By Caroline Donnelly, St. Agnes Elementary School
I enjoyed the first of 6 Saturdays at Bernheim with fellow educators last month. Our group comes from different backgrounds: Catholic, private, and public schools and we teach different age groups: elementary, middle, and high school. Together, we are part of the Harmony in Practice Pilot: The Art of Teaching Tuned to Nature. Our common goal over the next year is to connect our teaching to nature, across the curriculum.
Reflecting on the day, I have decided to implement two ideas that I learned from spending the day outside. One was a simple camera platform that Bernheim uses to document changes to their pollinator garden. They take 360 degree pictures monthly to show growth and change. We are establishing a wetlands in the wooded area behind our school this year. The project begins during the second week of school and this tool for visual data collection will be helpful and fun. The second idea was to use a large “thinking quilt” to gather the children outside for discussion, writing, reflection, or other activities. As Claude explains, it is similar to an outside classroom where kids know the boundary of the quilt which is much less restrictive than walls, chairs, and desks.
[Note from Claude: Figuring out ways to take ideas like this one and begin layering the Harmony Principles over them will be the work of future sessions. How might a series of photos across the seasons allow us to teach about cycles, interdependence, beauty or any of the other principles. And as we contemplate that, how might we use them to explore math, art, creative writing, team building… Lots to ponder. In the meantime…the trees will drop their leaves, snow will fall, spring will bring new leaves, and birds will sing.]