Editors Note: Nikki Gamrath answered questions from Leslie Cook, Director of the Teacher Learning Center to allow the TSS Community the opportunity to get to know her prior to her arrival at Teton Science Schools
What led you to Educator Development at Teton Science Schools?I have spent my entire educator life trying to bridge the gap between traditional teaching and learning and experiential teaching and learning. TSS has always worked to balance the two and I have been inspired by the mission and values of the programming since I was in high school.
What does place-based education mean to you?As a learner, I learn best when I am fully immersed and present in “place.” Seeing the environment or “place” as our third teacher, allows the educator and learner to take a deep dive into landscapes, cultures, heritage, ecology and narratives. Using place, and these components, as a foundation for core content areas such as English Language Arts, math, social studies, and science, supports the learner with deeper, more authentic, transferable thinking and connecting opportunities.
Please share a memorable place-based experience.Any time I travel to a new place domestically and abroad I like to make it a place-based experience. Most recently, though, living in rural southern Illinois for the past six years in a very small town, has taught me more about equity, inclusion, culture and heritage than I had anticipated.
What is a special place for you?My childhood home in Suquamish, WA, is my most special place. The Puget Sound, Agate Pass, the beach and the teachings of Chief Seattle were a few of my most powerful teachers growing up.
Tell us a bit about your research around rigor and experiential education.Bottom line: All educators, including experiential educators, can do a much better job of being more intentional about identifying, measuring and assessing rigorous thinking when it is happening in student thinking. Too often, place-based educators get criticized for their teaching and learning NOT being rigorous, and this is just not true. However, as a place-based educator, what are you doing in your practice to ensure that the learning experiences you are facilitating are propelling students into rigorous thinking and learning, and how do you know, and how can you prove it?
What are you looking forward to most about your move and being based at the Kelly Campus in Grand Teton National Park?ALL OF IT. I’m thrilled, humbled, and honored to join the TSS team, and more specifically the Kelly Campus crew. I’m looking forward to beginning a new place-based journey of my own and jumping into everything TSS and Kelly Campus related. I will admit, I’m a bit intimidated by the winter, but up for the adventure.