A Lost Experience: Kids in Nature

Have you ever asked your grandparents or parents about what they did for fun as a child?

If you did, you likely heard stories about climbing trees, building forts, chasing fireflies, fishing, riding bikes, playing outdoors with neighborhood friends, or going to a nearby park for a pickup game or sport.

Ask today’s elementary school students what they do for fun, and the answer is quite different.

The current generation of young people are playing video games, sending texts, and making posts on social media. Some are passionate about a sport, to which they may dedicate numerous hours each week. Most of these activities are done indoors.

Today, many kids stay inside because of the weather or from fear of a mosquito, spider, snake, or . . . (insert the name of your most dreaded creature).

The outdoor and nature-based activities of prior generations provided adventure, fun, and entertainment for youth.

Like the dinosaurs, are the outdoor activities of our parents and grandparents becoming extinct?

The Nature Conservancy wants to keep those connections to nature and the outdoor world very much alive. We want every child in Indiana—and the world—to enjoy the many benefits that nature gives us.

Scientists are studying nature’s effects on people and measuring some of the amazing things that we may have experienced or know intuitively. Being in nature helps adults reduce hypertension and depression. Kids who live on a farm and are exposed to soil and domestic animals are less likely to have asthma than urban children. The risk of nearsightedness is reduced when children play outside more. Playing in gardens or natural areas contributes positively to learning and development, aiding cooperation skills and reducing conflict among children.

Connecting to nature helps improve the health and well-being of children, their families, and their communities. The Nature Conservancy knows that if we care for nature, nature will care for us.

We want to encourage childhood time exploring nature and avoid the possibility that time in nature could become an “extinct” childhood experience.

Will you join us in this endeavor?

Questions? Contact us at ChildrenofIndianaNaturePark@tnc.org

Mary McConnell

Author: Mary McConnell, Director, The Nature Conservancy Indiana Chapter

Mother Nature—Kids’ Second Favorite Teacher

Remember your favorite teacher growing up?

Chances are, she inspired a love of learning in you. She probably told stories, showed examples, and helped connect the dots between lessons learned in the classroom and those in the outside world.

That’s just what nature can do for you and your students: inspire a love of learning, provide examples you can feel, and, most importantly, connect what we learn to how it can help our planet. Nature is a common denominator that we all share—and a wonderful natural teacher, too!

Although nature is all around us, getting students to connect to the natural world is often difficult, given the daily distractions of full schedules, screens, and information coming from all directions.

Yet the benefits we get from nature are endless.

Click here to learn more!

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is also good at connecting the dots.

Our long history of working to protect land and water in Indiana, across the United States, and around the world has helped bring together people and communities to find practical solutions to nature’s biggest challenges. Here at TNC, we know that if we protect nature, it will protect us.

Connecting to nature helps improve the health and well-being of children, their families, and their communities.

What’s more, nature can help kids become better learners. And, by learning more, we can help kids care more about the natural world and why they should help protect it. After first hearing the song of a bird through a website, kids can then listen for that sound outdoors and even hear it before they spot it in a tree. When you can identify an animal, you know what it is, and you probably care about it a little more than before you knew its name.

According to Solutions Journal, kids today can identify about 1,000 corporate logos, but few can identify more than a handful of native plant and animal species.

We all learn differently, whether it’s by sight, sound, touch, or interaction. Nature connects all the dots and is something that kids can experience using all their senses. Bringing nature into the classroom or, better yet, taking your kids out into nature, will stimulate their senses and help them connect what they learn in the classroom to the outside world.

With your help, your students could have a second favorite teacher: Mother Nature!

Mary McConnell

Author: Mary McConnell, Director, The Nature Conservancy Indiana Chapter

Selective Rigor: What to Do About It?

Dr. Bruce Torff

Dr. Audrey F. Murphy

Today’s bloggers are Bruce Torff and Audrey Figueroa Murphy. Their article, “Teachers’ Beliefs About Rigor of Curriculum for English Language Learners,” appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.


Educators have looked high and low for the causes of achievement gaps between the “haves” and “have nots” in our society, and for good reason:

These gaps are distressingly large and resistant to change.

Possible causes include in-school factors (e.g., rigor of curriculum, teacher experience and attendance, teacher preparation, class size, technology-assisted instruction, school safety) and various conditions outside of school (e.g., birth weight, lead poisoning, hunger and nutrition, reading to young children, television watching, parent availability, student mobility, parent participation).

