Crane Country Day School Established 1928

Crane School Blog: Focus on Learning

Featuring articles written by Crane Staffulty

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2nd Grade Animal Presentations
Kristen Peralta

No two years at Crane are ever the same. Each year brings new students and Staffulty, and with them come new backgrounds, experiences, and passions. The one constant each year is a thoughtful, passion-driven, and dynamic learning environment.

“More than knowledge of subject matter. More than variety of teaching techniques. More than being well organized or friendly or funny or fair. Passion. Passionate people are the ones who make a difference in our lives.” 

- Robert Fried, author of The Passionate Learner

We have the pleasure of welcoming new teaching fellows each year as they begin the mentorship program learning from our experienced, master teachers and sharing their own interests, personal insights, and recent studies with students and the Crane community.

Crane’s teaching fellows program is a two-year residential teaching fellowship. It is a hands-on teaching experience that combines a rich professional development and mentoring program with daily opportunities for practical application. The teaching fellows are new to the field of teaching and seek to immerse themselves in a dynamic and innovative educational environment in which they can gain valuable insights, perspectives, and practice in the field of teaching.

This year second grade teacher and fellowship program co-director Karen Ohrn is working with new teaching fellow Sara Gillis. Sara comes to Crane after studying environmental studies and geology at Colgate University and teaching for a year at The Island School in the Bahamas. The Island School is an outdoor education school where many high school students from around the world go for a 100-day semester. Sara taught marine ecology and led a research class focused on tracking the behavior of the local green sea turtles.

As is the case with all teaching fellows at Crane, Sara has a unique background of experiences that she brings to the second grade classroom. New teaching teams take the time to understand their strengths and interests. While the foundation of the second grade curriculum is well established, there is always room for creativity as teachers decide how they teach the concepts. Teachers tweak and refine material to optimize the learning experience each year.

Karen explained, “When planning our year we definitely wanted to capitalize on Sara’s knowledge from her university studies and her first-hand experiences from teaching at The Island School in the Bahamas.”

Sara’s experiences tied in perfectly with the second grade’s endangered animals unit and allowed her to lead lessons on biodiversity and animal and habitat conservation.

Sara Gillis leading a lesson on biodiversity.

The class set out to answer three main questions: 1. What do all animals need to thrive and survive in the wild? 2. How do humans impact animal survival? 3. What can we do to protect animals now and in the future?

When talking to a second grader about the unit, you would think that they had traveled extensively and great distances to meet experts in the field. While this is not the case, they did get to meet virtually with four local animal experts including a national geographic explorer and a UCSB marine biologist.

Sara enthusiastically reflected back on this unit of study, “Seeing how into the unit the second graders got was amazing. Our second graders became as passionate, if not more passionate, about the animals they researched as I became about the green sea turtles I had tracked at The Island School.”

The students’ new-found awareness about animals and their habitats as well as their passion to protect them and to take action was evident in their presentations and in the emotion they conveyed in their recitations in English and Spanish of a poem about endangered animals.

Second graders sharing their knowledge with Mr. Weiss.

At Crane we emphasize that how we teach is as important as what we teach. The hands-on teaching fellows program is an opportunity for new educators to dive deep into our approach to teaching as well as a unique experience for Crane students to learn from passionate, young role models.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for professional development. It's great to learn from a seasoned veteran in such an experiential and creative learning environment.”   - Crane Teaching Fellow

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