National Geographic Educator
Andrew Deaett, Science Teacher

In June of 2018, Conserve School hosted the Semester Schools Teacher’s Conference. Teachers from CITYterm, High Mountain Institute, Maine Coast Semester, Outdoor Academy, Oxbow, and the School for Ethics and Global Leadership (SEGL), convened at Lowenwood to discuss topics specific to the semester school experience. Topics ranged from diversity and inclusion, and residential life, to the pedagogy of transformational learning. You can read more about the conference in this staff story written by Assistant Director of Student Instruction and lead Stewardship teacher, Eleva Potter. The pedagogy of transformational learning was of particular interest to me. During a session lead by Eric Johnke from CITYterm, we explored teaching as transmission, transaction, and transformation. This session gave me new vocabulary and skills to apply to my teaching, and I’m grateful for Eric’s leadership.

Teaching as transmission: “From this perspective, teaching is the act of transmitting knowledge from Point A (teacher’s head) to Point B (students’ heads). This is a teacher-centered approach in which the teacher is the dispenser of knowledge, the arbitrator of truth, and the final evaluator of learning.” (Johnson, 2015) Teaching as a transaction: “From this perspective, teaching is the process of creating situations whereby students are able to interact with the material to be learned in order to construct knowledge. Constructivism is an educational philosophy consistent with this view. Here, knowledge is not passively received; rather, it is actively built up or constructed by students as they connect their past knowledge and experiences with new information.” (Johnson, 2015) Teaching as transformation: “From this perspective, teaching is creating conditions that have the potential to transform the learner on many different levels (cognitive, emotional, social, intuitive, creative, spiritual, and other). Transformational teaching invites both students and teachers to discover their full potential as learners, as members of society, and as human beings.” (Johnson, 2015)

These different perspectives on learning are not necessarily hierarchical, but all work together to create holistic, student-centered, learning environments. While reflecting on my learning during the Semester Schools Teacher’s conference, I was curious to explore the conditions within which these different modes of learning occur. I needed to be a learner myself, and I discovered a wonderful opportunity in the National Geographic Educator Certification. The National Geographic Educator Certification is an online, mentored, learning platform for both formal and informal educators. The process asks educators to explore the National Geographic Learning Framework, and apply the Learning Framework to two, new or existing, lesson plans. After crafting and implementing these lesson plans, educators are asked to reflect on the learning outcomes achieved by students and create a capstone video to share with the National Geographic Educator Community.

I chose to focus on a lesson that brought our AP Environmental Science class into the Sylvania Wilderness to collect data on forest community composition. We used our data for the purpose of building visual displays of data from digital spreadsheets, as well as learning about the unique ecology of the Sylvania Wilderness. You can read more about that lesson in this staff story written by Science Teaching Fellow, Emma Velis.  After three months of hard work, I submitted my capstone video and received my certification! With this certification, I am eligible to apply for the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship. This partnership between National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions offers teachers the opportunity to travel to places such as the Arctic, and the Galapagos Islands, to further our understanding of the complex world in which we live.

More importantly, throughout the certification program, I was able to revisit my innate curiosities and drive to learn. I experienced learning as transmission while reading and understanding the National Geographic Learning Framework. I experienced learning as transaction while collaborating with my mentor and peers to reflect on and improve my lesson plans. I experienced learning as transformation while implementing, and reflecting on my lesson. I learned to give up control, make space for my students to learn and remembered to view the world with childlike wonder. Looking forward, I wonder how my work at Conserve School might shift from a focus on teaching, towards a focus on facilitation of learning, for my students, my colleagues, myself, and the broader Conserve School community?

Photos provided by George Rue, Outdoor Skills Teaching Fellow.

References: Johnson, A. (2015). Three Views of Teaching: Transmission, Transaction, and Transformation. Retrieved from

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