Lisa M. Algee has been in partnership with Mongabay since 2005 when we showcased her popular integrated, interdisciplinary, standard-based lessons from her blog http://kidsandconservationblog.typepad.com/. The lessons bring awareness to the effects of logging, mining, cattle ranching, agriculture, and deforestation and engage students with thought provoking content which stimulates critical thinking and reflection. Students monitor their understanding of the content at the end of each lesson and provide comments. Their comments demonstrate not only an understanding of these complex issues, but also curiosity and a willingness to make a difference.
Recently, Lisa has created a 3rd-5th grade unit and a Regions Project specifically for Mongabay-Kids. This work stems from 15 years of teaching environmental and social justice issues with students in Central California, in addition to obtaining her Ph. D. in Science Education at UC Santa Cruz. The intent and purpose of these resources is to not only develop conceptual knowledge from a variety of disciplines, but also to inculcate essential life-long learning skills such as critical thinking and analytical reasoning. Because students have multiple opportunities to share their learning experiences with multiple participants: peers, teachers, parents, science educators, scientists, and local community members, they begin to develop scientific literacy and environmental stewardship.
Lisa is passionate about providing a new teaching and learning platform, one she calls, “Real-World Learning”. The premise of this paradigm is that teachers bring real world issues into their classrooms to contextualize the learning environment. These issues can be used as a backdrop to explore the ecosystem where the issue is occurring. For example, Lisa brought in an article about how the California sea otter population is declining. Once the class engaged in a collaborative discussion about the issue, she provided an opportunity for students to explore oceans using the research reports and ecosystem template books available for teachers to download.
These resources provide students with guided facilitation on how to research a particular plant and/or animal of interest to them. They also function as a frame which provides structure for their writing and illustrations. Students expressed how much they enjoyed learning about their plant and/or animal of interest. They especially loved sharing their knowledge with other students around the world. For example, her class exchanged their wetland books with a 5th grade class in Kenya, and in turn, the Kenya students exchanged their savanna books with her class. Students from both classes wrote pen pal letters which answered questions posed by each author. They also shared some of their favorite things such as foods, colors, sports, etc. This bi-cultural literacy exchange has the potential to build bridges by sharing information and learning from each other. Students also felt empowered because they became experts on their ecosystem books.
In addition to ecosystem books, Lisa has also designed scientific inquiry books which can be used after students have thoroughly explored a particular ecosystem and developed a strong conceptual foundation. These inquiry books scaffold both teachers and students on how to successfully engage in the scientific inquiry process. They also provide an opportunity for students to consult with experts, such as science educators and scientists, to obtain further information which will inform their inquiry projects. Once students have successfully completed their inquiry projects, they can share their results with members in their local and global communities.
Students’ content and inquiry books from Lisa’s 3rd-5th grade class are currently showcased on Mongabay-Kids with an opportunity for teachers to download template versions to use with their students. The hope, from a broader perspective, is to create a movement where teachers, students, parents, community members, science educators, scientists, business owners, farmers and others work collaboratively to solve real world environmental issues within their communities and beyond.
Cumulatively, “Real-World Learning” has the potential to prepare today’s youth for the many challenges we face as a global society in the 21st century. In order to successfully meet those challenges, Lisa believes that we must educate today’s youth for the future of tomorrow. Together, she believes we can all make a difference in each other’s lives, our own, our environment, and the many animals which inhabit our world by building bridges for environmental stewardship.
Aside from Lisa’s career interests, she enjoys traveling to Kenya, Costa Rica, and Hawaii. Meeting people and experiencing different cultures, languages, ethnic foods, and unique animals intrigues her and stimulates writing material for her children’s books. She also enjoys spending time with her family and friends, walking on the beach, volunteering at the local animal shelter, reading, and cooking.
Lisa M. Algee can be reached at: lisa.algee @ mongabay.com