Rural Schools Collaborative just announced its 2021-22 Celia B. Godsil Grants in Place Fellows, and among those selected was Abigail Parker, a May 2021 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, who currently teaches kindergarten at Coloma Elementary, a small, rural school in Coloma, Wisconsin.
“Teaching in a rural setting is wonderful,” said Parker. “[During my time at UW-Platteville], I gained the skills and experience I needed to be a successful kindergarten teacher in a rural area. I grew up in this area and knew I wanted to teach in a rural setting. From going to a small rural elementary school to working in a small rural elementary school, I have quickly realized there are many strengths that are brought in from the community.”
Parker is a graduate of UW-Platteville’s School of Education, which specializes in building a teaching workforce responsive to the unique needs of rural communities. This includes a focus on the place-based education concept, which emphasizes using the school’s own community as a primary resource for learning.
Parker’s project is a pollinator garden for her classroom that will attract butterflies, honey bees, birds and different types of insects, serving as a part of the solution to bring more honey bees to the central Wisconsin area.
“[My colleagues and I] are in the planning process of creating an outdoor classroom,” said Parker. “I wanted to make something that would be an add-on. One problem many rural areas are facing is not having enough honey bees to pollinate crops. By having this garden, it will attract honey bees and other pollinators to the area and, in turn, help local farmers and our community.”
The project will also allow students to learn about the life cycles of butterflies, honey bees and other insects and get hands-on experience while learning about different kinds of plants. Students will have the opportunity to plant in the garden, learn about biodiversity and gain an environmental awareness vital for the future generation.
“I want to be able to provide hands-on learning for my kindergarten students and all of the other students in my school for years to come,” said Parker. “I want the community to be able to come together at the garden and be a part of it as well.”
The pollinator garden won’t just provide learning opportunities that directly correlate with the kindergarten learning standards of the science curriculum. Each grade plans to use the pollinator garden as well. There will also be a Little Free Library set up in the pollinator garden for children in the school and the community.
“I am thankful for the opportunity to make a positive difference in my community and am very excited to be able to bring this dream to life during my first year of teaching. I hope learning can happen in this garden for years to come for all grade levels,” added Parker.
The Cecilia B Godsil Grants in Place Fellows work with students on place-based projects. Each fellow receives a grant which will support their project, a professional development presentation and an honorarium for the educator. The Grants in Place program is funded through the support of Celia and Mark Godsil, in honor of their belief in the importance of classroom teachers to rural communities and Celia’s career as a public school teacher.
The Rural Schools Collaborative is a network with the mission of building sustainable rural communities through a focus on place, teachers and philanthropy. UW-Platteville’s School of Education belongs to this network.