Miami University’s Hefner Museum of Natural History and the Cecilia Berg Center for Environmental Education developed Sowing SEEDS (Science, Environmental Education, Discovery and Synthesis) as the cornerstone of an environmental educator certificate program. Coursework is tailored to the needs of early childhood (preK-grade 3), or middle childhood (grades 4-9) pre-service teachers with the goal of providing them age-appropriate and standards-based pedagogical techniques and science knowledge that increases their self-efficacy and impact in the classroom.
During the semester-long class, undergraduates first study environmental education initiatives from Ohio, the US and worldwide. Simultaneously, undergraduates develop their own repertoire of classroom-ready inquiry lessons to teach concepts about the natural world. Through inquiry, preservice teachers encourage young learners to hone their observation skills, to ask direct, testable questions, to review what they already know in light of what is presented, and to reflect and communicate their findings—skills future generations need to make responsible decisions about environmental issues.
Next, undergraduates hone their inquiry design skills to create activities for Hefner Museum’s outreach program, Discovery Trunks. These educational trunks contain authentic specimens and associated interdisciplinary discovery activities aligned to state standards. To ensure material and grade level effectiveness, undergraduates pilot the newly created activities for the Discovery Trunks in a variety of educational settings. As a result, undergraduates see the productivity of their efforts.
Finally, preservice teachers complete independent projects intended to broaden their knowledge of environmental processes and systems. Teachers develop evaluation tools to assess their programs. They explore personal and civic responsibility regarding local issues and articulate the difference between advocacy and education. By semester’s end, we see widespread benefits in our preservice teachers’ excitement to teach about the environment and encourage good stewardship of nature.
This project, Anti-bias Education Puppet Plays, is an offshoot of Sowing SEEDS, combining the work of undergraduates and museum staff to create puppet plays for an anti-bias curriculum.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offers four goals for spear-heading anti-bias education in the classroom setting for the very young. The four goals build upon each other and should be followed in the order listed. The four goals, listed in order of progression, are Identity, Diversity, Justice and Activism. Identity encourages children to be proud of themselves and their families. Diversity stimulates respectful language and behaviors when exposed to the diversity of life on the Earth. Justice seeks to identify inequality/injustice while Activism encourages a child to stand up and be brave, especially in her own space or immediate surroundings.
The document Anti-Bias Bibliography contains a bibliography of books that lend themselves easily to play development and reflect one of the four components of anti-bias education. Not all books are nature-based. We choose to use nature as the background for our plays to exemplify the mission of the Hefner Museum of Natural History. The mission of the Hefner Museum of Natural History is to inspire global stewardship by exploring the connections between people, the nature in their neighborhood, and the world. The books are natural catalysts to begin conversations for anti-bias curriculum. The use of puppet plays offers the ability to connect people to nature while introducing the goals of anti-bias education.
The document also provides a link to the first chapter of the Derman-Sparks' and Goins' book, Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves. The chapter, "What is Anti-Bias Education?" explains what anti-bias curriculum looks like when implemented in the classroom setting.
Providing accurate science content aligned to state educational standards is imperative. The document highlights websites undergraduates consult for reference in creating nature-based plays to ensure accuracy of informational content.
Within the Resources, please find three puppet plays created by Hefner museum students and staff.
These include Who Will Eat the Blackberries?, I Am Who I AM and We're All in It Together.