Teacher of the Year Selection

We are very excited to hear that clips from Mother Nature’s Child were used to support a presentation for 2011 Maine Teacher of the Year. Ingrid Stressenger, a 4th grade teacher in Cape Elizabeth, ME, was selected as one of twelve semi-finalists for 2011 Maine Teacher of the Year at the July 20th competition at the University of Maine at Orono. The audience was a class of Masters of Arts in Teaching candidates, their professors, former Maine Teachers of the Year, and the scoring panel. Each candidate was asked to give a presentation. Here is Ingrid’s description of hers:

“The presentation showcases a project the teacher has found particularly meaningful and successful. I showcased a project I developed in collaboration with my local land trust. In this project, we take all fourth grade students (150 per year) to a local forest three times per year. We have developed an ecology curriculum used on the walks and in the classroom. Now in its sixth year, this program is a highlight of our science program and of our community. Not only does it promote science learning, but stewardship of the natural world.

In my presentation, I used four clips from Mother Nature’s Child along with video of three of my students explaining why they think outdoor places are more memorable than indoor places, slides of my students in an old growth forest (Robinson Woods) I bring them to three times per year in collaboration with our local land trust, slides of my students working on the accompanying nature journal that we created for pre, during, and post-walk activities, and video of one of my students reading her poem about her experience in Robinson Woods. This photograph is of the kids in doing an experiment in Robinson Woods in which we see which is the best insulator – fur, fat or snow. At the beginning of the walk we set out a control thermometer and place one each in a can of Crisco (fat), wrap one in an animal pelt (fur) and place one in the snow. The kids make predictions and then we check the thermometers at the end of the walk (approximately 1.25-1.5 hours later).

I also took the “class” [at the presentation] through a poetry writing activity in which they wrote a poem about a favorite place of their own. They had no idea what my topic for the presentation was when they started the activity (nor did they have any idea that they would end up with a poem). After selecting and writing sentences about the places they had chosen, I asked for a show of hands of how many people had chosen a place outside. The overwhelming majority had of course chosen a place outside. My presentation was about the critical need to get children back outdoors and the concerning trends I observe in the last few years as my students spend more and more time in front of electronic media, research supporting the benefits of children having regular experiences outdoors and the benefits of integrating curriculum areas (in this case, science, writing, reading, and observational drawing) for maximizing learning and teaching time.

Ingrid states that, “My concerns for the future are based on my observations of how students spend their free time today and how I believe those choices have negatively impacted them in the classroom and in social interactions.” Her passion for including connection to nature as part of her teaching success is an exciting inspiration for all teachers. Ingrid would be happy to communicate with other educators and can be contacted at istressenger@capeelizabethschools.org.

We are pleased to announce that Ingrid is now one of three finalists for Maine Teacher of the Year! We wish her the best of luck in the final stage of the selection process. Stay tuned!

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