Emily Schaller, Dow Innovation Teacher Fellowship (DITF) Program coordinator, discussed place-based sustainability education in the “Making the Case for Sustainability” webinar hosted by the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS). Schaller was joined by professor Rebecca D. Hardin and graduate student Allyson Wiley (both from SEAS).
Schaller works at the Center for Education Design, Evaluation, and Research (CEDER), managing the partnership between Dow Company Foundation, the University of Michigan, and Delta College. DITF trains and supports secondary teachers from all disciplines in Michigan’s Arenac, Bay, Gratiot, Isabella, Midland, and Saginaw counties to design and enact place-based, sustainability-focused learning units in their classrooms. “This program serves middle and high school students in six surrounding counties. Teachers are offered a stipend, mini-grants for their classroom, and professional development for learning about sustainability and place-based education. CEDER supports them throughout the school year to teach a unit centered around these themes,” said Schaller.
“It’s very educator-centered,” added professor Rebecca D. Hardin (SEAS) during the webinar. “This program respects pilot scale logic, where we try this in small groups, and when it works well, we are able to address a lot of problems, like getting sustainability curriculum into classrooms that we are teaching more conventionally.”
The first cohort of teachers participated in professional development that modeled an activity that they could do with their students: the teachers conducted a “trash census,” where they mapped and weighed the trash they collected along the Saginaw River. During their initial two-day professional development experience, teachers also had the opportunity to interact with guest speakers from industry, education, and non-profits who spoke about sustainability.
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