I've been an educator for over thirty years, and served ten years as a public school, classroom teacher in Virginia and Arizona. Right out of college I became one of three art teachers at a rural Virginia high-school renowned for its arts classes. When my son was born, I home-schooled for a time, until I realized that I'd met my most obstinate student yet! ;) After moving to Arizona I began teaching art and some science at our neighborhood charter elementary and middle schools, until being hired full time as a Biology and Earth Science at the first school in the country to go digital: providing a laptop for every student. For the past eight years I have been serving as the education director and curricula developer for the non-profit, international, citizen-science organization, The Biodiversity Group. In addition to developing STEAM lessons for busy classroom teachers, I lead many hands-on, citizen-science projects for kids and teachers in the jungles and coral reefs of Vietnam, the Amazon forest of Ecuador, on the imperiled low-lying Caribbean island of Barbuda, on both islands of New Zealand, and on land and underwater in Mexico's Sea of Cortez.
I love to help new STEAM teachers get their subjects, their kids, and themselves OUT of the box and OUT of the classroom. Science and art, like all subjects, are not isolated disciplines but naturally and powerfully braided. I believe that real learning comes by giving students the freedom and security to make mistakes! We learn by doing: trying things, making mistakes, persevering, and trying again. I know that kids learn better and are better behaved when they are outside, exploring, inquiring, investigating and DOING real citizen-science and student-driven projects that matter to them and their communities. I know the reality of increasingly crowded classrooms and higher demands so I'm always creating ways to satisfy multiple, cross-curricular standards while having the kids be active and engaged with the real world around them.
I was awarded a grant to study natural science illustration from The Desert Museum, 2004. After that I joined The Biodiversity Group as a volunteer and began working on Biodiversity PEEK projects. This led to the awarding of several grants: Initially a private, multi-year grant to develop and teach Biodiversity PEEK in Ecuador, 2012 - 2014. Then a grant from the US State Department to adapt and teach Biodiversity PEEK in Vietnam, 2014. Most recently, in 2015 and 2016 was the award of a private, two-year grant to create several interdisciplinary preK-8 Biodiversity PEEK STEAM curricula and professional development workshops for classroom teachers. And, I just received the Golden Frog Award from The Biodiversity Group for my dedication to biodiversity and environmental education.
I received my Bachelor of Science from James Madison University where I majored in art, biology and education and graduated cum laude in 1992. After graduating I took post baccalaureate classes to get my certification in early child education. After my move to Tucson, AZ I studied natural science education at Tucson's Desert Museum and received various technology trainings for teaching science at the country's first laptop high school. Most recently I was selected by Tucson's main Library to display a month long solo show of my sculpture series: Life, contained.
I am most proud of my two self-started social-art, awareness-raising projects. The first began as a children's book I wrote and illustrated: Velvet and Elvis, A Mother and Son Story of New Zealand's Longfin Eel, published by Papawai Press. This story grew and evolved into a truly giant quilting project that kids and teachers from all over New Zealand created. The monster eel was used to deliver a petition for the protection of this vanishing species to parliament in Wellington. I slept on a lot of Kiwi couches and learned so much about environmental education. The second project was also a giant creature, this time a jaguar. I worked with the southwest chapter of Defenders of Wildlife to use my Sewing Spots Together project to build public awareness of the need to preserve wildlife corridors in our border regions so that these native Arizonian cats and other wildlife can continue to migrate and survive. Both projects are documented on a blog I wrote, From Eels to Jaguars: https://savetheeels.wordpress.com/