"I originally heard of SFU from two of my mentors who recommended Professor Sean Blenkinsop as someone doing important work in the field of nature- and place-based education. Once I made contact with Sean and learned more about the program and the potential for exciting research, I knew I wanted to be a part of it."

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Student Profile: Sarah K Anderson

March 01, 2022
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Educational Theory and Practice doctoral student in the Faculty of Education

I am an educator and author specializing in place-based education and curriculum design. I was born and raised in rural Vermont, in Northeast United States. After completing a BA in American Studies at Bard College in New York, I taught in several alternative education centers in different locations around the country: the Redwood forest in California, a working farm in Vermont, the wetlands near urban Oregon. I completed a MEd at Antioch New England Graduate School and became a middle school humanities teacher for nine years, first in Annapolis, Maryland, and then at the Cottonwood School of Civics and Science in Portland, Oregon. I am currently the fieldwork and place-based education coordinator at the Cottonwood School where I lead workshops and mentor other teachers in place-based curriculum design.

I am the author of the book Bringing School to Life: Place-based Education across the Curriculum. I have written for Learning for Justice, Educational Leadership, Education Week, and Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly and her work has been featured by Yes! Magazine and Edutopia. Recently I have also worked extensively with the Oregon Historical Society to create local history curricula for grades K-12.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I originally heard of SFU from two of my mentors who recommended Professor Sean Blenkinsop as someone doing important work in the field of nature- and place-based education. Once I made contact with Sean and learned more about the program and the potential for exciting research, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. The flexibility of a program designed for practitioners was also a necessity since I live and work in Portland, Oregon.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?

I am interested in how children connect to the places where they live and how schools can aid in that connection. I believe there is much to learn from the intersection of eco-education and anti-racist education: How schools can begin to shift culture and nurture children who prioritize community, relationships and human + more-than-human life above consumerism and economic success. Part of decolonizing education means challenging standardization and investing in the uniqueness of our places, which includes recognizing alternate teachers outside of the school building and the traditional school curriculum. How can teachers, especially white teachers, learn to allow for and build relationships between their students and the places where they live? How can they let go of control and the need to be an expert? I am interested in learning from different ways of knowing, especially Indigenous approaches to education, for models that will lead to a needed culture shift in schools and ultimately within society in general.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

I am especially enjoying the relationships I am building with my peers and teachers. Everyone I have worked with has been supportive and passionate about learning. Every conversation I have leads to more insight, wonderings, and opportunities to learn.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.

I am so grateful to have received the Dean's Award, and fully recognize it as a gift. This generosity allows me the time needed to fully engage in reading, writing, and thinking. Without that time and support, I would not be able to approach my studies with the same level of commitment.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?

The program has opened up many avenues for learning and investigations. I am surrounded by so many knowledgeable people who continuously introduce me to new and exciting concepts and scholarship. I feel both encouraged and challenged, essential elements of any educational program.

 

Contact : sarah_anderson_8@sfu.ca

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