November Spotlight: Andy Wood and Nils Fredland
Dear Learners and Educators of the Upper Valley,
I’m thrilled to be joining the Upper Valley Teaching Place Collaborative. To combine forces with the likes of Shelburne Farms, Four Winds Nature Institute, Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences (VINS), Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to support the development of Place Based Ecology Education is at once inspiring and humbling. Inspiring because of the work being done to support young people’s connection to the natural world, and humbling because of the educational expertise of those of you already championing this crucial work.
After working in schools around the world for more than 20 years, I’d like to think I’ve got it figured out, but that’s far from the truth. Like many educators I fear not knowing it all and often need support. After relocating to the Upper Valley four years ago and accepting an elementary teaching role in a small rural school I found myself confronted with new challenges, and new opportunities. I quickly turned to VINS and Four Winds for support. Their skill and professionalism has led to rich curriculum connections for my students and invaluable professional development for me.
Jumping into this role as Coordinator at the Collaborative has further widened my understanding of Place Based Education. In a recent conversation with a friend and local school board member, she referred to Place Based Education in this way. “Of all of the myriad constructive attributes and beneficial sources of identity that are part of place-based learning, it seems to me the moments that include a shared sense of wonder are the most inspiring and vital to joyful learning.” Despite years of developing curriculum designed to connect standards and learning with the place my students live, I never paused to fully grasp the connection between learning about one’s place as the source of one’s identity.
Our world is confusing for adults and children alike, perhaps now more than ever. Our students, our children are confronted daily with a worldwide pandemic, images of violence on our streets, and conflicting social media messages of who and what they should be. Tethering children, even for a moment to the wonder and discovery of our beloved Upper Valley can cut through that outer turmoil in an instant. GIving them a sense of stewardship of their place can provide them with meaningful direction for a lifetime.
Four years ago when I arrived in Vermont, the Upper Valley Teaching Place Collaborative was the Upper Valley’s best kept secret. Thanks to our professional development providers and countless talented educators, this is no longer the case. Still, with Covid 19 shaping our classrooms today, the work is just beginning. For those of you already engaged in this work, please keep joyful learning going. For those of you who are new to Place Based Ecology Education, please join us in our shared sense of wonder.
Perspective is powerful. The image featured in the banner this month illustrates that idea. When we can literally raise ourselves up above what we normally see, we often feel more connected.
The child in the banner photo is my 12 year old son, August, standing at the edge of the wooden platform on the West Peak of Mount Ascutney in early September. The rest of that crisp Fall afternoon he was in almost constant motion, climbing, balancing, chasing, and exploring. The West Peak view stopped him in his tracks, and while I don’t know exactly what he was thinking the moment the photo was taken, I do know that there was a feeling of peacefulness and gratitude that surrounded him. When I see this view, I imagine all the souls that have taken it in. I’m awe-inspired by the beauty of it, and I experience a deep feeling of relationship both to this place and to the people that have experienced a similar connection over the years.
My name is Nils Fredland, and I’m the new Communications and Outreach Specialist for the Upper Valley Teaching Place Collaborative (UVTPC). The UVTPC is an ever-widening circle of professional development providers, educators, administrators, and community members who work together to connect kids to the place they live — our beloved Upper Valley. The more of us that identify as being part of the collaborative, the more we stand to learn from each other, the better we care for this place, and the more our children benefit.
This has me thinking a lot about community. For many people, community describes family, friends, and personal connections who share common interests, attitudes, and goals. There are also potential communities: people who don’t yet realize what they share; people who haven’t met; and people who have — separately and across generations — taken in the same views, walked the same paths, and dug in the same soil. Community is all around us, always. I believe it is at the heart of all the good work being done in the world.
The good work of place-based ecology education (PBEE) helps students learn to take care of the world by understanding where they live and taking action in their own backyards and communities. The UVTPC (originally the Wellborn Hub, named after philanthropist and environmentalist Marguerite Wellborn) has been bringing high-quality PBEE to Upper Valley students since the early 2000s. The ripple effect of the support professional development providers and educators have received through the UVTPC is felt all over the Upper Valley. Whether you realize it or not, YOU are already part of the community that has made our work possible. Going forward, we hope you continue to be inspired by this work, and take steps to inspire others.
And if you’re just learning about PBEE…join us! There’s room for all of us under the tent.