I am a 24-year-old teacher from Upstate New York. My life's trajectory shifted drastically since the start of the pandemic. I found myself wanting to follow my passion for science and ecological sustainability and gain new knowledge of farming practices first-hand.
So I came to NZ for six months in 2022 and enjoyed my time WWOOFing as I travelled around. WWOOF stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, and I got the chance to stay with Jacqui from the Moths and Butterflies of NZ Trust where I was able to participate in the work of the MBNZT, such as this environmental education activity at Auckland's Botanic Gardens in the school holidays.
I had a great time in NZ, looking around your beautiful country.
I double-majored in biology and education during undergrad and taught 7th and 10th-grade science classes for two years. Being a strong believer that scientific literacy is crucial to a functioning society, I am grateful for having the opportunity to communicate science material in a classroom. I like creating engaging lessons rooted in cultural responsiveness and equity -- allowing for my students' identity and wellbeing to be supported so they can focus on learning super cool science stuff! I now intend to share my WWOOFing experience in the classroom with the next generation of learners.
As a science teacher I understand the importance of having a strong foundation in scientific processes. Therefore, I am always looking for new experiences that continue my growth as an educator and amplify my scientific skill set. WWOOFing provided me with an opportunity to continue learning about the applications of farming practices and sustainable methodologies and the cultural backgrounds of a particular area and its people. Through volunteerism, we can do amazing things; we can learn about our planet, farming practices, and about each other and the communities we come from.
When I returned to the USA I gave further thought to an activity which could be a hook and introduction leading into discussions on nature and ecology, which I hope would be useful to teachers. Butterflies and moths are an excellent model for discussing the significance of environmental conservation. Humanity should always consider the importance of the invertebrates' pollination and species biodiversity in every decision made as a society. Furthermore, using the butterflies' and moths' natural aesthetic beauty may help facilitate the collective efforts to ensure a sustainable future for these species in NZ.
We live in turbulent times regarding human-caused climate change, a threat that looms over everyone, especially young people, who will be battling the extremes of the problem in the years to come. Anyone with access to the internet knows of this threat. I've had countless conversations with students concerned about this; it has become a nihilistic shadow that can quickly instill students with trepidation and apprehension about the state of tomorrow.
When discussing this in school, I think teachers need to maintain a delicate balance to offset the problem's negativity with a healthy dose of practical measures we can all take to remedy it -- not to downplay severity, but critique myopic views and reintroduce hope into students' lens of understanding. Effective action is always an option, and there is still time to mend the long-lasting impacts of climate change. An auspicious world can bloom from our effort we make today, and butterflies are the perfect candidate for continuing this endeavor. The activity aims to spark a dialogue about environmental understanding, juxtaposing students' background knowledge of flagrant consumerism and the awareness of humanity's place in the natural world. If we don't take the time to learn about how we can preserve the beauty, we will risk losing it.
The activity is in the Resources section here.