Thinking Critically About Our Current Education System

Hi, my name is Kevin Cataldo, and I’m a recent graduate of Felician University in New Jersey. I was the chapter president of the Alpha Zeta Rho Chapter of KDP on campus. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and I am at currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

On July 15, 2019, Teachers College welcomed K–12 educators and all other stakeholders from across the country and around the world to its 4th Annual Reimagining Education Summer Institute (RESI).

During the Institute, participants got the opportunity to critically think about our current education system.

In fact, during Day 1, the participants were asked to keep the following questions in mind: Why must we “reimagine” education here in the United States? The remaining 3 days focused heavily on the following: (a) racial and cultural literacy, (b) equity pedagogy, and (c) culturally sustaining leadership.

Here I am with Dr. Ladson Billings!

This year’s keynote address was delivered in an eloquent, powerful, and thought-provoking manner by Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, a KDP Laureate.

She is considered a pioneer of culturally relevant teaching, a pivotal area of study in education that I hope to learn more about as I continue my graduate studies at Teachers College.

The Institute was extra special for me this year, as this was my first time participating in it. I also was a dialogue session co-facilitator.

During the 4 days, my co-facilitators and I provided K–12 educators and other stakeholders with a brave space to share their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and knowledge about our education system. As a soon-to-be first-year third-grade language arts and social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey, the Institute provided me with hope that I have the power to “reimagine” our education system and truly make a difference in the lives of my students.

At the conclusion of the Institute, both educators and stakeholders were asked to return to their respective school communities with a crucial question in mind: “What Now?”

In other words, what will I do to bring equity pedagogy into my school community?

Today more than ever before, the United States and the world must join forces and “reimagine” education, especially since one’s society depends heavily on an educated citizenry.

Furthermore, as a member of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, and as one of its UN Youth Representatives for the upcoming 2019–2020 academic school year, my goal is to raise awareness about this unique Institute at the world stage—at the United Nations Headquarters.

To end, raising such awareness can be beneficial not only to educators, but to other stakeholders within the United Nations as well.

Why? Think about it: The goal of the Institute is to help educators realize how vital it is for schools and stakeholders to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (SDG 4: Quality Education).

KDP & The United Nations

Rodriguez-Kaitlyn_blogHi, my name is Kaitlyn Rodriguez, and I’m a recent graduate of St. Joseph’s College in New York. I was the founding chapter president, now alumna, of the Alpha Theta Omega Chapter. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).

Learn all about how Kappa Delta Pi is connected to the United Nations and how you can get involved!

WHAT ARE THE UN GOALS?

In 2015, the United Nations adopted The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This initiative is a way for nations across the globe work to together to better the world in which we live. The 17 SDGs, or Sustainable Development Goals, are the 17 categories of improvements that the UN came up with. These goals are:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-Being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

WHAT DOES KDP HAVE TO DO WITH THESE GOALS?

The hope is that by the year 2030, each of these goals will be achieved, or at least progress will have been made toward each goal. So far, much work has been done on these goals by various groups and organizations, including Kappa Delta Pi. KDP is considered a non-governmental organization, of which there are 200+ involved with the UN and these SDGs.

Kappa Delta Pi has a group of dedicated members working specifically on these goals. Known as the Youth Representative of KDP, I personally have done my best to incorporate what I learned about these goals into my chapter as well as the community around me. The other members of this group are working on their campuses, in their schools, or in their fields to make an impact on those around us. Collectively, we’ve held events in support of the SDGs, including speaking with chapters and attending and presenting at conferences such as CTAUN and the 2019 American Educational Research Association Conference (Toronto, Canada), and incorporated the goals into units of study for schools. At this year’s Convocation, there also will be a presentation by members of this group, so be sure to check them out!

HOW CAN I HELP?

As Hellen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” With your help as a dedicated member of KDP—a member who took a vow to work toward bettering the future of your students and community and toward providing quality education for all—you can make a difference. If everyone made one small change in their lifestyle, classroom, or community, the world would be positively affected. It’s up to you to help make the world a better place. Find what you’re passionate about and work toward that goal. Incorporate the goals into your unit plans, show your students videos on the effects of living a sustainable life, and show tolerance, peace, and justice inside and outside your classroom. Expose your students to current literature and read them books about pollution, energy, and things happening in the world around them.

