On the Road with PopEd

Fall is the busiest time of year for PopEd, and the 2018 season was no exception — over 250 workshops were held from September through December. While we rely heavily on our network of volunteer facilitators to achieve this impressive showing, our staff also travels throughout North America to fulfill workshop requests and expand our program into new regions. About a quarter of last fall’s workshops were led by PopEd staff. Working face-to-face with educators gives us new perspectives on the benefits of our materials and the impacts of our program. Here’s a sampling of some of the insights gained from our travel last fall.

– Lindsey Bailey, Senior Teacher Training Manager

Kate Anderson
Education Associate

Last September marked my second PopEd visit to Alberta, Canada. I worked with future teachers in the Red Deer and Edmonton regions, and enjoyed seeing beautiful “Wild Rose Country” in the fall. My favorite campus visit in Alberta was Burman University, Canada’s only Seventh Day Adventist school.

I will admit, I was a little nervous when my first workshop of the day started with a reading from a devotional book and a whole-group prayer. My worry, however, proved to be unnecessary. Many of the students enthusiastically shared how the PopEd lessons aligned with their religion’s values of environmental stewardship and humanitarian work. After our simulation of the “Tragedy of the Commons,” students wondered how the sustainable resource distribution game would play out in different cultures, especially in more communal-minded societies like the indigenous communities in their province.

Everyone loved learning about Malawi and comparing a typical daily budget for a family there with that of an average family in Canada in our activity, “Global Cents.” They were so engaged that they suggested new ways to arrange the paper cup “prey” in our popular carrying capacity activity “Panther Hunt.” For example, knowing that beavers live in small groups, they decided to cluster those cups for an added touch of realism. It was also nice that, unlike their U.S. counterparts, no college students here batted an eye about the metric system measurements that we use in our lessons!

Students collect “prey” during the activity, “Panther Hunt”

Lindsey Bailey
Senior Teacher Training Manager

We depend on relationships to grow the PopEd program, and some of the most important relationships are with the professors who invite us to present in their pre-service classrooms year after year. On one such trip to New Jersey City University last fall, I was reminded of another important relationship: the one that we cultivate with the participants who attend our workshops. During the professor’s introduction to her class of future science educators, she mentioned that she had participated in a PopEd workshop as part of her graduate program a few years back. She found it so relevant as a student that she has included a PopEd workshop in her syllabus every semester since becoming a professor.

I have heard similar testimonies in the past and am struck by how a short workshop experience can have a lasting effect on participants, even years down the road. I credit this type of sustained interest in our program to the quality of our materials and presentations, and also to our ability to keep past workshop participants involved with continued communication. After attending a workshop, teachers can opt to receive a bimonthly newsletter to keep them up to date with the PopEd program and resources; they can also engage through our Facebook and Twitter posts, and they can elect to receive targeted marketing about new products that they may find useful in their classrooms. Nurturing these relationships has clearly proven effective in the past, and will continue to be a key part of our work.

Carol Bliese
Senior Director of Teacher Programs

“The activity that stood out to me the most was the population circle game representing how crowded the world is and how quickly our population has exploded. It gives a tangible, relatable sense of our population’s growth.”

Bringing population growth to life is one of our goals in the PopEd program, and this quote from a participant’s evaluation form indicates that our workshops are making that happen. This particular workshop was for a group of geography teachers in Ontario. We covered several methods for teaching the history of human expansion — the interactive simulation mentioned above, our World Population “dot” video, and a graphing activity comparing population growth curves.

Offering different ways to teach a topic means teachers can select whatever method(s) will fit their students’ various learning styles (kinesthetic, spatial, mathematical, etc.). I’m confident that the 24 educators in this workshop will be using PopEd lessons down the road, if they haven’t started already. Their enthusiastic conversations during the workshop quickly moved from praise for the resources to logistical planning on gathering props and specific placement in their syllabi. One participant isn’t keeping us guessing, noting on her evaluation form, “Everything was a lesson plan and so practical. I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation and will 100 percent use this in the classroom.”

Isabelle Rios
Senior Education Associate

Last fall, I had the pleasure of traveling to Florida to share PopEd resources with students at Florida International University (FIU) and Miami Dade College. Most of the classes I worked with focused on elementary science education.

During my workshops I found that students were engaged and energetic, often scribbling down little notes here and there. It wasn’t until we debriefed several activities that I became aware of just how much participants were enjoying the presentation. At FIU, students shared that many of the K-5 students in the area are not native English speakers, and they found the hands-on nature of our activities to be an excellent way to break down language barriers in their classrooms. Several of the lessons I presented utilized movement, non-verbal communication, and visuals as teaching tools. It was very gratifying to hear that our curricula will be directly applicable to the populations these future teachers will serve.

A student dumps pollutants into a simulated ocean in the activity, “Code Blue”

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