No Teacher Left Inside: Using the Environment as a Context for Interdisciplinary Learning
I grew up attending a week-long camp each summer. My parents would drop me off on Sunday afternoon and I would enter a room of gangly adolescents all waiting nervously to see who they’d bunk with in their cabin for the next five days, hoping you’d be paired with at least one person you know. By Tuesday, we knew everyone’s names, and by the time we left on Friday, we’d be weeping to leave our “best friends” who we might never see again.
Past participants have described the No Teacher Left Inside Institute as “summer camp for teachers.” While we may not all shed tears when the institute comes to a close at the end of the week, I would say that the relationships developed and bonds formed by sharing meals, sitting around a fire, or paddling a canoe, are similar to, if not more meaningful than, those I experienced at summer camp.
Even though the No Teacher Left Inside Institute may feel like camp, it is all professional development. Developed for teachers by teachers, this event immerses participants in hands-on, active experiences using the environment as a context so these educators can gain the skills they need to take learning outside more frequently. Networking and learning from other professionals permeates early morning walks, meals, and evening recreation.
The Wisconsin Green Schools Network and Green Schools National Network will host the 7th Annual No Teacher Left Inside Institute July 18-21 at Conserve School in Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin. While the theme, topics, and skills taught at each institute have been different, the goal to provide meaningful, relevant, practical professional development has remained the same. Each year’s content is based on feedback from the field and is always grounded in the day-to-day realities of teaching.
The need for interdisciplinary education stemmed from concern at both the primary and secondary levels. In elementary schools, teachers are struggling to provide meaningful learning experiences in social studies and science, rather than simply “reading” about it. In many high schools, there continues to be a disconnect between the traditional 50 minute period courses. This disconnect can spur student disinterest in the subject area because they cannot grasp the full, dynamic nature of the career fields. When students realize connections, like drawing upon their love of writing to communicate about science, they are often willing to explore new areas and topics more readily.
The 2016 No Teacher Left Inside Institute features experiential learning with participants immersed in exploring the deep connections between societal and environmental issues, specifically learning about the historic “Walleye War” in Wisconsin, and coaching-type professional development with time each day for participants to apply new instructional strategies and ideas to develop their own unit of study or curriculum framework. By Thursday afternoon, participants should leave with a solid plan for interdisciplinary learning experiences in their own classrooms.
New this year is an optional two-night, three-day excursion into the Sylvania Wilderness July 21-23. This wilderness experience will provide additional time for reflection and personal growth after the main institute concludes. Led by educators with experience taking students into the field, participants will continue to grow the potential for their teaching practice. This will truly be “teacher camp.”
The No Teacher Left Inside Institute is not a “once-and-done” professional development experience. Like my childhood summer camp, many participants return each year to reconnect with “camp buddies,” develop new relationships, further develop pedagogy, and find additional inspiration for the upcoming year.
For more information or to register visit: www.WisconsinGreenSchoolsNetwork.org.
Victoria Rydberg is the Environmental Education Consultant with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and co-founder of the Wisconsin Green Schools Network.