As an educator, you share responsibility for your students’ futures. You are the reason they know how to write. You taught them how to add and subtract. You explained how to write argumentative essays and persuasive essays in which they argue for a change that mattered to them. Show students how to do some good with these skills. Teach them real-life applications. Many times, especially as students get older, they lose touch with their purpose and don’t see the point in going to school or doing good in their community. By showing them that they can make a tangible impact in their environment, and better their lives and the ones to come, they will find their purpose, and maybe even a passion they didn’t know they had.

RESOURCES

If you want to find out more about these goals, and see what changes have been made thus far, check out this link: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300

For information regarding the 2030 Agenda, follow this link: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld.

Food Systems Education: Linking Big Ideas Across The School Community

HopeStartsHere

Farm to School (FTS) programs are cropping up around the country, connecting students to sustainability efforts in their own school communities.

The 3Cs framework of FTS puts the learner at the center of the school food system, connecting the Cafeteria, Classroom, and Community through education and action. FTS helps students access nutritious and fresh foods, provides meaningful and relevant curriculum, and connects student learning to the real world of farming and food systems. Most importantly, it highlights each student’s role within the food system, as a participant and potential agent of sustainable change.

Food systems education is where educators play a vital role in this whole-school–whole-community approach. You can bring math, literacy, social studies, and science alive when you connect students to the elegant simplicity and complexity of local to global food systems.

The Big Ideas of Sustainability (bit.ly/ SFBigIdeas) can inspire cross-disciplinary connections and school-wide engagement, as well as deepen community partnerships, campus practices, and culture. Try these suggestions.

Start with big ideas, themes and standards

The Big Idea of Change links with thematic strands (www.socialstudies.org/standards/strands) in the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies such as People, Places, and Environments; Culture; and Time, Continuity, and Change. These standards help us develop learning outcomes—knowledge and skills we want students to gain.

Add inquiry

Learners are naturally curious. Give them a question that they can engage with and develop an understanding of over time. An essential question such as, “In what ways does the land shape culture?” invites deep crosscurricular exploration and learning.

Next, layer on food systems and your local place

By integrating food production and engaging with local farmers, historians, and the students’ families, they begin to see the connections to their place and lives. You can create learning activities to explore why people settled near rivers in your community, how human migration patterns have changed over time, and how shifting demographics have shaped the food and culture of your city.

Wrap up with an assessment:

You may have purposefully linked big ideas, standards, the local place, and food systems, but did your students get it? Create an assessment that helps you see what your students understand. For example, a class could create a museum display for their community illustrating how human migration has impacted the natural and agricultural systems in their city.

Suggested Activities

  • Write haikus about your fresh fruit and vegetable snacks.
  • Plant seeds for a school garden exploring plant life cycles.
  • Learn about food access and healthy foods in your community.
  • Start a school-run farmers’ market.
  • Run a semester-long inquiry into food justice.

No matter where you begin, a wealth of resources is available to get you started.

Resources

Image result for jen cirillo shelburne farmsMs. Cirillo is the Director of Professional Learning at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. She supports educators and schools to use the lens of sustainability for curriculum, campus practices and culture, and community partnerships.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Dr. Yvonne Skipper

Today’s blogger is Yvonne Skipper, who co-authored with Eloise de Carvalho to write “’I Have Seen the Opportunities That Science Brings’: Encouraging Girls to Persist in Science,” which appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

This time-honored question, which children across the globe are asked with regularity, can lead to surprising responses.

Beyond the whimsical “princess” and “unicorn” to the heart-warming “happy,” children often have strong ideas even before they reach school.

However, as children get older and learn more about the world, these ideas can change.

For example, we cannot all become a real princess like Megan Markle! Sometimes these views change, not because of how children see the world, but because of how the world sees them. Society may openly or subtly suggest that certain jobs are for men and others for women.

This view can impact the subjects and careers children choose, as illustrated in this brief video.

There is currently a huge demand for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates in the workforce. Those with a STEM background are valued not just in the science-based jobs, but also in other roles where the ability to think critically, analyze data, and evaluate evidence is prized.

