Australia Day in Oklahoma

January 26, 2012 (HOUSTON) – While Australia Day doesn’t mean much to most Americans, it holds special significance for five Union Public School teachers this year.

After applying for Fund for Teachers grants this time last year, five Tulsa-area elementary teachers received $20,000 to pursue new knowledge in the Land Down Under and make learning more engaging for their students. These teachers and their Fund for Teachers fellowship descriptions include:

Team Koala (Keeping Our Attention on Literacy Acceleration)
Traci Gardner, Debora Burry and Lisa Gildea – Clark Elementary
Who observed Australia’s National Accelerated Literacy Program, which garners a 99% literacy rate, to develop and solidify language skills for struggling readers (pictured below with Jane McQueen, facility administrator for Accelerated Literacy in Darwin, Australia); and,

Wonders Down Under TeamKathy Harding and Jennie Morris – Peters Elementary
Who explored the plants, animals and geology of Australia’s rainforest, researching the concept of an ecological niche, to enhance third grade science curriculum (pictured below delivering a check from Peters Elementary school community to representatives of Rainforest Rescue to help preserve Australia’s ancient rainforests.)

“Each location and group of people we visited offered us an insight into the underpinnings of Australian culture and education,” said Gardner, reading specialist at Clark Elementary. “These experiences prompted reflection on our current classroom practices and encouraged us to develop strategies for improving literacy learning and cultural awareness at our school.” Team KOALA is currently working to implement literacy strategies observed on their Fund for Teachers fellowship through student book clubs, writing workshops, and cultural awareness lessons.

Team KOALA with Jane McQueen, Facility Administrator for Accelerated Literacy.

“Teaching in today’s test driven culture, we don’t have a lot of time to deviate from the established curriculum. Therefore, it was important that this fellowship complement our curriculum, rather than add to it,’ explained Harding, teacher at Peters Elementary. “The wonderful thing about Fund for Teachers is that we had the flexibility to expand our knowledge in all of the necessary areas. Though our intent in the rainforest was to study the animals, the primitive plants were equally remarkable. We went to Mount Isa to see fossils of the rainforest, but also in the complex was a mining museum. The strange landforms we saw are made of rock and will fit nicely into our new third grade curriculum. The native didgeridoo we brought back makes some very strange sounds, especially when we play it!” Students of Harding and Morris are conducting research on Australia, using primary sources gathered by their teachers last summer, to create board games about the continent.

“Learning about the interrelationships in the natural world made us realize that we can’t isolate ourselves from the rest of the school, or the country, or the world. We all depend on each other and what we do often has ripple effects that might not be obvious at first,” said Harding.

On the Trail of Lewis and Clark in Wisconsin

Field Notes, January 2012
by Jim Rosenberger

Since the bicentennial celebration we all have worried about a loss of interest in Lewis & Clark history, then something happens which shows the magic of the story of the Corps of Discovery is alive and well.

I received an email from Don Peterson at the Lewis and Clark Trial Heritage Foundation headquarters in Great Falls, MT telling me of a Mr. Paul Timm who had inquired about the signs which appear all along the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail. Mr. Timm lives in Friendship, Wisconsin and Don thought I might be interested in contacting him. I did email Mr. Timm and found something truly impressive was taking place in Wisconsin relative to Lewis and Clark.

Paul Timm is a physical education teacher in Grand Marsh, Wisconsin. He and fellow teacher, Ginny Fritz received a grant from Fund for Teachers because Grand Marsh Elementary was a Wisconsin School of Promise/Recognition for two consecutive years. This past summer, with the help of this grant, Paul and Ginny, along with their spouses, traveled the entire Lewis & Clark Trail by motorcycle. They traveled nearly 7,000 miles in 22 days, visiting many of the sites, interpretive centers and museums along their route. Like the Captains, Paul and Ginny had to improvise along the way, especially when they confronted Mother Nature in the form of the flooded Missouri River.

Lolo Pass: An unforgiving wilderness, then and now.

Upon their return Paul and Ginny started on a project to bring cross curricular activities to their students. “We wanted to incorporate physical education with history and science”. To accomplish this they blazed replica of the Lewis and Clark Trail through one of their school forests located just north of Grand Marsh Elementary School. The westbound trail is .75 miles, the Clark return trail is also about .75 miles and the Lewis route is about .8 miles. Signs will be placed along the trail to indicate where you are and what historical significance the location has. Community schools, businesses, teachers and students are working together to have the trail completed by spring.

The trail will be used for history, science and physical education classes. It will be mostly used for hiking, bicycling, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. The trail will be open to the community and no fees will be charged. Since it is school property, it is considered public land and the hope is that the community will use it as much as the school. Paul and Ginny would like to see Grand Marsh use the trail for a yearly celebration similar to Westfield’s Rendezvous Days.

It is exciting, not only to see this enthusiasm and interest in Lewis and Clark history here in Wisconsin, but also to see the effort being put forth to utilize the story of the Corps of Discovery for the education of our students. Our Chapter has offered any assistance we can give to help accomplish this and Chapter members will be updated as progress is made.

You can read about their motorcycle trip on their blog, “Corp of Discovery, II“.

This article appears in number 41 of “Field Notes”, a newsletter created by the Badger State Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Inc. The publication can be accessed here, in its entirety.