On August 26th, 2022, 38 Rising Star Elementary School staff jumped on a bus to headed to Bainbridge Island! The staff trip was a part of IslandWood’s Focus School partnership with Rising Star Elementary centered on helping students across grades make connections between classroom science learning, their communities, and outdoor spaces. In 2021, IslandWood and EarthGen partnered with Rising Star Elementary to provide Amplify Science curricular support for classroom teachers, incorporate local climate science and cultivate school-wide curriculum connections to their wetland, school garden and community. IslandWood and EarthGen staff worked with teachers across grade levels to help them link up their science curriculum with outdoor experiences that authentically engage students with nature in urban settings. Including their schoolyard as active learning grounds has helped elevate students’ lived experiences and foster student-led practices geared toward local biodiversity conservation efforts in their own neighborhood.
During the 2022-2023 academic year, IslandWood is continuing the effort to empower Rising Star Elementary teachers’ professional capacity to teach Next Generation Science Standards and develop Climate Science & Culturally Responsive teaching strategies. The overall goal is to help students build authentic connections with their own schoolyard and integrate outdoor spaces in their curriculum. This community learning experience is nurtured by ongoing collaboration with EarthGen and local organizations such as Nurturing Roots, Duwamish Valley Youth Corps , and The Tomorrow Project.
This August’s staff retreat provided an opportunity for Rising Star staff to reconnect, revisit the goals of the partnership, and cultivate reflection on outdoor learning and support teachers in their growing teaching practice. In the morning, staff reflected on the role nature can play in their wellness and how they can use outdoor spaces in curricular and stewardship learning goals. Rising Star Elementary teachers connected with colleagues while hiking through towering Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, and Hemlock and built community with a teacher led scavenger hunt, bird call hike, and creative writing workshop. In the afternoon, Brad Street, IslandWood Professional Development Manager, reviewed past achievements and future equity and inclusion focused learning goals for the Rising Star– IslandWood ClimeTime partnership. Teachers and support staff teams then discussed student needs, community curriculum connections, writing enrichment implications, and potential ecosystem conservation action plans for their schoolyard. The teachers’ excitement exploring potential cross-curricular connections and brainstorming about their science curriculum implementation goals was palpable!