Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Workshop; Voices From the Land

"Miracles rest simply upon our perception being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what there is about us always."  --Willa Cather

Snail on stem
On June 18th and 19th, a group of teachers had the privilege of attending the "Voices From the Land" workshop at the Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum.  The goal of this workshop is to integrate outdoor learning with classroom curriculum and technology.  It was led by Brian Hayes (director of the Monarch Teacher Network out of New Jersey) and volunteers Cindy and Paul Wackerbarth (from Washington D.C.).  South Haven teachers representing Lincoln Elementary, Maple Grove Elementary, North Shore Elementary, Baseline Middle School and L.C. Mohr High School attended.  We explored the trails and landscape surrounding the museum.  We created art, took photographs, wrote and performed poetry and learned some tricks for publishing posters and books based on children's writing and art.  Through the workshop we experienced many concrete activities to connect outdoor learning to our present curriculum in a hands-on and exciting format.  Included with the workshop, each participant received a book and a CD with many more creative and fun activities for students of all ages.  On Thursday night, Brian gave a free lecture on nature study at the museum that was opened to the public.  His energy, generosity and knowledge made for a fun and informative event. I know that my teaching will be enhanced after experiencing this dynamic workshop and I am forever grateful to Brian, Cindy and Paul.  It was truly a wonderful experience.

Brian and Sarah during a performance poem
Reflecting on those two days of intense learning and sharing, I also know that it was much more than the gathering of ideas and activities.  Brian, Cindy and Paul came sharing something bigger than the study of plants or insects or poetry or technology or even science.  They spread the joy of learning, the joy of teaching and the joy of community.  It reminds me of a favorite Liberty Hyde Bailey quote.  He was answering the question, why nature study?

"Its legitimate result is education -- the developing of mental power, the opening of the eyes and the mind. the civilizing of the individual.  As with all education it's central purpose is to make the individual happy; for happiness is nothing more or less than pleasant and efficient thinking.  It is often said that the ignorant man may be as happy as the educated man.  Relatively, this is true; absolutely, it is not.  A ten-foot well is not so deep as a twenty-foot well; and although the ten-foot well may be filled to the brim,  it holds only half as much water as the other." --Liberty Hyde Bailey

Those of us lucky enough to have attended this workshop were reminded that teaching and learning are really about "pleasant and efficient thinking" and ultimately, that brings happiness.  Thank you Brain, Cindy and Paul for deepening our wells of knowledge and strengthening our community of nature-study enthusiasts!  We are looking forward to a new school year filled with the joy of  outdoor learning!

A special thank you to the South Haven Public Schools Foundation for their donation of five scholarships and the Monarch Teacher Network for their donation of two scholarships.  Thanks also to the Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum for providing a lovely space, catered lunch and housing for the presenters.  We could not have done this without a great deal of support from many good people.  Thank you!