2019 CEL Summer CO-LAB helps educators create inquiry-based lesson plans

On July 26th, 2019, Saint Mary’s Center for Environmental Literacy (CEL) hosted the CEL Summer CO-LAB, a STEAM Workshop for educators from California and beyond to create new approaches to learning that engage students in the scientific, social, cultural, and global dimensions of environmental study. 

Led by CEL Director, Luz Casquejo Johnston, educators were able to supplement their existing curriculums by applying Inquiry Design and by integrating the Arts into the traditional STEM curriculum—transforming STEM into STEAM. 

For eight educators, the CO-LAB opened with an interactive presentation from the educational organization TIDES (Transformative Inquiry Designs for Effective Schools) on Inquiry Design, a question-based framework for teaching that puts students in the driver’s seat of their lesson. Over two days, TIDES presenters Janet Chrispeels and Nahid Nariman walked educators through the ten-step process of creating inquiry-based lessons.

The final day of the CO-LAB began with a morning trek northeast of Saint Mary’s campus to the Legacy Garden. The educators explored with the local watershed by collecting leaves, flowers, and fruit to take back to their workshop, where they placed these natural and other manmade materials on ultraviolet light sensitive paper to create sun prints. The workshop concluded with a session on poetry writing lead by SMC Associate Professor, author, and writer of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, Raina J. León. The activities were focused on the joy of writing and finding inspiration in one’s own community as the context for creativity. 

Educators left the three-day CO-LAB with lesson plans that incorporate art with science curriculum, and strengthen students' skills in observation, pattern recognition, and innovative problem solving. They will implement their new lessons during the 2019-2020 school year, and beyond.

Credit: 2019 CEL Summer CO-LAB participants at the 2019 CEL Summer CO-LAB at Saint Mary's College of California: July 26-28th, 2019. Photography by Maureen Esty and Haley Nelson

Group discussion about teaching methods. Hiking to the Legacy Garden. In the Legacy Garden. A presentation on using sunprint paper as a fun activity for students. Brainstorming questions on the whiteboard. Group photo in the Legacy Garden Group photo inside FAH