Training Educators for the Future: New Antioch Fellowship with Teton Science Schools Makes the World a Classroom

Antioch University’s New England campus is giving its master’s education students a unique opportunity to take their learning outside the classroom.

Teton Science Schools (TSS) students already benefit from a partnership with AUNE’s Environmental Studies and Education programs, and a new fellowship with TSS takes Place-Based Education training into the great outdoors, said Paul Bocko, an Antioch New England professor and the director of the university’s Place-Based Education concentration. The TSS classroom integrates a wide range of places and experiences and includes Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, a schoolyard, neighborhood, and the wild places and built environments of the surrounding community.

“Place-based education is a model of transformative education, rooted in place,” said Bocko. “You are transcending the idea of learning in a school classroom and you are using the natural, built, and cultural environment for learning.”

The university is one of the few teacher certification and development programs that has a Place-Based focus and Bocko said it is in line with an increased interest in Place-Based education across the United States. The partnership with TSS is part of a longstanding relationship formed by the organizations’ shared interests in that type of learning that goes back more than 30 years.

“We intend to keep working with TSS,” said Bocko. “It’s a living partnership that we hope will continue evolving.”

TSS has campuses in Idaho and Wyoming and collaborates with local, regional, and national K-12 schools to develop Place-Based education programs. They span youth education, college and graduate training, educator resources, and organized trips for adults and families. The organization has an emphasis on Place-Based Education across all of its programs, including those at Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

About 20 students participate in TSS graduate programs each year, and the new fellowship is open to those students to work at a TSS school and transfer some of their credits to Antioch New England’s Master of Education with a concentration in Place-Based Education. The most “fine-tuned” pathway, Bocko said, is for students to complete the Place-Based concentration at Antioch in tandem with the fellowship. After students complete their first year at Teton Science Schools, they can then apply for a second-year fellowship. The second-year students will then apply what they learned in the field to classroom-based teaching.

Katie O’Connell is one of the program’s inaugural fellows who is working toward being a classroom teacher or an outdoor or environmental educator. O’Connell said it made sense to be a fellow to get real-world teacher training.

“I feel that this experience will set me up to go in either direction and give me the skill set I’ll need to be a good educator in whatever path I choose,” said O’Connell. “Learner-centered education and connection to place seem to me like the best option for students to really engage and take responsibility for their own learning.”

A key component of the fellowship is working at Teton Valley Community School in Idaho, where there are houses, a small farm area, and a Place-Based school. Brooks Taylor, another one of the program’s first fellows, will start his studies at Antioch in the fall to augment what he learned in the TSS grad program. He said one of the most rewarding aspects of the fellowship was building a relationship with the place where he was learning and teaching.

“The Tetons are packed with life and energy, to be able to have this as a classroom has been incredible,” said Taylor. “I look forward to applying everything I have learned towards elementary education this coming fall.”
Learn more about AUNE degrees available with our Teton Partnership:

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