In July, New Albany Intermediate School teacher Sandy Reed will be one of 53 teachers National Geographic selected from the U.S. and Canada to travel to Jackson, Wyoming, to attend a summer institute.
The institute is just one piece of a certification process that Reed said would aid her in creating more well-rounded educational programs for K-12 students when she heads up the district's Easton E3 Learning Lab next school year. E3 denotes "energy, engineering and environment."
The lab was refurbished through a grant of more than $400,000 that the district received from the state a few years ago, said Assistant Superintendent Marilyn Troyer.
In addition to funding the building's reconstruction, the money was used for an environment-monitoring system.
The building, which was constructed by Ohio State University students in the College of Engineering and Knowlton School of Architecture, was acquired by the district in 2012 after being used in the polar bear exhibit at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. It was designed to use solar panels and operate self-sufficiently, said Bill Resch, the district's environmental consultant, shortly after he helped bring it to New Albany.
The district incorporated "Easton" into the lab's name in recognition of a $50,000 Easton Community Foundation grant made in 2013 that helped with getting the building up and running, said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway.
A $261,808 Straight A Fund grant from the Ohio Department of Education in 2016 also contributed toward renovation and establishing the building at its current site, which is on an 83-acre nature preserve adjacent to the intermediate school, he said.
Since then, the district was awarded a $270,000 grant from IGS Energy in partnership with the PAST Foundation in November, Gallaway said. That money, to be implemented over a three-year period, provides professional development for more than 60 district teachers, he said.
The Easton E3 Learning Lab will be a resource and learning facility for integrated, project-based learning focused on energy, the environment and engineering, Troyer said.
"Our vision is to use the lab to provide an unparalleled energy, environment and engineering education that inspires students to become the future scientists, engineers and community leaders who will lead the transformation to a more sustainable society," she said.
Reed said she taught sixth-graders this past school year, but when classes resume after summer vacation, she will work full-time developing curriculum for the lab.
She will teach students, co-teach with other teachers and develop curriculum for teachers to use that incorporates more hands-on science, she said.
"We want to get kids out there," Reed said.
Reed said she wants to develop problem-based topics that weave together class subjects.
For example, Reed and other teachers are developing a curriculum for sixth-graders on the subject of climate-change research. In language-arts classes, students will write a research paper; in science classes, students will collect data; in math classes, students will graph that data; and in social-studies classes, students will explore economic effects associated with change, Reed said.
Such transdisciplinary learning engages students with real-world problems that incorporate multiple content areas and have relevance to real life experiences, Troyer said.
In the Easton E3 Learning Lab, students could study the use and effects of solar energy using a transdisciplinary approach that includes science, mathematics, language arts and social studies.
When Reed explored the program that would help her become a National Geographic-certified educator, she said, she found the process interesting because it was one that teaches students to approach things from a global perspective.
If students are to be tomorrow's problem solvers, Reed said, they need to look at issues globally.
"When I read about it, it really resonated with me," she said.
She said being certified means she has "joined a worldwide profession group of pre-K-12 educators trained in inspiring the next generation of explorers, conservationists and global citizens. I will have a network of teachers, researchers and scientists at my fingertips."
As part of her certification process with National Geographic, Reed developed a curriculum for her students about bees and pollination. Reed is a beekeeper, and she brought to school a hive -- sans bees -- and a beekeeper's outfit to explain how beekeeping works. She said the application process included sending a video about herself and a plan for how she would share her new skills with other district staff members.
National Geographic is paying for the certification process, she said.