Out-of-classroom teachers invaluable

They say kids are like sponges, absorbing information by way of verbal, visual, audio and physical cues all day, everyday. Learning is happening all the time for all of us, and in addition to the teachers who serve in our classrooms there are others who shape our lives, bringing us closer together as well as closer to the world around us.

In Tuesday’s edition we learned of the award given to Carol Lunan, a preschool teacher at the Grapevine Family and Community Resource Center in Antrim who also works with families at the River Center in Peterborough. Lunan is the recipient of the Family Support New Hampshire Kay Sidway Award for family support.

Ironically, it’s the position Lunan takes as student that is part of her success, according to Kristen Vance, executive director at the Grapevine. “When she’s listening, she’s trying to learn,” Vance says.

Lunan sees herself as a facilitator, helping parents map out their family’s direction and advocating for children. But Lunan isn’t just “doing her job” as a parent educator, she’s developing a rapport with those she works with. As she put it, “It’s all about relationship. Being in a relationship with people doing the same thing you are, sharing the joys, challenges, from person to person and parent to parent.”

There’s nothing more important than our relationships with each other, but a close second is our connection to nature. That’s the work of the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock and its teacher-naturalists, who work with area schoolchildren in the field. Jaime Hutchinson and Dori Drachman are two of them.

Our staff recently followed Hutchinson’s work with children at Jaffrey Grade School, bringing them into the environment outside their school and helping them relate to it in a meaningful way through various practical learning opportunities. The theory is that the more kids know about nature, the more they will take ownership of and care for the land, according to Hutchinson and Drachman.

In their work with teacher-naturalists, students are also learning some hands-on skills, collecting data, making observations, investigating and problem-solving. Students at ConVal this year, for example, are conducting energy audits and coming up with ways to better conserve resources there, as well as creating abatement scenarios for invasive species.

When students graduate and go out into the world, they’ll need more than just their diploma — they’ll need to know the art of relationships and how to navigate their environment. Thankfully, there are people in our communities who can teach them.

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