Educator Spotlight: Teachers in the Outdoors

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Anne Lewis

Anne Lewis has been the special projects director at South Dakota Discovery Center in Pierre, South Dakota, for more than 16 years.

Activity: Teachers in the Outdoors

Grade: Educators (K-12)

Subjects: environmental/Earth science

Tell us about your activity.

Once a year, the South Dakota Discovery Center offers a professional development opportunity for K-12 teachers to do watershed studies in the field.

Participants spend one day in the classroom and 2-3 in the field—kayaking, participating in field investigations, and being immersed in the outdoors. The purpose is not just to expand their knowledge or skills but give them an opportunity to stir their sense of adventure—to become explorers.

The content focus of the learning opportunity varies. Sometimes it’s strictly watersheds; other times it’s Earth systems or geography (mapping, landforms). Regardless of the theme, we always include water-quality monitoring and journaling. We’ll use A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold for campfire reading and discussions.

Teachers conducting watershed research. Photo by Anne Lewis

Describe the impact of this lesson. Was there a change in thought process, behavior, perspective?

One of my deep-seated beliefs about educators is that no experience is wasted on a good teacher. They will bring everything they learn into the classroom to enrich their instruction.

Indeed, my anecdotal evidence suggests that students are naturally curious about their teachers’ lives. Having a teacher relay a first-hand experience about the topic is more meaningful than reading about the same experience from someone students don’t know.

If you had one classroom superpower, what would it be?

Remembering where I put something when I put it down while thinking about something else.

Do you have a favorite book, blog, or quote that inspires you in your personal life or in your teaching?

“Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.”
— Wendell Berry, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage (1973)

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