Here is a quick reflection on our recent Professional Development Workshop from our youngest co-director Spencer Eusden.
Our recent Professional Development Workshop was a powerful experience for me, in that I was able to share with other educators why I fell in love with teaching. While there was little doubt that I would grow up to be a teacher considering both my parents and my brother are also teachers, it took me a while to find its calling. After enthusiastically obtaining a B.A. in Biology and Environmental Studies, I started working in outdoor education trying to spread my love of science. With a lot of help, I built lessons that gave students hands-on experience collecting field data as part of current research done by a local university. To my gross frustration, while the students collected valuable data, these lessons did little to engage students beyond them getting a day out of the classroom. Simply letting students participate in someone else’s research, as real and current as it may be, did little to make them want to be scientists when they grow up any more than before the lesson. Finding a solution to this problem, of how to engage students in real science, is at the heart of why I became involved with Headwaters. I first began to fall in love with teaching when we were piloting Headwaters’ teaching protocol. At its simplest these methods were: 1. Introduce students to a topic, 2. Let students come up with their own research questions, and 3. Push their projects towards academic rigor. In these first programs, I saw how much further students were willing to push the boundaries of their knowledge when researching their own questions than when they were collecting data for someone else. Moreover, students, who according to their teachers weren’t strong in the sciences, were engaged trying to find ways to test their hypotheses. Finally finding a way to share my enthusiasm for science with students was what sold me on being an educator and set Headwaters on its’ way.
Fast forward to our Professional Development Workshop this summer. With a year of curriculum development and several hundred student-days under our belts, we were finally ready to help teachers use student driven research in the classroom. Over the first two days of the workshop, I ran our teaching methods in the field with students while educators looked on watching them in action. It was really special for me to be able to show teachers firsthand how well these methods work. During the rest of the workshop, we helped teachers develop strategies for implementing these projects in their own classrooms and built custom curriculum around their interests. All told, the workshop was a great way for me to reflect on and share why I love being an educator and I can’t wait for the next one.