Sparking Curiosity: Educator Uses the Environment to Relate to Students

After working ten years as an environmental education educator in such diverse locations as Costa Rica, North Carolina, and Florida, Janelle Schafer, MEd ’05 wanted a master’s program that combined both formal and informal education practices. After four years of research, she chose Antioch University New England. Antioch University New England’s educational philosophy, says Janelle, matched her interest in experiential, integrated, hands-on teaching and her desire to support her students’ individual learning styles.

Now as an AUNE graduate, Janelle’s focus is to bring out her students’ strengths and help them find what it is that sparks their curiosity.

“I try to encourage their thoughts and interests in everything that I do in order to help them understand how the world is related to their lives,” says Janelle. “Each student has their own spark, their own switch for curiosity. If I can ignite that spark just once during the course of the day, then I feel like I have planted a seed for future learning.”

As the elementary school programs manager at the Seattle Audubon Society, Shafer manages the organization’s Finding Urban Nature (FUN) program and puts her AUNE experience to work.

“The Integrated Learning Program helped me to become a consciously competent educator,” says Janelle. “Sometimes we do things just because we know they work, but we don’t know why. This program helped me to understand the ‘why’.”

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