No one seems to know the exact causes, but some combination of factors does the deed.

Could it be that one set of factors has been hiding in plain sight? Do educators’ well-intended beliefs about “what works” for different populations of learners play a role, if a largely unseen one? According to research, the answer may be yes.

It’s true, but unsurprising, that success in school has a lot to do with the level of rigor in the curriculum; students given challenging work achieve more. Educators know that lessons need to pitched to challenge but not overwhelm learners, as if to follow Dewey’s advice that teaching should begin a little over the head of the learner. Accordingly, educators’ judgments do much to establish how academically demanding the curriculum will be.

But research shows that teachers favor somewhat less rigorous curriculum for learners they perceive to be low in socio-economic status, SES. And our research published in this issue of The Educational Forum indicates that English language learners are among the student populations educators believe to be less able to handle the rigorous curriculum prescribed for their more English-proficient peers. The rich get richer, getting rigorous curriculum leading to high achievement, prompting more high-octane lessons. And the poor get poorer, with impoverished curriculum leading to lower achievement, yielding another round of undemanding lessons.

In several publications, we tie these beliefs to cultural norms about how learners tick and how teaching should proceed. Beliefs about learning and teaching in our culture, part of the culture’s commonsense “folk psychology,” prompt educators to reduce the rigor of curriculum for some populations, exacerbating achievement gaps. Because of our culture’s way of doing things, well-intended educators fan the flames of the blaze they seek to extinguish, by their efforts to give students the level of academic rigor they deem appropriate.

A question is raised: How can we counter this cause of achievement gaps?

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through February 28, 2019.

Top 5 Reasons to Update Your KDP Profile Preferences

So many great resources are available to KDP members that it might be a little overwhelming.

However, we now offer a way for you to tell KDP what you want! Your MyKDP profile allows you to indicate and change your interest areas and your expertise, and specify what you want from your membership experience. Here are the top five reasons why updating your preferences will help you.

5) Tailor communications for you. By indicating your interests, we are sure to alert you to new resources, issues, and events that fit what you want to know about.

4) Connect with other members who have similar interests. These interests will help unite you with those who have similar issues, questions, or concerns around the topic. This way, you can communicate and learn from one another.

3) Reduce irrelevant emails. Get messages which provide content that addresses the topics most important to you.

2) Help KDP create resources for your needs. By learning what your interests are, KDP can focus our efforts on resources, benefits, and services that you need to succeed.

1) Ensure you are getting the most from your membership. We want you to succeed, and the best way to help is by providing you with relevant resources for your needs—no matter where you are in your career. To do this, we need your feedback on how we can best support you.

Log in to MyKDP and click on My Education and Interests and My Expectations from Membership to edit your information. Select your choices and save. It’s that easy!

Thanks for being a member of Kappa Delta Pi!

International Day of Education

As educators, we understand the value and power of education. We witness it each day—when our students have an “aha” moment, when they grin with pride after successfully completing a new task, when they graduate ready to pursue their dreams.

The role of education in changing lives and communities is now more important than ever.

A year ago, the United Nations ratified the new 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including Quality Education as goal number 4. The 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report determined that it is only through achieving quality education for all that the other 16 SDGs will be achieved.

In other words, the path to a just, peaceful, thriving planet is dependent on providing a quality education for everyone.

Unfortunately, millions of people around the globe do not have access to a quality education. As we remain steadfastly committed to Kappa Delta Pi’s goal of equity and a quality education for all, we work to serve members around the globe through campaigns like Change for Children, Books for Nigeria, and most recently, Backpacks of Hope.

We also support educators with quality resources and training though professional development courses on our new Educator Learning Network.

The power and impact of our community of committed educators continues to make a difference in the lives of students every day. In October, we will come together to recognize our role and grow as professionals at our international Convocation, focusing on the Power of You, the educator. For any educator who is interested in joining us, proposals are now being accepted on our website at http://www.kdp.org/convo2019.

As an NGO of the United Nations for 9 years, we invite you to join us in celebrating International Day of Education on January 24.

Because you are leaders of teaching and learning, this day celebrates you! On this day and every day, we need to remember that as education professionals, the people and creatures of the world are relying on us to make the world a better place. There is no other profession that has this role, privilege, and responsibility.

