Coming Full Circle
It’s been two and a half months since my first day as an ACES Educator in the ACES Ed classroom at Aspen Elementary School. It’s been 17 years since I myself was a bright eyed 4th grader “helping” construct the very classroom over which I now preside.
I was born and raised in Aspen, CO, spending all 13 of my school years in the Aspen School District. Even then ACES’ Environmental Education programs were an important part of the weekly curriculum for all elementary school students. I still vividly remember class time, and the joy of the “use-it-again-box” where anything imaginable could be constructed from recycled material. I remember my teacher, the legendary Wendy, who seemed like the benevolent Mother Nature incarnate. In 1999, when my AES classmates and I assisted with the construction of the “Straw Bale” classroom, our excitement and pride was memorialized in the mud packed straw and tire walls.
Likely, as I experienced first hand, our students may not even recognize their own ecological literacy until later in their lives. By then, it is my hope that they will be in a position to make changes in the world, and I am honored to be a part of ACES Ed, laying the groundwork for that. Now, as an Educator, I find myself not only with a constant sense of coming full circle, but also a deeper respect and appreciation for the long-standing environmental education program at ACES. While some of the ACES Ed curriculum has been masterfully fined-tuned every year for over 30 years, new curriculum is developed each year as well, leaving room for me to get creative and try out new ideas. The scope of the primary themes for each grade level, both in the classroom and in the field, equips students with an incontestable understanding of and connection to their local environment and ecology.
For now, I smile at the warm memories of making my own 2nd grade winter habitat diorama as I help hot glue clay weasel heads back on and complement my kids on thoughtful landscape backgrounds.
~ Katie Bird