Mariemont Junior High School 7th grade social studies and world history teacher Nicole Parr recently had a unique experience as both a teacher and a learner. Selected as one of 40 of nearly 200 applicants, she embarked on a training opportunity at Yellowstone National Park through a weeklong teacher fellowship.
EPI’s Teacher Fellowships provide unique professional development opportunities for educators to collaborate with one another on real-world conservation projects and learn in the field. “I’m looking at experiential learning more and more, and to be on the student end but see both sides as a student and a teacher, was an incredible experience,” said Nicole. “I think the reason they accepted me to this program is because what we do here in Mariemont makes us unique, especially to this part of the country – experiential learning is so much of who we are and what we do.”
Mrs. Parr is a huge advocate of experiential, project-based learning, in which she gives students a real-life scenario or problem to map out and solve. The students work with local architects, designers and historians, and then present their end products to an authentic audience. She said she wants students “to ask questions rather than just be receivers of facts.” She is also an advocate of cross-curricular teaching and is always thinking of ways to improve teaching methods by incorporating elements from other disciplines into her class.
“My biggest takeaway was, how I can have students investigate and collect data and try to experience history rather than just be receivers of facts and information. Rather than me just doing direct instruction, I want them to experience history as much as possible.”
She plans on taking what she learned during the fellowship and applying it to her classroom experience as much as possible, as well as sharing insight from the experience with her peers and tying it into service learning and Builder’s Club.
Mrs. Parr said the experience made her “consider how I teach and it put everything in perspective. It was such a privilege and a blessing. And it was good for the kids to see me take a risk. It was a selective process and I was out of my comfort zone. My students got the chance to see me as a learner taking risks and doing the same things they do every day.”