“Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the waters and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.” -David Polis
What does a real education look like? The answer is different for everyone. As an expert on my own family and in my own classroom, I can share with you my own experiences as I seek to provide a real education to both my students and my own three children.
Take my ideas and make them your own. Get your children back outside with friends, family and in nature. Provide your students with an integrated, interdisciplinary education that provides many different experiential learning opportunities. Allow them to see the interconnectedness of it all.
“We have fragmented the world into bits and pieces called disciplines and subdisciplines, hermetically sealed from other such disciplines. As a result, after 12 or 16 or 20 years of education, most students graduate without any broad, integrated sense of the unity of things. The consequences for their personhood and for the planet are large. For example, we routinely produce economists who lack the most rudimentary understanding of ecology or thermodynamics. This explains why our national accounting systems do not subtract the costs of biotic impoverishment, soil erosion, poisons in our air and water, and resource depletion from the gross national product. We add the price of the sale of a bushel of wheat to the gross national product while forgetting to subtract the three bushels of topsoil lost to grow it. As a result of incomplete education, we have fooled ourselves into thinking that we are much richer than we are.”
-David W. Orr, Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect.
I grew up in southeast Wisconsin and in 2001 I graduated from UW Oshkosh with a BS in Geology and a BSE in Secondary Science Education. I am a 6-12 licensed educator in both Alaska and Wisconsin, and am certified to teach Broad-field Science, Geology, Earth Science, Astronomy, Physics, and Environmental Science. In May of 2016 I completed my MS in Environmental Education through UW Stevens Point.
In 2001 my husband and I moved to Anchorage, AK where I taught high school science (Geology, Environmental Science, Integrated Science, and Astronomy) for the Anchorage School District. During the summers I volunteered within Chugach State Park leading programs and nature hikes on the park’s natural history. Throughout our time in Alaska we explored as much of the state as possible. We camped in Denali when our boys were babies, hiked the many miles of trails that run through the beautiful Chugach Mountains, drove the Dalton Highway past the Arctic Circle, through the Brooks Range, and up to the North Slope of Alaska, explored the Tongass National Forest (a temperate rainforest) around Ketchikan, AK, and spent the first weekend of every March attending the start of the Iditarod. We even spent a year living in a tiny cabin in the mountains with an outhouse!
After 8 years in Alaska and pregnant with our third child, we decided to move back to Wisconsin. From 2009 to 2015 we lived in the Milwaukee area. While in Wisconsin I found Simplicity Parenting and Waldorf Education. I made new friends and connected to an amazing group of women who still inspire me to this day. These women helped me through the most difficult years of my life–a severely strained marriage and our near divorce. While it was an incredibly difficult time, they taught me some of those most valuable lessons of my life.
Alaska has its way of getting into your soul and changing you forever. And so, after 6 years in Wisconsin we decided we needed to move back home to Anchorage. My husband landed a job at a hospital and Anchorage, and almost overnight we packed up our belongings and drove our 3 kids up the Alaska Highway and back to Anchorage.
My interest in sustainability and gardening brought me to the Biodynamic Association, where I held the roles of Scholarship Fund, Education, and Online Groups. In August of 2016 I accepted a teaching position with the Anchorage School District teaching high school Physics, Earth Science and Environmental Science. I have also developed a high school course on creating resilient and sustainable communities, an interdisciplinary course that provides students with the skills necessary to design solutions to community issues and live more lightly on the earth.
This fall I transitioned to a 60% teaching position at a Goldenview Middle School where I teach 8th grade science. Being 60% provides me with a bit of free time to pursue other interests and passions, including Simplicity Parenting, homesteading, reading, sewing, living more sustainably on the Earth, and exploring the wilderness with my husband and three children.
“I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil. Once the emotions have been aroused—a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and the unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love—then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response. Once found, it has lasting meaning. It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate.”
—Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder