My definition of education and what it looks like is continuously changing for the better, and Project GROWS has been at the center of this transformation. Halfway through my college experience, I was toying with the idea of switching my degree to become a classroom teacher. However, I had very little experience leading kids.
I came to Project GROWS three summers ago to start my journey of learning what it took to be an educator, and I’m thankful that I have the privilege to still be on that journey with Project GROWS. After my first summer, I learned that education is having the courage to fail.
It is one thing to learn about education in the classroom, it’s an entirely different adventure to put those thoughts into action. When you are responsible for kids, you quickly recognize your strengths and your weaknesses (and often kids will not so subtly help with this discovery!). Thankfully, Project GROWS is an incredible place to practice, experience, and yes, grow your knowledge and skills. Through guidance from colleagues and space to leap into new experiences, I have had the opportunity to gain confidence in my abilities. To accept when I fall short and to learn how to pivot in a new direction.
My second summer helped me to see that education is like a map; you can have an end destination, but both the path and the destination can change, and that’s ok. The beauty of outdoor education is that you never run out of content to teach. Learning in nature provides a vibrant learning environment that is sensory-rich, imaginative, diverse, and cooperative. Our natural world is one of the greatest teachers we will ever have, and it encourages individuals of all ages to ask questions and wonder at the world.
I learned that plans for an activity may quickly derail as kids’ interests change. At the beginning, I would quickly become uncomfortable when kids became distracted from my original plans for an activity. However, I have realized the incredible impact of indulging children’s excitement. Working at Project GROWS has shown me that teaching on a farm is an incredible place to follow kids’ interests, deepening their learning experiences and expanding their worlds.
The summer of 2023 taught me that being an educator means encouraging creativity and imagination, no matter your age. I had never worked with middle schoolers until this summer, and I thought I would constantly be missing my elementary schoolers. However, our weeks of working with middle schoolers quickly became some of my favorite memories. This summer, we had campers of all ages building forts in the woods and dreaming up different ways that they could apply what they learned at camp to their own personal lives. I learned the tremendous learning opportunities that we can have when we engage our natural curiosity.
Lastly, Project GROWS has taught me the value of dreaming big. I have had the privilege to see the work done here at Project GROWS, and it is truly magical. Yet, the question asked is never “how can we repeat what we did last year?”. Instead, Project GROWS asks “how we can grow the magic so that we expand what we are capable of”. As my journey as an educator continues, Project GROWS inspires me to grow my dream of how education can be used and how it can change both individuals and communities.