"The further out I dare to step into the community, the deeper the learning. …the deeper the learning, the more profound the excitement and then before you know it, it’s a self sustained community that continues to feed on itself intellectually."

- Anne Tewksbury-Frye, 2008


Getting Started

There are many entry points for teachers who take this journey. A teacher might use a primary document from the local historical society or invite a guest speaker to class and say: “wow—my kids were really engaged…I want to do that more!”  Or observe her students looking at weeds on a sidewalk and feel a new energy in her classroom when she talks about how plants grow. Or she may find her class immersed in a full-blown ethnographic study as her students have incredible conversations with elders, create digital archives for the neighborhood and host community events to share the information.

One teacher’s “spark” might be different than another’s; one teacher might be triggered by a realization that a trip to a meadow can be a finely orchestrated science lab, while another might learn how to incorporate reflection with community service and see how much more it means to students. A teacher might be blown away at the depth of a student’s presentation and what he learned in partnership with the local arborist or a student’s artistic expression of his plan for the development of a neighborhood playground.


Bud of a sunflowerPartly opened sunflowerFlowering blossom


“We need to learn how to bring the OUT….IN!”

Whatever the entry point---teachers need to just create forward motion. Keep it going. Try something and learn from your students. Follow the work that inspires. Go after the experiences that make kids smile. Go outside!

Here are some ideas if you are just getting started!

    • Try something new and watch the ways your students learn. They will teach you.
    • Follow the work. Assign something new and see what happens.
    • Make a friend. Having a colleague to bounce ideas off of is great professional development.
    • Go someplace in your community that you have never been before.
    • Go somewhere with your students you have never been before.
    • Create a little time each week to pay more attention to students’ questions.
    • Explore a partnership with a community partner.