- Personal and Professional Growth
- Impact on Your Classroom, School & Community, and,
- Imagining the Future
During the month of August, we’ll share some of our Fellows’ Passports to get us all in the “Back to School” mode. Today, we’re proud to share the reflections of Carly Connor and Jill Padfield, teachers at Franklin School of Innovation in Ashveille, CT. They described the purpose of the fellowship in their grant proposal:
Students view our school as a place they have to be, and despite our “leave no trace” school norm, they don’t take ownership or pride over the spaces in which they learn. Part of this is most certainly due to the fact that our school is currently a collection of trailers–a temporary campus while we work toward funding for our permanent building. We have tried small improvements to make the campus more visually appealing, but these have not changed the students’ habits of kicking holes in the thin walls of the classrooms, writing on bathroom stalls, and leaving trash all over campus. We desperately need a culture change, especially as it comes to students owning school as their own space.
This fellowship will lead to a project that will allow students to have a voice in biophilic and sustainable features that could be added to our new school building. Research shows that buildings incorporating biophilia, a person’s innate biological connection with nature, can not only reduce stress, but also improve cognitive function and creativity. We will task the students with incorporating both biophilic and sustainable ideas into a real, physical structure in our new school building for the benefit of everyone in our school community.
Research in New Zealand, Australia and Singapore sites pertaining to biophilic and sustainable design in architecture and in schools to inform a math-driven proposal created by sophomore English and Math students on construction of a new school building.
Personal & Professional Growth
Throughout our fellowship, my partner and I were challenged with digging into a project that was predominantly science-based. As Math and English teachers, we knew this project would propel our students and our community forward toward more project-based work, but we were going to have to do a LOT of learning first! Our fellowship gave us the knowledge, the experiences, and the connections that we needed in order to lead a meaningful, collaborative project.
Due to the science focus of the project and the many components that will go into it, our 10th grade team will be forced to collaborate in a way that we haven’t before. This project cannot happen in only one of our classrooms, but if we had focused on only our content during the fellowship, I don’t know if we would have had the same kind of ownership that we do now. Therefore, this fellowship helped changed our instructional practice by helping us connect to new content in a meaningful way.
A primary personal accomplishment developed during the planning stages of our fellowship. We started our proposal with a completely different idea that was English and Math-based. However, the thoughtful, probing questions in the application forced us to REALLY think about what we wanted to collaborate on and what we would need in order to make that happen. The actual fellowship was putting those big ideas into action and realizing that we made the right choice.
Impact on Your Students, School & Community
Before this fellowship, we led student projects that were interesting, but they always seemed to fall short of truly authentic. Projects rarely included a service component and never positively affected our community. This fellowship and resulting project will be the start of helping students to connect their learning to their community in a meaningful way.
This project will require collaborative work in order for it to be successful. My partner and I plan to get the rest of the 10th grade team on board on our first day back by telling them about our learning, our project idea, and getting them to feel as excited as we feel. We are already organizing all of our photos and creating a presentation for the students, but we both feel like we can’t move forward at this point without the rest of our team, since the project will live in all of our classes.
Imagining the Future
Our project centers around our new school building, and our students will be creating new green-design features to be incorporated into the building. This may take a few years, but it could then include several grades that as part of this long-term, collaborative project. Most importantly, this project will help give any student who works on it more ownership of the new building and their community.
Part of the focus of our fellowship was to positively impact the environment that our students learn in. The best way to do that is to not only make them more accountable for their waste and their habits, but to give them a space to study that is green and healthy and productive. Lack of such spaces is a huge problem in many of our schools today, and our students are going to be at the forefront of changing this in our state.
I don’t think anyone would have guessed that two high school Math and English teachers would be able to create a meaningful, collaborative project about Science! It was not easy, but the opportunity for this fellowship pushed us to think beyond our own classrooms and our own content to what we thought our students and our community really needed. This fellowship took us from a subject-focused perspective to a student and community perspective, and now the possibilities seem endless!
Carly Connor is a 10th grade English teacher and soccer coach who believes deeply in creating a safe, educational space for students to learn how to struggle with content, develop a global perspective, listen to opposing ideas, find a unique voice, and correctly use commas. Jill Padfield is a high school math teacher who previously taught at an International School in the Dominican Republic. In her free time, Jill enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, scuba diving, hiking and playing with her class-pet guinea pigs, Fib and Nocci.