What Teachers Are Saying

What Teachers are Saying


Zoe Gierman, Nina Otero Community School second grade teacher, enrolled in “Observations of Everyday Life: Combining Artistic and Scientific Life” sponsored by the O’Keeffe Museum, SITE Santa Fe and NM MESA.

She came away from the training with enthusiasm to implement the curriculum immediately. Just a week after the training, she had her 21st Century students looking through microscopes to practice zooming and focusing so they were ready to use them. 

The teachers who selected the Observations session rotated to several stations including paper making that was to be used in building paper boats. The boats will be used to teach principles of physics so students can experiment with how many pennies would float in their boats.  “I was pleasantly surprised how hands on it was and how student centered,” Zoe said of the training. “It was so cool that they were able to have people from each museum. It was so hands on and created by people in Santa Fe who know our kids and who understand Santa Fe.”

Vicki Scanlon, a first grade teacher at Nava Elementary School who signed up for the “Healthy Habits in the Schoolyard” session, participated in creating a micro-habitat that teachers will bring back to their classrooms.  “I really enjoyed it,” she said. By actually doing some of the activities, “it will help us teach the lesson when we are able to remember that experience.”

Xhevahire Krasniqi is working with her students on evaluating their habitat at EJ Martinez where she teaches kindergarten through 2nd graders in the 21st Century program. She said of the training, “I loved it. It was perfect because it was hands-on. Some students don’t know how to read yet but when they do it, they learn.”

Curriculum developers were the Santa Fe Botanical Garden and Audubon New Mexico. The curriculum allows students to experience a hands-on exploration of the habitat at their school. Students map out and explore the various parts of a habitat from water to food sources and animal shelters to plant roots. 

Gabrielle Salazar, who teaches third grade at Gonzales Community School, chose the Cooking With Kids session. During the cooking class, educators were introduced to the curriculum while examining a wide range of ingredients.  Her school has a head start on implementation because Gonzales has had the opportunity to work with a master chef in the CWK program during the regular school day.  Gabrielle is a big fan of the program. “The kids are exposed to new foods they might not try,” she said. “They like to help with the prep, and they liked that they help with whatever they are eating.”

Debbie Parke, who teaches math at Ortiz Middle School, has already incorporated cooking into her 21st Century curriculum. Although the curriculum is designed for lower grades, she has no problem modifying it for her middle school students. “We’ll just up the vocabulary and probably have them do more research on cooking,” said Parke, who serves as site coordinator at her school. Her daughter, who is a professional chef, has already helped students create a stir fry with broccoli, squash and bell peppers served over brown rice, complete with their own homemade teriyaki sauce. Today they were making penne with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. 

Kim Jones, who teaches 4th grade at Amy Biehl Elementary School, selected the CODE.ORG class that teaches foundational skills of computer programming.  A week after the training, Kim was using the curriculum to introduce her students to an “unplugged activity” where students don’t need to access a computer to produce algorithms. The activity asked students to write directions from their seats to the white board. The following day students would use the directions for their work on a computer.  Kim values the curriculum design because her students “work at their own pace. It is student lead and I’m there to help. They are solving problems and doing it on their own. It creates a perfect amount of frustration for them to work without me. It is really empowering for them.”

The need for problem solving and critical thinking skills is especially acute now with a shortage nationally and in New Mexico for students studying computer science, she added. The sooner students start the better. The code.org curriculum, which is free, can be used with students as young as kindergarten. 

Liliana Saenz, who teaches at El Camino Real Academy, has already incorporated the clay pottery lesson that she learned as part of the session, “Trades, Trails and Mapping the Southwest.” This session included pottery-making, tinwork and weaving through the lenses of the indigenous peoples of the Southwest.   “We made some really nice pots. They were very pretty. My students enjoyed making the clay pots,” she said. “And I really enjoyed it, too.” 
Authors of this curriculum were the Museum of International Folk Art, New Mexico History Museum and the School for Advanced Research.  She has high praise for the trainers who taught her the lessons, which also included dying thread. She said, “It was very detailed. They really explained it to us like we were students.”