Take 5 with Karen Linehan
Friends School's outside educator
Friends School of Wilmington has found a creative way to merge education and the environment with the purchase of 2.8 acres of green space next to the school to expand its Environmental Education Program.
Tasked with leading this endeavor, KAREN LINEHAN, an eighteen-year veteran teacher has accepted the position of Environmental Education Coordinator. She is very excited about the new program and all the possibilities it offers students and teachers.
“Friends School of Wilmington believes that stewardship of the earth is one of our most important missions,” Linehan says. “Since our founding in 1994, we have integrated environmental teachings throughout our curriculum. The recent unification of our campus and purchase of adjoining green space allows us to reimagine our environmental education program.”
The school believes the program addresses issues related to equality and equity as well as the peaceful resolution of conflicts, she says.
“We want our students to understand how environmental problems differentially affect communities of color and the economically disadvantaged who live and work in areas targeted and affected by toxic contamination,” Linehan adds.
With many years of experience as a teacher, Linehan understands the way children learn and is highly capable of merging the goals of this program with the curriculum in a way that allows students to succeed.
“I will always cherish my eighteen years as a classroom teacher,” Linehan says. “It was a great honor and privilege to work with young students and their families, and I feel fortunate to continue teaching in my new role. My new role provides opportunities to think about the big picture and consider how Friends School of Wilmington can make a positive difference in the lower Cape Fear region.”
The success of the program will reach far beyond the walls of the Friends School.
“As we grow our environmental education program, we look forward to building collaborative partnerships within our community,” Linehan says. “We are excited to connect with schools and organizations throughout southeastern North Carolina.”
Teaching children about the nature that surrounds them, and how to protect and nurture it for the generations that follow is vitally important. “As we continue to grow our program, perhaps the most important question we ask arises from the primary tenet of sustainability: How can all humans exist in harmony with nature in ways that support present and future generations? Environmental education is a multidisciplinary field, so our program focuses on a diversity of subjects across grade levels.”
The program also recognizes that nature is an important environment for teaching.
“Outdoor areas provide daily opportunities for structured lessons and unstructured play during recess. Our playgrounds feature natural play areas and woodland trails that inspire children to build with ‘loose parts’ and create imaginative games. Our outdoor activities allow us to take advantage of teachable moments.”
This year, the school will begin integrating its new green space into all of its outdoor learning initiatives. In the months ahead, it will also begin the renovation of a small house on the property, which will eventually become the Environmental Education Center.
Linehan’s dedication to her students, her school, and this new program are evident in the pride she takes in her work. The possibilities of what has been created are endless with a leader as strong and passionate as her.
Other initiatives the school launched that go in line with recognizing the importance of the environment include a grant for solar education projects and STEM training for teachers, campus recycling, a composting program, gardening projects, and more.
“Throughout our school’s history, we have committed to native plantings and currently maintain pollinator gardens and bird habitat areas for wildlife and learning. Our campus features a beautiful wetland area called a pocosin and two retention ponds, which inspire lessons about aquatic life, water quality, and stormwater management.”
Linehan and the staff at Friends School are doing their part to educate future generations, and her new role as Environmental Education Coordinator can impact their education far beyond the classroom.
Take 5 with Karen Linehan
WHAT LED YOU TO BECOME A TEACHER?
“When I was a young girl in love with the natural world, I dreamed of being a ‘nature teacher.’ After studying zoology in college, I began my career as a natural science educator working with teachers and students across North Carolina. These meaningful experiences inspired me to become a classroom teacher. I joined the Friends School faculty in 2003 where I continue to learn from my students and the gifted educators around me.”
WHY DID YOU DECIDE THE FRIENDS SCHOOL WAS THE RIGHT PLACE FOR YOU?
“Our family joined the Friends School community in 1999 when our older daughter began attending the middle-school program. We knew our children would thrive in a school that fostered respect and compassion for individuals within a strong community of lifelong learners. As a parent, I observed firsthand the value of a Quaker education, which led me to seek a teaching position at Friends School.”
HOW MUCH INVOLVEMENT DID YOU HAVE FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE DECISION TO EXPAND THE ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PROGRAM?
“As a Quaker school, we believe that environmental stewardship is one of our most important missions. As we worked towards campus unification and saw the exciting potential in purchasing our new green space of 2.8 acres, we began to imagine the possibilities for expanded environmental education. There were many conversations across our community that led to this momentous decision as it all came together in April.”
WHAT WILL YOUR MAIN ROLE BE AS THE NEW ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION COORDINATOR?
“My role is multifaceted and collaborative. In addition to supporting teachers and facilitating weekly lessons for students in grades PreK-5, I’ll work with our community to envision our new green space and Environmental Education Center. We’re also excited to partner with local nonprofits and expand our outreach into the lower Cape Fear region.”
WHAT SHOULD READERS KNOW ABOUT THE FRIENDS SCHOOL?
“We are accredited by SAIS and serve children eighteen months of age through eighth grade from a broad range of backgrounds. Our mission statement best conveys our presence in the Wilmington community: ‘We believe the world needs passionate, lifelong learners who act with courage, integrity, and love. Inspired by that need, and the Quaker values of peace, equality, and care for the earth, Friends School of Wilmington is a vigorous academic community committed to educating the whole child.’”
To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to terahwilson.com.
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