It is difficult to say where our lives would be had we not crossed paths with TSS. We would have not crossed paths with each other, for starters. But our time at TSS also affected us personally in many ways—cementing our love of the outdoors as a personal and professional classroom, igniting our curiosity about the natural world, and as an extension of that, motivating us to protect it through educating others. Professionally, you could say that TSS didn’t only impact what we are doing now—it determined it! Shortly after our time in Jackson ended, we moved to Kunming, China, and started an outdoor/environmental education program at a small English immersion school there. We’ve applied many of TSS’s core principles in shaping that program, and our students gain a combination of practical outdoor skills, leadership development, and knowledge of ecology and sustainability, all the while fostering an emotional connection with the natural world. We do this, of course, in a place-based setting, on camping and backpacking trips into the mountains and forests of Yunnan Province.
In addition to the camping trips, both of us have been teaching core subjects like math, English, and science in the classroom. Despite having been in education for multiple years now, most of the foundational pedagogical skills that have allowed us to be successful here originally came from TSS. Teaching games and strategies we first practiced in Jackson still come in handy in the classroom here in China; cold calling, questioning strategies, and improv games alike. We have even brought out the ever-entertaining “Master Tracker” on a few occasions.
Most importantly, though, we have included Place-Based Education practices in the classroom as well as the outdoors. Science class is held in the forest whenever possible, social studies projects look at the local Kunming community, and inquiry-based learning is infused into all of our curriculum. Exploration has become a foundation of our classrooms and our lives, and we owe much of that to TSS.
Luke Dauner and Lily Anderson are TSS AmeriCorps alumni: Luke was part of the Winter 2015 cohort and Lily was Summer 2015. They currently teach at Pollard International School in China. Luke is the Co-Director of Outdoor Education and Secondary Science Teacher, and Lily is also Co-Director of Outdoor Education and 5th Grade Teacher/Cass Supervisor.
Learn more about the AmeriCorps program that brought Luke and Lily together!