In my second week interning at CEDaR, I attended a curriculum training through the Inquiry Hub at CU; and wow, what an experience. Inquiry Hub staff, teachers from the Denver Public Schools, and teachers from Northwestern University in Illinois convened in Boulder to begin work on the first three “Bends” (elements) of a storyline curriculum being implemented in schools across the country. The lessons were all connected to a larger theme of climate change, and how planting a tree can help to reduce our impact on the environment. I had no lessons of this kind in high school and was thrilled to see that climate change was becoming part of the mainstream school curriculum. The goal of using storylines is to connect units and subjects that students are learning so that they can see a “flow” throughout the lessons. It gives the lessons more context and meaning. Although I was majoring in Education for a year and had many curriculum planning and classroom experiences of my own, I had not encountered this type of curriculum before; I was excited to see how the workshop would play out.
I had never attended an intensive workshop like this one. I was able to see and take part in all of the hard work and collaboration that goes into curriculum building. I learned very quickly that lessons are never finished. Teachers constantly have to adapt to emerging changes and tailor lessons to best fit the needs of their students. It was fascinating hearing the variety of experiences teachers had with their students teaching the same material.
I felt somewhat lost in all of the biology-related material – the workshop was focused on a high school biology class – but was excited to learn more about the chemical makeup and processes that allow trees to sequester carbon. Teachers then began planning a tree planting project for the students, where at least one tree would be planted by each school. This series of lessons seemed to fit closely with CEDaR’s Westwood project, and could provide mutual benefits: students needed resources and space to plant trees, and CEDaR is looking for a means to access residents and encourage neighborhood tree planting. To be a part of the beginning stages of a potential partnership is exactly the experience I was hoping for when I accepted this internship. It is still very much in the works, but I look forward to continuing to plan a tree planting collaboration with DPS that fits in CEDaR’s line of work and meets the needs of the curriculum and communities.
I hope to carry these experiences back to Burlington with me when I return to the University of Vermont in the fall. I would love to help neighborhood schools develop tree planting projects in the neighborhood, developing partnerships that are mutually beneficial. I may have just found my ideal capstone project, and an exciting career path on which to embark.