Toolkit for Teachers- how/why do I teach outside of my content area and comfort zone?

One of the things that the AFNR program offers is an abundance of “real world” problems that are not contrived. Teachers need look no further than the schoolyard (or even their own classroom) to see all the different ways that students can be engaging in their particular content area as it relates to food access and the relationship between nature and the built environment. 

One example of this is the indoor grow towers- something that made its way into several classrooms at the U School. This of course piqued students’ curiosity when they saw the 12th graders bringing the towers in, or when they heard the water circulating in the middle of their math class. What was the purpose of these things? Did they even make any difference? How did it work? How much do they cost? Innate curiosity offers a jumping point for engaging students in discussions and tasks centered around a very specific topic while practicing skills related to our particular content area. 

For math class, this can look like performing calculations around scale drawings, determining the volume of soil required to fill the planters, calculating water runoff for rainwater harvesting, figuring out the dimensions for a picnic table, the list goes on! Again, maybe some of these tasks can be found in textbooks, but the integrated web of activities at the U School provides an opportunity for students to have a hands-on experience with seeing these designs and solutions come to life! They can get their hands dirty, they can iterate, they can come up with their own solutions; math class is not longer just about “getting the right answer” but more about collaboration and the problem-solving process. How do we define the problem, what sort of data do we want to collect, how can we agree on a solution together?

We know we’re fortunate at the U School to have a group of educators who are already on board with finding creative ways of implementing sustainability into their curriculum. We also realize that there are ways that we can help make it easier and more accessible for learners and educators, alike. We want to build a more robust competency set that helps everyone realize that sustainability is not just “being green!”

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