Over 100 educators, professional development providers, administrators, and community members came together on Friday, October 13, at Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont for the 2023 conference of the Upper Valley Teaching Place Collaborative (UVTPC). The conference theme, Learning Together!, came to life through workshops designed to build relationships, find peer support, and create dynamic and inclusive learning spaces. The conference, like many other UVTPC activities, is funded by the Wellborn Ecology Fund managed by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. The Wellborn Ecology Fund, established at the bequest of late Upper Valley resident Marguerite Wellborn, exists “to be used for public awareness of environmental and ecological issues in the Upper Valley.”
The conference is also supported by the UVTPC Steering Committee composed of Hannah Gelroth with Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Joan Haley with Shelburne Farms, Lisa Purcell with Four Winds Nature Institute, Dawn Dextraze with Sullivan County Conservation District, and Traci Fowler with the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.
In the spirit of Learning Together! there were 13 workshops offered by a diverse range of teachers, professional development providers, and community partners. Workshops were designed for early childhood, elementary, middle school, and high school educators. Participants had the opportunity to engage their senses in a garden, explore a showcase of equitable climate action projects, build relationships with a diverse group of educators, and so much more.
One workshop was even hosted by students! Students from Woodstock Union High School (WUHS), in partnership with their teachers Abbie Castriotta and Kat Robbins, presented on the CRAFT program, a new initiative at the school. Standing for Community and Climate Resilience through Agriculture, Forestry, and Technology, CRAFT is a new initiative building on a long legacy of agricultural learning at Woodstock. According to the Woodstock Union High School and Middle School (WUHSMS) website, the program “facilitates an interdisciplinary learning pathway of courses, immersive experiences, and service-learning opportunities at WUHSMS.”
Workshop participants commented on how exciting it was to hear directly from students and just how articulate the students were about the value of their experience with CRAFT. Building on the excitement of the fall conference, the UVTPC will be identifying on-going opportunities to come together as peers to celebrate, share, and develop best practices in place-based ecology education.
Andrew Deaett and Gabrielle Smith