage with the Sugar River. They observed and measured the health of the river through water quality testing, both chemical and biological. This led to questions about the landuse history, so they were allowed time to walk around town, looking for answers through observation, educational signage, and personal interviews. They used a stream table to model what they observed, asked more questions, and designed and tested scenerios.
As the days passed, the focus shifted to the broader community. They were given maps of their own communities and asked to consider places and partners in their watershed that they and their students could collaborate with for education. The circle of connection was growing wider and wider.
Finally, they visited a school where the local brook had become the centerpiece for placed-based learning. They heard first hand about an example of whole school change and were asked to consider what it would take for change to happen in their schools. They left on Friday feeling inspired with a clearer vision of what they think is worthwhile to teach and with the start of a plan of how to make it happen and the knowledge that they are not alone. They have a network of support they can call on throughout the year including many Upper Valley PD providers including SCCD, VINS, Vital Communities, NPS, Shelburne Farms, Four Winds Nature Institute and the Wellborn Hub. We can't wait to see what emerges from this amazing cohort of teachers!
The Wellborn Institute would not be possible without a generous grant from New Hampshire Charitable Foundation's Wellborn Ecology Fund. Thank you!