Park for Every Classroom
April 2023 Newsletter
Welcome back for the third installment of the monthly Park for Every Classroom newsletter! We’ve got an update from the PEC Team at African Burial Ground National Monument on their PD series Seeding Resiliency, a feature on the recent NPS Education Summit from Carly Buta, an update on the Community of Practice, and resources for Earth Day. Here we go!
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🌿 Seeding Resiliency with the AFBG Team
In early April, I (PEC Program Coordinator Ingrid Thyr) got the chance to check in with the New York City-based African Burial Ground National Monument PEC Team about how their professional development series, Seeding Resiliency, was going. When we spoke, the team, which consists of Bethany Burnett (African Burial Ground National Monument), Jennifer Bombardier (Lower East Side Ecology Center), and Angelika Wronowska (Peck Slip School), had just put on their second (of four) total PD sessions the week before and were already gearing up for the next two. Here’s an overview of the PD plan, highlights, and lessons learned as the AFBG Team reflected back on their equity-centered climate change PD journey so far.
This team decided to split their PD into four separate 1-2 hour sessions occurring approximately monthly with each session focusing on a different aspect of “the history of Manhattan and how colonization and industrialization of this region has contributed to the oppression of BIPOC communities, environmental degradation, and the changing climate.” (Quotation from Jennifer’s description of the PD)
Their first session took place at Peck Slip School and was centered around introducing climate change education to the PD attendees (teachers from Peck Slip) and framing this PD as building off of what the teachers already know and use in their classrooms.
The second session brought PD attendees to African Burial Ground National Monument, where Bethany brought them on a tour of the site while also digging into how she normally gives the tour to visiting students – as Bethany put it, “a reflective tour” to give the attendees a look behind the scenes.
For the third session, Jennifer will be leading a street tree care session where attendees will learn not only how to take care of urban trees, but also how urban foliage can be reflective of inequalities in the city and how residents can play a role in creating more climate-resilient neighborhoods by taking care of these trees. This is a classic Lower East Side Ecology Center activity that the team is excited to share with teachers.
Finally, their last session will bring them back to Peck Slip School, where they plan to continue to tie together these threads–climate change education, the local history of colonization and industrialization, and local stewardship through street tree care–and ultimately create a platform for the attendees to incorporate these ideas into their own classrooms.
Highlights So Far:
PD Attendees: Bethany, Jennifer, and Angelika all sang the praises of the teachers attending the workshops, explaining that the attendees have been “fabulous since the first activity we ran.” From a science specialist to a PE teacher, pre-k teacher to a 5th grade teacher, the attendees have brought a wide variety of knowledge and backgrounds and formed a productive group where they’ve been enthusiastic and engaged participants and open with their curiosities.
Camaraderie and Connections: Another common highlight amongst the AFBG team has been the camaraderie and connections formed within their own group and their respective organizations. Each mentioned how they hope African Burial Ground National Monument, Lower East Side Ecology Center, and Peck Slip School will continue to collaborate on projects into the future now that these initial connections have been made.
Resources in NYC: From being able to get feedback from the Director of Science at the Department of Education to working within the milieu of NYC Public Schools’ new focus on climate change to all of the incredible people, places, and events that are happening in NYC, this team has been grateful for the resources they’ve found in their backyard (so to speak).
Lessons Learned So Far:
Four Sessions vs. One Session: Though the model of splitting the PD into four separate sessions has its strengths (including giving Bethany, Jennifer, and Angelika time to reflect and plan between each session), it has been difficult to schedule times when all of the PD participants can attend. Moving forward, this team would like to plan a single day-long session PD that combines the four sessions into one to make it easier for teachers to attend.
Stipends for Teachers: This team was able to use the PEC Spark funding to help provide a stipend for teachers who have attended their PD which has been helpful in getting teachers to attend the PD.
Building off of Existing Knowledge: One big theme coming out of the PD so far has been that this PEC team and the teachers aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to place-based climate change education; Instead, they’re building on the knowledge they already have and drawing on resources from folks who have taught these topics before them. Bottom line, teaching equity centered climate change doesn’t need to be super intimidating, and they’re working to make it teacher and student accessible.
The AFBG team will hold their third Seeding Resiliency session in late April and final session in early June. A hearty congratulations for their work so far, and a big thanks for sharing it with us. We look forward to hearing more after they wrap up the series!
⛰️ Reflections on the NPS Education Summit from Carly Buta
Carly Buta is the Partnership and Collaboration Specialist at the NPS Stewardship Institute – and a vital member of the PEC facilitation team! Here she shares some thoughts following the NPS Education Summit:
At the end of March, I got to participate in the first Education Summit that the NPS has hosted, and I left feeling excited about the direction that education in the park service is heading!
Shauna Potocky, the education strategist for the park service and one of our extraordinary PEC facilitators, put together this 4-day summit full of engaging sessions with the help of a great team. Some of the topics for the week included the Foundations of Education, America 250, Student Learning after Trauma, and Honoring Tribal Legacies.
Park for Every Classroom was also featured during a session titled “Finding Your Place in Climate Change Education.” In it, our very own Joan Haley presented with Larry Perez, from the NPS Climate Change Response Program, and Geneviève de Messières, the lead for NASA’s Earth to Sky Interagency Partnership. They discussed the programs and the different ways that each is supporting educators across the service. It was great to see PEC and all the work we’ve been doing getting recognized on such a large scale and to have participants be so engaged in the Q&A at the end.
In addition to all the insightful knowledge that was shared at the summit, there were also some really fun parts. These included a Spotify playlist full of participants favorite songs, snack recipes from each region, and even a guided meditation at the end of one of the days. I’m a big fan of putting the joy into our work, so I’ll definitely be thinking about ways to incorporate those ideas into more of my events 🙂
Lastly, something I’ve been reflecting on was the welcome from the Director of the NPS, Chuck Sams. In it, he said to look back and remember our first teachers and the excitement that came from learning and realize that excitement is what you as educators are now providing to so many students day in and day out. I love that message, because I think it's so important to always be reminding ourselves that the students are who we’re doing this hard work for. So, I hope we can all get excited about PEC and the next few months we are going to spend learning together and transfer that energy to our students!
🍄 PEC Community of Practice on May 25th
The next Community of Practice meeting is coming up on May 25th, 3:00 - 4:15 p.m. and will feature a presentation from the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park PEC Team. We will also have time for one-on-one connections, and a larger group brainstorming session for tackling a current, relevant challenge. Please contact Delia email@example.com before the meeting if you have any issues or opportunities you would like to bring up with the group. We look forward to seeing you there!
🌎 Earth Day Resources
Earth Day falls on Saturday April 22nd this year, though schools, parks, and other organizations will be celebrating this day across the USA throughout the coming week. Here are some resources for celebrating Earth Day in the classroom, at a park, or elsewhere:
🌱 Thanks for reading!
That’s all for now! You can send ideas, questions, and/or feedback about this newsletter to firstname.lastname@example.org.