Teachers in the Forest, A Practitioner's Take on Forest for Every Classroom
Michael Quinn, a 7th and 8th grade science teacher at Hartford Middle School in White River Junction, Vermont describes the place-base learning initiative, Forest For Every Classroom (FFEC) as an oasis or rest stop for participating teachers. The year long teacher training is a home base, he says, the foundation you go back to for rejuvenation. It links Michael to his peers and to the scientists, land managers and businesses around him. It connects his students to the real world. The goal of this learning approach is that students become more engaged in learning, that they build bonds to their home grounds and become stewards of their communities and public lands.
FFEC is the brainchild of collaboration by Shelburne Farms, the Conservation Study Institute, Marsh-Billings Rockefeller National Historic Park, Green Mountain National Forest, the northeast office of the National Wildlife Federation, and the Northern Forest Center. FFEC is managed by the partners to take advantage of the professional networks within and well beyond these organizations. As one participating teacher said "FFEC connects to everyone, much the way a forest does."
For Quinn, FFEC meets three primary needs of teachers doing place-based education in and out of the classroom:
*It provides professional training on an ongoing basis;
*It provides material and intellectual resources including stipends and small grants for a range of project needs;
*It provides networking within a mixed community of teacher peers, professionals and community volunteers.
"When you're attempting to combine the traditional, standards-based, educational objectives of public schools with non-traditional investigations out in the community, teachers need ongoing support," says Quinn. "The workshops teach content, but they also connect teachers to the vast resources -- people and materials -- available to us." Through FFEC teachers can also receive modest but important infusions of cash to support their work in the field -- tools, books, an in-class speaker, even help with transportation. For Quinn, the best aspect of FFEC is the networking it provides.
"It reminds us that learning is way more than words on a page," says Quinn. "It's water moving around our boots, it's mud and cold. It's all these sensory dimensions in the real world we're part of. Through FFEC students have an opportunity to see themselves as a part of something that has a long history and a long future. They become more hopeful. Through the experience they learn to become stewards."
Quinn's students have inventoried and mapped vernal pools with members of the local conservation commission. One of Quinn's students, 12 year old Emily, took on an inventory of the invasive, non-native Rusty Crayfish in White River near her school. Emily's work got the notice of state biologists who were unaware of the extent to which the invasive species had displaced the native species of crayfish. She's now involved in training teachers and students in crayfish inventory work.
|Project City||White River Junction|
|Project School||Hartford Middle School|
|Keywords||mapping, vernal pool, conservation,|