From the Classroom

Watershed Week: A WC Teacher Testimonial

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This past Summer I participated in the Watershed Week professional development organized and sponsored by STRAW and Friends of the Petaluma River. In past years, both groups had held separate events, but on teacher suggestion they joined forces to create one, amazing event.

I have attended PDs by both STRAW and Friends of the Petaluma River’s Watershed Classroom. Both groups put together useful and inspiring programs. The challenge for teachers is that many of us are involved with both groups, and so due to time constraints we often felt like we had to choose one or the other. Combining the workshops supports both programs really well, as both have similar goals: a deepening of community and enriching classroom experiences that inspire a love and wonder for our local environment. And because it is now a combined workshop no one is missing out on any of the good stuff.

This year we started the program at the beautiful Point Reyes Seashore. Holding the workshops out in natural setting makes for an inspiring experience for teachers. It also helps to focus us on our natural environment. Additionally, the natural beauty provides a sense of peace and wellbeing for all involved. As always, the workshops not only present useful information, they follow best practice by providing hands-on learning experiences, showing teachers by having teachers take on the role of students. This is a great way to remind us how best to engage and connect our students to our curriculum, as well as allowing us greater understanding of how these activities and strategies will "feel" for our students.

In addition to being held in beautiful settings, STRAW and FOTPR set a positive and celebratory tone throughout. This is greatly appreciated. The love and joy that these two groups have for our natural environment is so apparent. It is also very apparent how much both groups value the work teachers do to bring this love and joy back to our students. We teachers truly get a sense that we are all one big team with the common purpose of bringing a joy for learning and a love for our natural environment to our young people.

The variety of workshops and speakers blend top notch science with art and deep personal connection in a way that I have not found elsewhere. It is a winning combination.

Day 2 at Stemple Creek Ranch was another lovely day in a beautiful environment. Again we were provided with inspiration, rigorous science, and personal connection. Once again the workshop nourished our minds, bellies, and spirits. Both STRAW and FOTPR encourage sharing amongst teachers & stakeholders in a way that fosters inspiration, curiosity and community. Later at Steamer Landing brought more sharing & information. It also culminated with time for networking, enjoying the environment and enjoying each other.

Day 3 at Point Blue headquarters, like the previous days, provided rich, interactive experiences, high level science, and celebration of teaching, learning & the environment.

Each time I participate in Watershed Week I come away inspired, renewed and wishing the folks at our district could participate and see what well thought-out and supportive PD looks like in practice. What STRAW and FOTPR do really ought to serve as a model for how to support teachers and school communities for building common purpose and inspired instruction.

I am so grateful to be a watershed classroom teacher and STRAW teacher.