By Lauren Farnsworth, Save The Bay Education Specialist
One of the most gratifying things any educator can hear is that their teaching made an impact or influenced someone in some small way. These moments often come in the form of excited squeaks when we’re out on the boat, like this winter, during a seal tour, when one excited young participant screamed, “This is better than Christmas!!!” I truly didn’t think anything could top that. But this March, I was lucky enough to experience another victory during our program with the Providence After School Alliance (PASA). And this victory was so much more satisfying.
As part of the PASA program, students from Gilbert Stuart Middle School take a bus, twice a week, straight to us after their school day ends. As soon as those bus doors open, an excited stampede of students floods the front lobby. Except for Alex, who stood out among his peers because of his blatant disinterest in all aspects of our programming, from games to lab work and everything in between. Alex also had a sibling in the group, and their constant bickering made made it hard for other students to concentrate and made things much more difficult for all of us. We ended up separating the pair at the beginning of each session. I honestly never thought Alex had any interest in our program because of his attitude and persistent sarcasm.
Then, on a day in March when the sun was shining and the long winter finally seemed to be coming to an end, we decided to get the kids outside for the day. We taught a habitat lesson, and then asked students to create their own habitats outside, in groups of four, with nothing more than a blanket and some twine. Everything else had to be found in nature. The students went above and beyond our expectations, creating wonderful structures with everything an animal would need to survive. I was so impressed with their determination and hard work; each group proudly displayed their structure and gave us a thorough explanation of their process.
Something was missing.
I didn’t have to intervene constantly and separate students; I wasn’t asking the group to quiet down so I could explain safety rules. They were listening. Eyes were focused, and every single child was engaged and working at the potential we knew they were capable of.
At the end of the day, as the students hurried out toward the parking lot, Alex slowly lingered in the hallway. I went over to see what was going on, since he was normally one of the first out the door. He shyly looked up at me and asked if he would be allowed back for another session with Save the Bay. “I know I haven’t been so great this year, but I really love the program. My favorite part of the day is coming here, and I really want to come back.” I was completely taken aback. I was so happy to hear that the one student I didn’t think I could reach, actually enjoyed our time together! I told him we would love to have him back for another session and also mentioned the summer scholars program to him.
I hope to see Alex back at the Bay Center soon, and welcome the opportunity, and the challenge, of meeting more students each day.