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WATSON COLLEGE OF EDUCATION

Student Opportunities and Student News

Curriculum Unit Developed by WCE MAT Students is Introduced at Forest Hills

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

In fall 2016, WCE associate professor Elizabeth Crawford asked students enrolled in the Master of Arts in Teaching in Elementary Education program to develop lesson plans around the United Nations’ 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Alexandra Los, Philip Morris and Stacey Pinno focused on the goal for Sustainable Consumption and Production. The unit they developed was implemented in fifth-grade classrooms at Forest Hills Global Elementary School in March.

“The lessons introducing responsible consumerism and Dr. Crawford’s work as a Global Scholar in Finland align well with the fifth-grade study of ecosystems and sustainability, and our focus on the continent of Europe,” said Forest Hills teacher Melinda Wiggins.

The curriculum unit written by Los, Morris and Pinno provides a comprehensive overview of how to teach responsible consumption to students in the 3rd to 5th grades. It includes seven lessons, containing instructional procedures, resources and extension activities.

The students completed the project during their first semester in the MAT program. “Collaborating on a project of this size during our first semester had its challenges, but seeing the final product come to life at Forest Hills was a great payoff,” Los said. “Being from educational backgrounds, we all brought something different to the unit.”

Crawford was thrilled to learn in February that Forest Hills would introduce the unit in its entirety. “Our novice pre-service teachers wrote lessons of such high quality that experienced teachers wanted to implement them start to finish,” she said. “I’m very proud of the work that Allie, Phil and Stacey have done.”

On March 8, Wiggins arranged for Forest Hills fifth graders to tour the landfill managed by New Hanover County’s Environmental Management Department as part of a lesson titled, “Garbage 101.” During the tour, students learned about the government’s efforts to protect the environment through recycling, constructed wetlands and water purification programs. They also learned that Wilmington’s landfill, constructed in 1981, was the first lined landfill in North Carolina; more than 2 million pounds of trash arrive there each day; and the current mountain of compacted garbage reaches 124 feet in elevation, making it the tallest point in the county.

Thirty-nine students participated in the landfill outing, along with Wiggins, fifth-grade teacher Hannah Chlystek, Forest Hills global studies coordinator Christina Daniels and several parent volunteers.

“The sustainable consumption unit has empowered students,” Wiggins said. “They were surprised to learn that plastics never break down, that so much trash in the U.S. goes to the landfill and that there are steps everyone can take to help protect the environment. The lessons have brought an eye-opening global perspective that everything we do has an impact.”

Los, Morris and Pinno said they found the curriculum design project interesting, and were surprised to learn the true cost of food and packaging. “When developing the lessons I realized that responsible consumption and production is a very dynamic problem,” Morris said. “I will not be able to directly fix the environmental, natural, and human/wildlife problems created by all aspects of pollution, but we can provide future generations awareness so they may develop new and innovating ways to improve the world.”

Sustainable Education Resources for Teachers

Crawford specializes in global, solution-focused curriculum design. Through teaching and collaborations, she aims to bring the sustainable development goals into every classroom.

“Teachers want to introduce global issues in the classroom and they need resources to do it,” Crawford said.

Crawford seeks to share her research and students’ curriculum design focused on the SDGs with educators locally and globally. In March, she participated in a WCE Professional Learning Day where she shared her and her students’ work with WCE partnership teachers. In October 2016, Crawford presented on Goal 4: Quality Education at a UNESCO conference in Finland. This May, she will visit with faculty and students in Sweden. Both international engagements were possible through her role as a Watson Global Scholar. In order to disseminate resources on the SDGs, Crawford and her WCE graduate assistant Emily Corrigan designed a website that serves as a platform for housing resources for teachers on the Global Goals, including the unit Los, Pinno and Morris designed, as well as opportunities to collaborate.

The MAT students’ curriculum unit can be viewed here.

Pathways to Teaching

Different paths led Los, Morris and Pinno to enroll in the Master of Arts in Teaching program at the Watson College.

Los holds a degree in psychology from Purdue University. She worked in the field of applied behavior analysis for several years with a focus on helping children with autism improve socially significant behaviors. More recently, she worked for Catholic Charities Hawai’i, helping to optimize the home environment to protect children at risk of abuse or neglect.

Morris earned a bachelor's at Central Michigan University in geography/geographical information systems. He served in the military for 21 years as a training and planning officer for the Kansas Army National Guard before enrolling in the MAT program. His reason for becoming a teacher is two-fold. “I want to make a difference for children and teach them how they can make the world an understanding and productive place for future generations,” he said. 

Pinno was a WECT reporter for two years after graduating from UNCW with a degree in communication studies. Participation in paws4people and stories she covered on local schools, including a garden and nutrition program at Forest Hills, piqued her interest in education. “It was a new style of teaching, and I wanted to be part of that,” she said.

Asked what she would say to others considering WCE’s MAT program and a career in education, Pinno said, “Go for it! I was shocked how much we’ve learned in just one year.”

Information on WCE’s Master of Arts in Education program is found here.