To the Earth

 

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I realized today, that 10 years of teaching means I’ve had over 1,500 students in my classes. I told this to one of my students in the gym, and she replied “OH MY GOD, haven’t you gotten bored?!” I replied “No way, every day is new.” It’s the students who keep it new. Every single one of them has had an impact on me…and so my teaching, and so each other, and so their communities. It blows my mind how amazing that is! Still, students say things on a near-daily basis that impact me.

For instance, today in Biofitness, students had an option to help out in the school garden. When I said I needed a team to water, several volunteered. When I said I needed seed planters, again, no problem – several volunteers. When I said I needed someone to pull weeds, a few kids stepped forward. After having pulled weeds for about 10 minutes, one student, I’ll call her “I”, said “Do we get to keep pulling weeds? I really like it, it makes me feel good. I feel relaxed.” Jet fuel for the high school Health/Environmental Science teacher’s soul!

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I feel a deep need to be outside, to be around living things, in particular plants. I don’t know if this is just me, or if everyone else is happy with being primarily around cars, computers, and walls and I’m just in the wrong environment for my personality type. I suspect that other people long to be connected with the Earth too, though. To be breathing clean, fresh air, in natural light, and in the company of green thriving things.

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Tomorrow is Earth Day.

I’ll be marching for science to downtown Napa with my family a few hours before the city’s Earth Day celebration to help Environmental Science students set up a booth – a booth they organized and initiated completely on their own. I’m doing the momteacher jobs of bringing the canopy, table & cloth, and proudly taking photos.

We anticipate Earth Day with enthusiasm in the Wolf household. It’s a chance to celebrate the unique planet of which we are a part, and revisit the things we can do to better live in tune with the beautiful web of which we are a part. Tonight, tucking my oldest son (7 years) into bed, I  said “Tomorrow’s Earth Party Downtown!”, he replied “Can we bring gloves and pick up some trash?”. That’s my boy.

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This semester has been a challenging one to teach Environmental Science. The beginning of the year had great positive momentum – there was a feeling of being a part of a collective understanding that our long-used strategy of “burn stuff” for energy isn’t working out so well for our species, let alone the ecosystems on which we depend. The Paris Climate Agreement (albeit largely symbolic) gave us something to look to as we recognized the Tragedy of the Commons unfolding in many aspects of modern society around us.

Of course, in our own country, there’s been a shift since then. As a teacher, I abstain from sharing my own perspective on political matters. Science, however, has become increasingly political. How can I teach Environmental Science and NOT be political? I can’t. I gave that up. I decided to re-focus in on the power and impact of local government and grassroots movements. Where in the life science standards is this? It’s not. The standards are the “what”. The ethics are the “why”. I’m not a teacher of the “what” without the “how” and “why” – I call that a shallow concept tutorial. I’m a human, so I teach human stuff to humans.

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In the PBL classroom we’re trying new things, basing projects on big questions with no clear answers, looking the scariest problems of the world square in the face and saying “I’m taking you on”.

We’re getting our hands dirty and tearing down the walls, one day at a time.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.
John Muir

 

 

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