After rounding up the latest must-reads and events related to the annual event, Education Insider™ spoke with Amanda K. Wilson (@AKWStardust), a science instructional specialist and former science teacher at Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Fla., to discuss Earth Day’s importance and her data-driven approach to teaching the effects of global warming. (Wilson is working on the STEM-TIPS grant and has been implementing IT’S ABOUT TIME®‘s STEM-centric curricula for the past 10 years.)
Check out our interview with Wilson, below:
Education Insider: Why is Earth Day so important?
Earth Day is important because it gives one day where people are going to be focused on the fact that the Earth we live on is a precious resource. … Providing one day — setting it aside — allows people to reflect on the fact that we need clean water, we need clean air, we need clean land, we need to have sustainable agriculture. Those are all things that we definitely need to be thinking about as a populace. It shouldn’t be relegated just to one day. But at least one day is one day that we didn’t used to have  years ago. … Even if it’s just for a moment, even if you’re not science-minded, we are surrounded by our Earth and our Earth is what sustains us and we need to sustain our Earth.
There’s undeniable scientific evidence of the rapid effects of global warming yet some controversy in teaching climate change around the world. Are you seeing that in Florida?
The state that I live in — the state of Florida — has benchmarks [requiring that climate science is taught]. Teaching a course that has those benchmarks in it requires the teaching of climate science and teaching the science behind climate science — not necessarily the controversy. … We teach the evidence. “Here’s the evidence and what does the evidence say?” The students can [come] to their own conclusions but it’s gotta be data-driven. So we have lots of data points like you had mentioned — that overall [temperatures] on Earth [are] rising. Sea levels are rising. We have data to support that, [so] what does that mean? We ask the students to elaborate and say, “OK, the sea levels are rising. What does that mean to the geosphere? What does that mean to population, or what does that mean to different industries?” Taking it out to another level to see where science is going to affect humanity.
You teach first-and-second-year science teachers how to teach. What’s been your best experience working in professional development?
Taking them out into the field … and having them explore the environment and create investigations that they can then take back into their classrooms. That is one of the most powerful things that I’ve had the opportunity to do with teachers — provide them the opportunity to get out and see the world maybe through a different lens, where they’re the students and not the educator. … Most people, you know, they put on their blinders, they go to work, they do their thing. But I took them out into a salt marsh — they live on a salt marsh near where we’re from — and they were able to really understand the ecological balance between humans and the environment.
What’s been your most challenging experience with teachers?
The biggest struggle is when you have a resistant teacher. They’re not life-long learners. A teacher who doesn’t want to learn something new is not a life-long learner and I find it very difficult to break down that barrier because, as educators, we should be life-long learners. And the hope would be that we’re instilling that idea of life-long learning into our students. It’s very challenging to reach the person who has shut down.
What type of teacher is open to it?
I’m not sure if there’s a specific type of person but I think it’s just someone who’s enthusiastic about learning. We as educators need to really foster this idea that we can change the world and we can help children become adults who also impact their world in a positive way. I think that’s probably the mindset that we as teachers hope to maintain in this world of heavy testing and heavy accountability — that at the end of the day, we can make a difference in these children’s lives so these children can then make a positive change in their own world.
Should teaching science be fun?
Science actually should be the fun course! You can teach reading and mathematics and history through the lens of science but science shouldn’t be about reading someone else’s epic adventure. Science should be about students embracing their own epic adventure and having their own epic adventure.
About Amanda Wilson
Passionate, collaborative Science Education Specialist with nine years experience working in a large urban school district. Performs academic coaching, curriculum and assessment writing, student data analysis, and grant coordinator to increase teacher content and pedagogical efficacy.
Collaborates with stakeholders on numerous state committees and organizations for the advancement of science education. Spent the first four years teaching in a Title I urban high school and the past five years in a district-level team supporting science education.
Contact Amanda: firstname.lastname@example.org
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