The Budding Educator


This blog post was written by Alisha Cahlan and originally appeared on her blog From Where I Sit: The Green Chair.

It would be appropriate now to mention that we have a huge secret.

Yes, the From Where I Sit: The Green Chair team has been hiding something from you, dear readers, that we just can’t keep to ourselves anymore, and our next profiled guest found us out...

“I can see that this green chair used to be painted red,” Jennifer confidently states with a handheld microscope up to her eye.

Taking a closer look at our iconic green chair, she shows us her keen observation skills also cultivated within her students. As an Experiential Educator, she is seasoned at using out-of-the-box techniques to nurture curiosity and teach others to utilize their five senses when deducing meaning from their natural surroundings.

Our morning with Jennifer includes a prep session in the offices, which resemble a mix between an art and science classroom. Signs reading “Make Good Decisions”, crafting supplies, topographical maps, and various scientific models sit throughout the room.  

She stuffs a box with supplies for her three lessons throughout the day: a yellow softball, squishy basketball toy, blue play-pit ball, rock, 75 booklets, and several folders containing laminated infographics. The topic of the hour is the Earth and tectonic plates, and different from a traditional classroom lesson, students are able to utilize diverse educational tools. The “experiential” part of the Experiential Educator title relies heavily on utilizing different modes of learning.

Traditionally inside the classroom, we learn through auditory (hearing) learning, which involves a teacher orating to us in order to deposit information.  An Experiential Educator, however, will utilize not only auditory learning techniques, but kinesthetic (touch) and visual techniques. The children in Ms. V’s fourth grade class pass around various objects, hypothesizing what characteristics they contain that resemble the layers of Earth.

This is a first of a series of four visits Jennifer will make with the class, one including an outdoor adventure up a mountain to study changes to the Earth’s surface. For this school, which is located in a mostly low-income Hispanic neighborhood where breakfast and lunch are subsidized, many of the students clap and gasp with excitement as she mentions the trip.

A fun outdoor component is an important component of what Experiential Education programming can offer to students, as it will be the only opportunity most under-served student populations will have to positively engage with nature.

The program can act as a building block to further scientific study, often creating an emotional connection to the natural world as well. As such, the opportunities that people like Jennifer facilitate foster an interest in conservation endeavors in an engaged base of young people, who would otherwise have limited exposure to the importance of their role in sustaining a healthy natural environment.

Jennifer and her bright-eyed students make up a critical piece of the sustainability puzzle which gives our planet another bid in the fight for survival.