Global Citizen, Explorer, Educator

This post was written by educator Kimi Waite. Read our Educator Spotlight on Kimi here.

Hi everyone! I’m Kimberly Waite, but you can call me Kimi. I’m a global citizen, explorer, and educator.

(Fabric fish seem to figure into Kimi’s life of exploration! —ed)

My life’s passions are travel and exploration, and my most powerful teaching and learning experiences have occurred outside of the classroom in our awesome and interconnected world!

I’ve followed my curiosity all around the globe: I’ve visited more than 70 countries, and all seven continents! I’ve taught a wide range of subjects: Elementary-school ESL in Seoul, South Korea; professional development for early childhood educators in Guyana; and global education professional development and global children’s literature in California.

However, my greatest adventure is in Los Angeles, where I have the joy of empowering my kindergarten engineers, conservationists, oceanographers, and ichthyologists! The abilities of young learners should never be underestimated, and changing the world starts with empowering our youngest learners and giving them a voice in the scientific community!

My five- and six-year-old students often ask if I was an explorer who loved science and engineering when I was their age. My answer is always yes … and it started with airplanes, rocks, a hammer, and recyclables!

Exploration: Starting with the Sky

As the daughter of a flight attendant, I grew up as an explorer of the sky, and my most vivid childhood memories involve airplanes: The anticipation of getting to the destination, the happenings on-board, going to the employee lounges and standing by for flights, meeting my mom’s flight crew friends, watching the interesting passengers, and experiencing the takeoff and landing.

The view from the top, nearing the bottom of the world.
Photograph by Kimi Waite

My dreams of aviation and exploration seemed to culminate in December 2018, when I flew to Antarctica, my “seventh continent.” Sitting in my window seat getting ready to land on King George Island, the first stop in the adventure, I saw the vastness of the blue, grey, and black unfold beneath me, and my memories came back in full circle.

Flying to this magical place of peace and science, I realized that not only did my aviation-filled childhood help me become a global citizen and an explorer, it also helped me become a scientist, and a teacher of scientists.

I learned the important scientific skills of prediction, observation, and storytelling.

  • My mom would make predictions about the flight loads when we flew employee stand-by, and I would hear about these predictions in the employee lounges.
  • When we waited at the gate for the agent to call our name to see if we could board, I practiced my observation skills. One of my favorite things to do was people-watching and observing at the airport. I would try to make predictions about where passengers were going and what they would be doing at their destination.
  • I always had a small notebook with me to take field-notes of my airport observations, and a small rock from the collection in my backpack. Speaking of rocks …

Exploration: Rocks and Recyclables

I love kindergarteners because they have such a pure sense of wonder and curiosity, and they ask such meaningful questions! My students ask why I love science and how I came to love it. I tell them of course it started with rocks!

When I was their age, I collected rocks and displayed them in glass jars around my room. One of my favorite places in the world was the local rock and gem club, and I discovered my love of earth science and geology by attending the monthly gem shows. I would spend hours and hours walking around the room, suspended in a permanent state of wonder: Carefully observing the fossils, minerals, and gemstones; and then choosing the best one to bring home to add to my collection.

I have shared this love with my students and they bring back samples they find around our campus and make recordings in their geologist notebooks.

Kids of all ages can sort recyclables!
Photograph by Kimi Waite

My students also ask me how I came to love engineering. I tell them that it started with a hammer and recyclables!

Endlessly curious, I was always in my dad’s tool-shop, tinkering and trying to build something with pieces of wood, spare parts, and recyclables. My parents frequently took me to an art store that sold surplus and recyclable materials. I would spend hours in there carefully surveying the materials to discover the best additions to use in my engineering projects.

Designing Solutions

All of these experiences inspired me to create a curriculum where I guide my students through the STEM engineering process and use recyclables and affordable materials to design realistic solutions to global and local issues.

Together, my engineers and I have tackled global issues including climate change, deforestation, overfishing, bycatch, water conservation, and marine mammal conservation. For inspiration, we have used National Geographic Young Explorer Scout magazine; California Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum and National Geographic maps; and we’ve worked with experts and National Geographic Explorers in the Educator+Explorer Exchange program.

I’m excited to share more stories, ideas, and strategies for using National Geographic Education resources in the kindergarten classroom. I hope I gave you a better understanding of the WHY and WHAT behind what I do. With future blog posts, I hope to help you with the HOW and discover how to put it into practice in your own classroom.

Kimi Waite is a California-based educator-explorer who integrates engineering and conservation in her curricula and teaching strategies. She and her students dream of making the world a more awesome place for all living beings.



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