It is hard to believe that a year ago I was preparing for the end of the school year and getting ready to embark on my sabbatical journey. Now there are only a couple months left in my sabbatical year and time seems to be washing away faster than the tides!
The Last Month:
- April 14th was the “release date” if you will of the marine science unit I created collaboratively with the NH Sea Grant, Seacoast Science Center, illustrator Adam Kelley, Hobblebush Design and the New England Aquarium – located on the homepage of engageyourstudents.org.
- Carol Steingart, a local marine science educator and former Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association (GOMMEA) president, promoted the curriculum at a National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference in Los Angeles, California in April.
- More recently I had the privilege of promoting this curriculum at the New Hampshire Science Teachers Association (NHSTA) Spring Conference.
The Next Two Months:
- I will be seeking out New Hampshire educators who are willing to pilot this curriculum so that I can take their feedback and build upon and refine the curriculum.
- Next week I will be teaching a couple of lessons from the curriculum to students at the Andover Elementary Middle School.
- I will be traveling with docents from the UNH SeaTrek Programs to schools around the state in order to learn from them and promote the curriculum.
- The Seacoast Science Center (SSC) and I will be collaborating to create a workshop or two centered around the curriculum I am offering, as well as planning ways to promote the curriculum – including having it available on their website.
- I will be teaching a few summer institute classes at New England College and Keene State College in late June.
- The Kearsarge Regional School District’s Middle School has asked me to present at their STEM Camp this July and I was more than willing to participate!
- I will be presenting a workshop at the New England Aquarium on July 30th.
I am so grateful for all of the people who have encouraged and supported me throughout this sabbatical. I know it is not over yet, but as I near the finish line I can’t help but begin to lament how quickly it has passed, and at the same time reflect on how thankful I have been for this amazing opportunity.
It can be difficult to work hard on anything when you can’t visually see the results of your labor. As much joy as I have had in the pursuit of creating a curriculum for New Hampshire educators and their students, it has been no easy task to work for hours and hours and see little development. However, the anticipation of the outcome makes tasks worthwhile, no matter how arduous or tedious they can be.
And the first outcome of many was emailed to me this afternoon by Kirsty Walker of Hobblebush Design – the first draft of the first lesson of the curriculum…woo hoo! Although it is only a draft, and will receive some illustrative upgrades and perhaps more tweaking, it was a beautiful sight.
I am thrilled that the creation of this curriculum is underway, and I am extremely thankful for the time and effort Mark Wiley of UNH, Kate Leavitt of the Seacoast Science Center, and Kirsty Walker of Hobblebush have put into this project.
I am currently working on lesson four of this rocky shore curriculum, and have many more to go, but couldn’t wait to share a sample of what has been made and what is to come with all of you.
Thank YOU for taking the time to read this, and for your support and encouragement.
Enjoy the “sneak peek”:
Studying ecosystems is a major component of elementary science. Ecosystem education is recommended for nearly every primary grade in both the Science Literacy New Hampshire Curriculum Frameworks and the Next Generation Science Standards. Learning about ecosystems is not only a high interest topic of life sciences among young students – it also provides them with a stimulating and illuminating opportunity to learn science by doing science depending on where they live. For a vast majority of New Hampshire students, the rocky shore ecosystem is an accessible learning laboratory.
Cindy VanHooyDonk & Megan Smith
This week I had a chance to shadow one of the Seacoast Science Center’s naturalists while she facilitated a classroom visit to the rocky shore. It was a gorgeous Thursday morning with sunny skies, warm waters and plenty of space to explore the ecosystem’s diverse organisms and environmental elements. To my excited surprise, the time slot I chose to observe belonged to Sutton Central Elementary School – one of the four elementary schools in my own district!
Kelly Tivnan, SSC Naturalist
The Seacoast Science Center’s naturalist that allowed me to pester her with questions and tag alongside her all morning was Kelly Tivnan. Ms. Tivnan is a soft-spoken yet spirited individual who decided to work for the SSC because of her love of the seacoast, joy in teaching, and dedication to education and the conservation of our state’s rocky shore. You can tell she adores children and highly values the responsibility of providing valuable learning experiences for visiting schools. This is reflected not only in her work but also in her life as a proud mother of four and a new member of the Middleton, NH school board.
Ms. Tivnan’s responsibilities can be divided into three major categories: 1) educate students about the rocky shore’s dynamic community, 2) facilitate on-site student investigations of the rocky shore and 3) field and answer questions from students. I am thankful for her hard-working efforts in her local community and at the SSC, and am grateful that I had the chance to shadow her morning session with Sutton Central.
Science class at the rocky shore is an experience that is not only memorable, but as I have mentioned before in my blog, an educational paradise. The ability to be involved with inquiry-based learning at one of the world’s most interesting and diverse ecosystems – one that is quite perilous for its inhabitants and constantly changing – is an extremely valuable endeavor. I was very appreciative once more of my time at the rocky shore and being able to spend it with Ms. Smith’s fantastic third grade class! It was wonderful to be able to watch her students take their content knowledge from the classroom and apply and refine their science inquiry skills at the rocky shore…it was learning science by doing science at its best.