Written by Valerie Vickers, 1982-2007
For me, science teaching and learning are best explored experientially. This philosophy was the cornerstone of my teaching over 25 years in the Middle School. My classes were multi-faceted with hands-on experiments, science projects and outdoor experiences that involved nature trails, butterfly and permaculture gardens. Eventually technology played a large role as we compared rainfall studies in different parts of the US and did biodiversity studies on our own campus, including building our own GIS map. Community service like the Winter Walk for AIDS, building a structure for children with special needs at a nearby park and cross-curricular units such as our 7th Grade Population Unit brought the larger community into our classroom. Working with Guilford Soil and Water Conservation gave students the opportunity to hone skills in public speaking, art, and cooperative learning on Envirothon teams. I hope students remember the recycling programs and problem-solving we did as we proposed more sustainable solutions on our own campus. Our field trips to Umstead State Park, Morrow Mountain State Park, Camp Broadstone, Campbell’s Folk School and Green River Preserve are hopefully high points for many students who remember 6th and 7th Grade Science. These special experiences happened because of wonderful colleagues and a supportive administration.
Within the faculty, I was one of the catalysts for bringing a more sustainable vision to our school. The Student/Parent/Faculty Environmental Committee was established in 1989 and continued until 2007. Once a month, representatives from each division met to share ideas for making our campus more “green.” Gardens, ponds and wild spaces were cultivated so that students could interact with nature. Ultimately, the Natural Learning Pond with boardwalks and an outbuilding were created with the help of NC State and NC A&T. In addition, I also navigated a PhD program (supported financially in part by GDS) in Foundations of Education that culminated in a dissertation, Exploring Ecological Identity: Education to Restore the Human/Earth Relationship. I became involved in Greensboro Beautiful and the Advisory Committee for Sustainability for Greensboro. I was fortunate to receive the Thomas Berry Award from the Greensboro Public Library in 2011 for my work.
Finally, I am also a parent of a son Hansen Grider who graduated in 2000. I am so appreciative of all his teachers, coaches and mentors who helped him grow in knowledge and wisdom for his future endeavors over the five years he attended GDS.