For a while now, it has been my super unrealistic goal of becoming a National Geographic Photographer. While I am competing with so many extremely talented photographers all over the world who have access to more “interesting” subjects, better equipment, and have more experience, you gotta have goals, right?
Much to my surprise and delight, I discovered this past summer that National Geographic has an Educator Certification course that is open to educators of all varieties, so I signed myself up! By taking this certification course, I was able to get myself one step closer to getting involved with one of my favorite organizations and was able to align myself and my own lesson plans more with their high-standards!
During this 3 month course, I learned more about what National Geographic finds important in curriculum and educational activities and just how important interdisciplinary programs are. All lesson plans that I wrote for the course needed to include multiple scales, perspectives, and attitudes. Ensuring that each activity had some connection to Spatial, Cultural, Political, Economic, Historical, Ecological and Geological perspectives was important to make a well rounded lesson that students from all across the board could appreciate! By tying in all of these perspectives, I was also able to show how blending different passions and interests is possible. As an Environmental Educator, it wasn’t very difficult to include many of those! Also, each lesson needed to increase a child’s knowledge about things that happen not just on a local level, but on a global one as well! By adding those scales in, it made it easier to show children how the subject matter connects to the real world and also shows them just how large and complex the world can be! This helped to also increase their curiosity about the world and others.
The lesson that I created for my final Capstone project looked at Bird Diversity and how Form Meets Function. During this lesson, students started off by learning about some local birds. They looked at different birds (like a Red-Tailed Hawk and American Goldfinch), and make observations and comparisons between the two – size, beak type, feet type, color, etc… By making those comparisons, we were able to notice that the anatomical features of the birds helped to show us what they eat and therefore, where they might ideally like to live!
After looking at local birds, we took a birding hike outside and learned how to use binoculars. During our hike, we were able to make more observations about ideal bird habitat, how humans are impacting birds, and what they themselves could do to reduce our negative impact.
Back inside, we took our bird count that we gathered and submitted that data to EBird, as part of a citizen science project. We discussed what scientists around the world were doing with our data and how other scientists and National Geographic Explorers are working every day to make the world a better place for birds. This was also a great time to talk about Climate Change and to look at historical data about bird populations around the world.
Finally, we made several different types of bird feeders that students could take home and hang! We talked again about how beak form meets function and looked at how different birds eat different things. We built a pine cone suet feeder for seed-eaters and pecking birds, and a fruit garland for birds that liked the sweet, citrus juices.
By going through this course and eventually becoming certified, I was able to learn more about how to create impactful lesson plans, teach kids more about the beautiful world we live in, and how to encourage children to blend their passions and to not be afraid of being “boxed” into a career that they don’t find fully rewarding. Even if a child doesn’t have a passion for science, they still can learn about history or politics, or math, or even art! Through these lessons, they can explore and discover the world. This course helped me to narrow my focus and to design unique and creative ways to talk to kids about deep and complex topics like environmental policy, climate change, and how the environment connects to the economy.
Overall, this certification helped me to explore new avenues of lesson plan and curriculum creation all while connecting me to other educators around the globe who share in my passion for teaching kids about our wonderful world!