In the beginning, I had my doubts that Bay Backpack would ever get its feet off the ground. But time would prove that persistence and a good idea could overcome any odds. Just look how far the Backpack community has come. Last year, 13,990 visitors accessed the site from 106 countries. I guess you could say Backpack has gone international.
Backpack promotes a style of teaching that is the way education should be. Education should be about student exploration, investigation, and action. It should expose students to the environment, not separate them from it. It should open a forum to discuss real world issues in the classroom.
But often teachers feel constrained by their pacing guides, standards of learning, and textbooks. They feel they have neither the time nor the resources to get their students outside. But Backpack has shown us that educators, especially K-12 teachers, can succeed at incorporating outdoor learning into their curricula. We know this because of the inspiration stories told through the School Spotlight; personal tales of how teachers got their projects off the ground.
Stories like that of Cynthia Walsh, who was inspired to create an outdoor classroom at her school after she attended a professional development workshop on box turtle monitoring. Or Carl Rollins whose organization helped provide 40,000 DC students with fresh, local berries, and greens. Or Barbara Shaughnessy, who sparked a $6 million renovation that transformed her school’s straggly courtyard into an outdoor learning environment with “classroom” spaces (from physical education to music) that connect students to the outside.
In urban, suburban, and rural communities everywhere untapped opportunities abound. Cynthia, Carl, and Barbara prove that with a little creativity, persistence, and outside of the box thinking success is possible anywhere. The thing that makes their stories different is they were empowered to be leaders in their communities. They took the first and often hardest step. Instead of fear they felt empowerment. Instead of challenges they saw opportunities. They lit the spark at their school and shared their story with their peers and the Backpack community.
Their spark may serve as a light to inspire others to do the same. So take the time this year, in 2011, to think creatively, keep your irons in the fire, and build on the success of others to create your own story. Then inspire others by sharing your story with anyone who will listen. If you have a story you think will inspire others, email Sarah and get your story posted on Backpack.