However, often children are not interested in STEM subjects, seeing them as “too hard” or “boring,” and they are even less interested in scientific careers. When you look at those who do continue in science, typically you find more boys in STEM subjects, such as math and physics, and in pursuit of careers such as engineering. This difference is not seen because girls lack talent in these subjects. In fact, girls often perform better than boys, receiving higher proportions of the top grades. So why are these talented girls less likely to continue in STEM than boys?

It has been suggested that we choose our subjects and our careers based on whether we think we can succeed and our values.

Boys are more likely than girls to believe they can succeed in STEM, even though they are overall less likely to get the highest grades. Their belief might come from seeing so many famous male scientists, both in academia and in fiction. This can lead boys and girls to believe that men are more likely to succeed and also more likely to “belong” in science. Even the television show Big Bang Theory focuses more on male scientists; female scientists Amy and Bernadette do not appear until later seasons and are working in the more “female” fields of medicine and neurobiology. It is important that the media fully represent female scientists in their factual and fiction programming.

We also choose subjects and careers that we think we will enjoy and that we see as useful in our lives or in our communities.

Many girls choose careers where they can help others, such as teaching, midwifery, and social work. Girls often do not perceive STEM careers as “helpful.” This is interesting because, for example, designing a new wheelchair to manage rough terrain, creating inclusive educational technologies, and researching cures for diseases could have a positive impact and help people worldwide. Yet often girls do not make the connection between STEM subjects and the impact of associated careers, and may prefer a more interpersonal approach to helping.

Promoting how “helpful” science can be could potentially lead girls to develop an understanding about how science improves society.

In our Forum article, Eloise and I are not saying that girls should be pushed into science careers, but instead that women should not leave a subject or career path for the “wrong” reason, such as believing that they are less likely to succeed than others or that they will not belong. Instead it is important that we feel able to choose our subjects and career paths in line with our interests and goals for ourselves and our communities.

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 June 30, 2019.

Little Landowners: Caring for Nature

Photo credit: Devan King/The Nature Conservancy

Picture this: you’re a kid, it’s a sunny yet breezy summer afternoon—one that you wish would never end.

You’re hiking on trails, then make a mad dash through a corridor of pine trees.

You get to cross a trickling creek and wander through an old hay field that’s slowly returning to forest. When you’re done exploring you try to locate your very own piece of this amazing place.

Your spot? Yes – a piece of land that’s just for you, inside the Children of Indiana Nature Park.

The Children of Indiana Nature Park (Park) is nestled in eastern Indiana, spanning over 30 acres on the Cope Environmental Center property. A creek, a hay field and rows upon rows of pines are found here. The Park is the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors, then zoom in your spot using GPS coordinates that are yours only.

Where do these coordinates come from? They come from your “Nature IN-Deed,” a special gift from the State of Indiana. In celebration of Indiana’s 200th birthday, every child in Indiana was given the opportunity to own a piece of nature. Kids can download their Nature IN-Deeds at ilovemyland.org.

The State—and the other partners involved in the Park—want this Nature IN-Deed to be the stepping stone that will get all kids outside and start reaping the many benefits of nature.

Our society has seen a major shift in how children spend their free time.

Photo credit: © Jessica Scranton

Before screen time, extra-extracurricular activities, and jam-packed schedules kids grew up exploring their backyards and discovering outdoors during their exploration. Since the 1990s, time spent outside has since been replaced with technology and organized activities.

In fact, only about 10% of children spend time outside compared to 40% just a generation ago[1].

Parents and teachers can register their students for a deed to the Park by visiting www.ilovemyland.org. Each deed is unique to the individual that holds it; no two deeds are alike. Once registered, the student, parent, or teacher, can punch in their coordinates and find their spot, either virtually or during a visit to the Park. Children are encouraged to keep their deeds in a special place, so that they can pass down the ownership of their land to their children and grandchildren.

 

Kids connect best with nature when they play frequently and freely in a nature place near them, and for most children, those “near places” are home and school.  As educators, providing opportunities for your students to explore the greenspace at your school or on field trips can help your students receive the benefits that nature provides, and further nurture kids’ desire to care for nature.

What ideas do you have for kindling a love for nature with the students at your school?