I leave you with a challenge. Share with the world your philosophy of education using the Showcase section of your FREE e-portfolio through our Educator Learning Network. Upload your philosophy to your e-portfolio and use the hashtag #EdPhilosophyChallenge on social media to share your philosophy with the world and others who are passionate about education. By doing so, you’re helping to raise awareness of the importance of education in our global society. (To create your e-portfolio, log into your KDP member profile and click on ‘My ePortfolio’ under the ‘My Account’ menu.)

Thank you for ALL that you do to make the world a better place through your chosen profession.

Faye Snodgress is the Executive Director of KDP.

Statement on Migrant Children

Children, our most valuable resource, make up one third of the world’s population. Yet, in many places around the globe, children are not being allowed to realize their full potential.

Migrants and refugees are among the most vulnerable, often denied access to an education and the hope of a better future. Of particular concern are the migrant children at the U.S.–Mexican border. The number of those children detained in the United States has skyrocketed from 2,400 in May 2017 to 12,800 in September 2018.

As an organization whose mission is quality learning for all, Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) strongly urges federal and state authorities to ensure that all children have access to a high-quality education and appropriate educational services that address their special needs.

They deserve access to educators who can assist with their cultural adjustment and literacy development, and who can provide socio-emotional support. Educators working with these children need to be well-trained and to have support in managing multilingual, multicultural classes that often include students with psychosocial needs. The experience of refugee children often includes trauma, sometimes lasting for months or even years. According to Jack Shonkoff, Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, “High levels of stress can disrupt the architecture of the developing brain and other biological systems, with serious negative impacts on learning, behavior, and lifelong physical and mental health.”

Serving migrant children is different from working with other “newcomers.” Educators need to understand the economic and educational conditions in the countries from which students are arriving; some students have attended school, while others have never had any formal education. U.S. federal regulations stipulate that the curriculum needs to promote diversity, reflect cultural sensitivities, and challenge prejudices. Unfortunately, some textbooks include highly politicized and discriminatory views.

In many locations, the education being provided in refugee settings is plagued by untrained teachers, few resources, and language barriers.

In 2018, the Associated Press polled 61 public school districts to find out what educational services are being provided to students in migrant shelters. Of the 50 districts that responded, most said that they had no contact with either the shelter or the Department of Health and Human Services, which is ultimately responsible for providing education services to migrant children.

Achieving a world that is equitable and free of violence starts with a quality education for all children.

Education is the path to a better future, access to which is the right of all children, including migrants. Children are our collective future. KDP will steadfastly work to ensure that its mission of a quality education becomes a reality for all children.

As an initial step, KDP—in partnership with the Kino Border Initiative, the La Posada Providencia School, and the San Antonio Veterans Institute—has launched a Backpacks of Hope campaign to provide the children housed in Nogales, AZ, and La Posada Providencia in San Benito, TX, with backpacks containing coloring books, crayons, and toiletries. KDP wants to provide these children, after arriving with only the clothes on their backs, with a sense of hope. 100% of all funds raised until January 31st goes directly to children, with gifts as low as $7 making a huge difference.

Please consider a gift today.

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
— John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

Publication CoverInformation about the educational issues facing migrant children and their teachers is available in the January 2019 issue of the Kappa Delta Pi Record. Through January 31st, access one of its articles, “The Binational Context of the Students We Share: What Educators on Both Sides of the Border Need to Know,” for free by clicking here.

The Results Are In! (Executive Summary from Fall 2018 KDP Membership Survey)

In KDP’s continuing efforts to provide the most relevant services and experiences for members, we conduct an annual survey to encourage feedback. Following are some of the key results and recommendations from the survey.

The 2018 survey was split into four primary member groups—undergraduates, graduate (both master’s and doctoral) students, practitioners, and faculty members—and conducted between October 1 and November 9, with 3,765 participants.

Although specialized surveys were provided for these groups, some consistent themes appeared across all segments. These primarily included collaboration with colleagues and mentoring as well as the desire for online learning capacity.

Undergraduates

Of the more than 12,000 KDP members in this category, 1,823 responded—or about 15% of this membership segment. This category of membership can include anyone who is enrolled in an undergraduate program, regardless of format or degree type.

The most beneficial way that KDP could assist undergraduates—as identified by 73% of respondents—is by providing practical, easy-to implement strategies and ideas in a handbook.

