Life is about to get a little bit easier for the hardworking Fellows who lead all of our youth programming, from summer camps to school programs, as they prepare to graduate at the end of this month!
Graduation is an exciting milestone for any student, and the hardworking Fellows of Walking Mountains Science Center's Foley Graduate Fellowship are no exception. Graduation is a chance to honor and celebrate all the hard work, passion, and commitment that it takes to reach the high standards set to earn a Master’s Degree, and it’s a moment that students look forward to from the moment that they embark on their educational journey.
In the case of a Fellowship, the experience is even more profound. A Fellowship is intended to be a transformational learning experience, an opportunity to immerse yourself in a field you are passionate about, and to make a tangible difference in our knowledge and understanding of that field. A Fellowship is also a rigorous program, and our fellows really do work hard. Our fellows are responsible for teaching all of our youth programs, including school programs and summer camps. A typical day in the Fellowship entails full days teaching in the field, followed by graduate classes and homework in the evening. If they are lucky, or if they plan well, they might also be able to squeeze in a run or a bike ride with some friends.
Our Fellows will be graduating with a Master’s degree in Science Education from the University of Northern Colorado. As part of the requirements for this, students must complete an Action Research Project. Action Research is about closely examining how our teaching practices, strategies, and paradigms impact our students and what they take away from our programs. These graduating Fellows are a passionate group, and their research aligns with their passions. Rachel is the photographer of the group, and she looked at whether taking photos and using social media improved student engagement in our afterschool STEM programs. Our group artist, Kaylyn, integrated nature journaling into programs with the hope of improving students’ attitudes towards program field journals. Anna explored her inner child with an in-depth study of free play and its potential to cultivate joy and wonder in students. And finally, Natalie found a way to share her love of plants with students by exploring a phenomenon known as “plant blindness”, and found that even environmental educators are guilty of favoring plants over animals!
The Fellows will get to celebrate their accomplishments in a private celebration with family and friends at the end of July. The night is sure to be bittersweet, filled with mixed emotions as the Fellows celebrate the end of their Fellowship and the beginning of nights without papers to write. But the bitter part will be parting, and while their Fellowship is over, it’s certain that their friendships will not be. This group has connected in ways beyond the bonds of shared study. They have managed to build a strong friendship, and, even after living together and working together, this team chose to go on a final group vacation together!
I know it’s been a long two years, but in some ways, I’m sure it’s also gone by quickly. I hear some of the stories, but I know there are many more that I won’t (and shouldn’t) hear. We hope that the Fellowship is a transformative experience for our Fellows, and we hope that, upon graduation, they will take their talents and knowledge out into the world to spread the gospel of loving the land to students of all shapes and sizes. But in reality, the transformation is mutual, and we, at Walking Mountains, are transformed from the energy and passion that each group of Fellows brings to our team. The Fellowship creates an ongoing cycle of teaching, learning, and growing, for everyone who is fortunate enough to be part of the experience.
I think we can safely argue that graduation is a pretty exciting part of the Fellowship experience, and we look forward to celebrating our Fellows, and all their hard work, in style next month! It will be sad to see this special group leave, but we know they will all go on to do great work, and we can’t wait to see where their adventures lead them.
Written by Jaymee Squires. Jaymee is the Director of Graduate Programs and Senior Faculty Adviser at Walking Mountains Science Center.