We’d love to hear them! Comment on this post or email us at ChildrenOfIndianaNaturePark@tnc.org.

Mary McConnell

Author: Mary McConnell, Director (retired), The Nature Conservancy Indiana Chapter

[1] Oxford Junior Dictionary’s replacement of ‘natural’ words with 21st-century terms sparks outcry.   Flood, Alison.  The Guardian.  January 15, 2015.

Happy Earth Day!

Living in the Midwest, April is a most welcome time of year when we can more comfortably spend time outdoors and enjoy the sight of green grass, budding trees, blooming flowers and the sound of birds returning from their winter homes.

However, the arrival of spring can no longer be taken for granted.

As Rachel Carson warned us more than 50 years ago through her story of DDT contamination in communities across the country in her book, Silent Spring, we must continue to take action to protect our natural environment and slow down its degradation.

We must work to combat greed and the abuse of the environment by humans and to help people become stewards of the living earth, acting responsibly and carefully.

Additionally, we must remain vigilant to the continued rollback of policies that were put in place to protect our water, air and soil, and the creatures with whom we share the Earth. Human self-interest needs to be re-framed so that we humans live as an equal part of the earth earth’s systems and not the master of them.

As educators, we have a large role to play.

More than 80% of U.S. parents want their children to be climate change literate. We must help our students gain the knowledge, skills and global mindset of equity necessary to be prepared for an uncertain future and to become good stewards of the earth.

Addressing climate change can start with small changes to our individual lifestyles, classrooms and communities.

Research has shown that students can bring new practices and understandings to their families and communities.

These practices could be starting to recycle family or classroom trash, reduce water consumption when washing one’s hands or teeth, or helping the school cafeteria to reduce waste —all of which help the environment.  Small changes can add up to have a big impact.

So, as we commemorate Earth Day, what will you do to help your students take the first step toward making a change for a better future?

What commitment will you make to celebrate Earth Day?

Share your plans with others in the KDP community in the Educator Learning Network.

We really do have the power to change the world.

Image result for earth day 2019

Faye Snodgress is the Executive Director of Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), International Honor Society in Education.

The Outdoor Classroom: Where Nature Nurtures Kids’ Ability to Learn

magnifying-glassModern life often moves at a frantic pace: families, friends, and others often maintain full schedules with little time allowed to pause and take in what is happening around them.

For students arriving at school for the day, their morning may have been a blur of activity – hopping out of bed, getting dressed, eating a quick breakfast, then grabbing their backpack to head off to school.

A student’s day—like those of most adults—is often just moving, from one car, classroom, or building to another. The outside world oven gets overlooked. But it’s this outside world that may help students inside.

stewardshipAs adults, we know that the ability to focus on the task at hand can ensure its success. We also know that sometimes it is easier to maintain our focus than at other times.

The process of becoming better able to focus is where nature can help. And often it’s just a matter of getting kids outside.

In one study[1], children who spent one class session in a natural outdoor setting were more engaged and less distracted during indoor class time afterward than if they had been indoors for two consecutive classes.

Some teachers may have concerns that an outdoor classroom would over-stimulate students, making them less able to focus afterwards. Yet this study found the opposite to be true: classroom engagement was better for those students exposed to nature than those students taught solely in an indoor classroom.

studentsBeing in nature not only helps students to be more focused, it also introduces students to the first step in the scientific method: to observe

From watching the clouds while looking up at the sky, to rolling back a fallen log to investigate which creatures live underneath, to watching a flower emerge from the ground and ultimately bloom in springtime, nature offers an infinite number of opportunities to witness how plants, animals and climate interact.

Observation can lead to asking questions, instilling a curiosity about our natural world that spills over into the classroom.

And as teachers know, curious children make better students.

A student who develops a question based on their personal observation is developing curiosity and critical thinking skills.

See what these educators have to say about the benefits of nature for young learners.

Nature provides engaging and relaxing ways for students to learn, so let’s make the most of our greenspace to expand and transform children’s learning experiences.

Learn more by visiting www.ILoveMyLand.org today.

Questions? Contact us at ChildrenofIndianaNaturePark@tnc.org

Mary McConnell

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

[1] Lessons in nature boost classroom engagement afterward. Yates, Diana. University of Illinois. January 17, 2018.