Case Study – Remote Learning

Life Science Units for Remote Learning

The summer of 2020 was full of uncertainty for teachers, students, and nonprofit organizations. It quickly be came apparent that field trips and other programs traditionally offered by museums and nature centers would not be possible. Informal educators across northern New Mexico came together to meet community needs in a variety of ways. As a member of the Santa Fe Outdoor Education Collaborative (SFOEC), I worked together with other informal educators and classroom teachers to create a set of eight lessons to guide 3rd grade teachers and students through life science curriculum. These lessons were posted for free on Canvas, the online learning portal used by the Santa Fe Public Schools, as well as Google Classroom and Seesaw.

Lessons included:

  • Neighborhood habitat mapping
  • Botanical illustration activities
  • Nature scavenger hunts
  • Seed dissection and more

In addition to the Canvas unit that was shared for free online, SFOEC offered a week of training to teachers through Zoom. This focused on how to engage students in an online setting as well as specific lesson plans to engage students.

The professional development opportunity focused on teachers as experts in their field. It was co-taught by a veteran 3rd grade teacher. Participants shared what they had learned over the past months as they prepared for the new realities of teaching, in addition to being provided with materials and resources to make the transition to the new school year easier. Each lesson included an introductory set of slides, supplementary videos, student handouts, and assessments to ascertain student learning.

This set of lessons is an example of the importance of including teachers in the process of curriculum design. By involving them from the beginning by asking, “What do you need?” and “How can the resources and expertise we have be useful to you?”, the result is exponentially more powerful. Download the curriculum from Canvas for free here.

Opening of Cerise Consulting

Cerise Consulting was developed to provide the services that I was looking for when working as the Director of Education and Interpretation at a nonprofit. I wanted partners with expertise to collaborate with on projects rather than an expert to do the project for us. I was lucky enough to have several mentors and peers that provided these services, and I found the results of these projects to be richer and more meaningful.

Dr. Rabinowitz on a visit to Rancho de las Golondrinas

One of the partners and mentors I feel particularly lucky to have worked with was Dr. Richard Rabinowitz from the American History Workshop. He spent a week with me and my staff to explore the interpretative process as we prepared for the opening of a new phase of the organization. We spent the week meeting with community members, talking, and reflecting on how to tell stories that emerged. Richard offered his expertise through asking questions and suggesting resources rather than telling us how to move forward. This back and forth allowed our staff to learn and grow as we developed a plan for moving forward with the interpretation.

This model of partnership allows for a each member of the group to share their expertise while being led through the process as a team. By honoring the knowledge of the community, the final product is made that much stronger and more relevant to the context from which it emerged.

Working with Dr. Kathleen Doll was another experience that deeply impacted my understanding of how meaningful evaluation can be in the nonprofit context. Before working with her for the first time six years ago, I had seen assessment and evaluation as a necessary evil, required by grantors and of little value to my own practice. After hiring Dr. Doll to help design an evaluation for a joint project, I learned how necessary evaluation is, especially in an ongoing project. The questions she asked gave us the opportunity to articulate and clarify our goals. The process of designing the evaluation actually improve the program and the formative and summative evaluations made long-term impacts to the direction of the partnership. I am thrilled that Dr. Doll is a partner in this project. I hope that she helps your understanding of how important evaluation can be as much as she helped me.

Case Study – Summer Program Evaluation

Well designed program evaluation can have an outsized impact on the success of a project. Beginning in 2016 the Santa Fe Community Educators Network partnered with Dr. Kathleen Doll to design and implement an evaluation that would provide summative and formative data to improve the quality of the project and its ability to better meet the needs of the community.