(Thanks to Kristen Albright (Acadia STEAM in the PARK) for these heartfelt words.)
The briny smell of the ocean, the sound of waves crashing against the rocks, a night of a million stars in the Milky Way, laughter and song around the campfire with my firefly friends, and miles of hikes through the spruce-scented forest—these are the moments that I treasure from my time in STEAM in the Park. This was the most unconventional professional development I have ever attended in my 26+ years of teaching, and it truly changed my life for the better.
When I heard from a dear friend and colleague about the first STEAM in the Park that took place last year in Acadia, I knew that I had to apply this year. I was thrilled to learn that I had been accepted after waiting to hear for weeks. The Zoom calls with fellow attendees in the months leading up to STEAM in the Park Acadia allowed me to have a glimpse of what was to come, making friendships and connections with teachers across the country. I was so impressed with Dacia’s organization and communication leading up to the event.
In Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, we had several days packed with learning and networking. The park rangers provided sessions on mapping, dichotomous keys to identify species, water quality and pH, and the methods biologists use to monitor the invasive green crab. Our STEAM in the Park ambassadors presented on literacy connections, poetry, and even a fun yoga session! Each of us had an opportunity to hone our artistic skills by painting a picture of monarch butterflies or scenery around Acadia. Our final night was a ranger-led session on constellations under the most beautiful, star-filled sky. In between sessions, we dined together, went to town for ice cream, hiked the beautiful vistas, and took time to enjoy beautiful Acadia National Park.
After taking a few days to reflect on my time in Acadia with STEAM in the Park, I have two main takeaways that I will always cherish. First, I know now that I can do things outside of my comfort zone. Walking over rocks and digging through seaweed to find the elusive yet invasive green crab is not something I have ever done before, but accomplishing this feat in a completely supportive environment allowed me to try something new! Secondly, I have been reminded that teachers do make a difference. Following a few difficult years of the pandemic and beyond, my zest for teaching was somewhat diminished. STEAM in the Park rejuvenated me by showing me how teachers can use UN Global goals to do real, important work with our students that can change the world. We did research that scientists in the field will use and wrote lesson plans that will be used by teachers worldwide.
The “firefly” friendships and connections that I made with fellow campers will give me the energy and support I need to make this school year a success! I feel truly lucky to have had this opportunity and I can’t wait to apply to another park next year!