Mentors and colleague collaboration were chosen as the most preferable ways to get additional training. Online learning was identified as a close third.

Of those who responded, 90% would or might participate in a virtual career fair.

Almost 65% were interested in gaining additional credentials via online methods, but almost 30% said they were unfamiliar with this idea/product.

Slightly more than 71% either do not have or are unfamiliar with an e-portfolio.

New tools like the Educator Learning Network that KDP launched in November 2018 can provide significant benefits and be valuable to this segment as it moves into the workforce. Additionally, continuing to create a more robust environment for mentor/mentee relationships will be appreciated and will set them up for greater success in the classroom.

Graduate Students

We had 413 respondents to this survey, or roughly 19% of this member group. This group is comprised of individuals in graduate or doctoral programs. More than half the respondents were in a master’s program.

Mentoring and colleague collaboration ranked as the two most important needs, while getting additional training with online learning ran a close third.

Practical, easy-to implement strategies and ideas provided in a handbook was the top choice for how KDP could assist graduate students (66%), while more than 61% selected online professional development.

Almost 74% were interested in gaining additional credentials via online methods. However, more than 75% either do not have or are unfamiliar with an e-portfolio.

From the open-ended responses, mentoring and community networking were identified as the greatest things KDP could do for this segment. Providing resources also was referenced as desirable. Additionally, the need for collaboration and guidance was significant; therefore, building an appropriate environment to support this networking will be critical to serving this group.

Practitioners

For this survey group, more than 1,170 people replied, or about 7% of this membership segment, which is comprised of teachers in any position from Pre-K through secondary grades.

Only about 66% of respondents said they were currently teaching, with 82% of them working in the PreK–12 area.

Respondents identified work/life balance, time management, and classroom management as key issues for those entering the classroom.

Respondents felt having mentors and colleague collaboration are the best ways for newer teachers to get help in areas for which they were not prepared.

Receiving practical, easy-to implement strategies and ideas provided in a handbook was the top choice for how KDP could assist practitioners (64%), while online professional development was most important for more than 58%.

Again, a surprising number—75%—either do not have or are unfamiliar with an e-portfolio.

Mentor and colleague collaboration were listed as the strongest ways KDP could assist this group, with training with online learning a close third. Help is also needed for accessing additional training, information, and/or resources.

This group requested more resources for classroom success. This included specialized resources such as for math, physical education, and music, but also more support from quick-to-read tips, advice, and materials. Getting personal support from colleagues in the field was huge! Creating a more robust support network is critical to their retention in the profession as well as in KDP.

Higher Education Faculty

For this survey, 357 people responded, or about 20% of our membership base in this category. These are members who self-identify as a professor, dean, or higher ed administrator.

Of those who responded, 65% feel online training and micro-credentials would help their students be better prepared for the classroom. This was followed closely by local opportunities and leadership training.

Almost 68% said KDP should develop complimentary online courses to help students.

Additionally, more than 82% felt KDP should develop online classes or mini-courses that faculty could use for blended learning.

More than 115 respondents requested more opportunities to get published or present work. This was more than double of any other support area requested from KDP for higher education faculty.

Mentoring for their students was identified as the second most important way KDP could help graduates, with 45 such requests in the open-ended question.

Strong support exists for additional professional development or learning opportunities that would enhance their students’ degree work. Issues such as classroom management, assessment, differentiated instruction, and technology were identified as top issues for additional training and support for their students. Additional professional development ELN courses and webinars would be helpful.

For faculty members, KDP needs to continue to provide as many opportunities for publishing and presenting as possible. This could include developing new vehicles for publishing or presenting.

General Recommendations

Community development would be a tremendous asset to many who have left the college environment. People want colleague collaboration and support. This can exhibit itself in multiple ways to best support educators across the professional spectrum. Communities need to be developed both online and in person. They can be founded on broad-based topics as well as niche/specialty areas. A need exists within geographical communities for support and understanding of state and regional nuances and policies. Mentoring is a critical piece of community support.

Professional development and training remain important needs for all groups. With the Educator Learning Network, we can address several major concerns identified in this survey. ELN can provide the infrastructure for community development, job preparation, and professional development.

For questions about the survey or results, please contact Christopher Whited, Director of Membership & Chapter Services, at christopher@kdp.org or by calling 800-284-3167.