Podcast: Rebecca Parks on Learning and Exploring through Nature and Science

Rebecca Parks (@sv_principal) leads two schools in Kearney School District (@KearneyMOEdu) serving a northeastern suburb of Kansas City. Southview is a great K-5 school serving 450 students and next door in a few classrooms borrowed from the junior high is LENS, Learning and Exploring through Nature and Science, a new place-based program for about 50 3rd and 4th graders.

Local paleoartist Gary Staab was the inspiration for LENS. Stabb finds and recreates fossil records like King Tut, the iceman frozen in Europe 5,000 years ago, and the 54-foot megalodon shark in the Smithsonian.

Gary Staab supervises a student fossil dig at LENS

Place-based learning means taking advantage of local opportunities to bring learning to life. Kearney Superintendent William Nicely, who joins Rebecca for this episode, appreciates that Gary Staab is a community treasure and jumped at the opportunity to create an innovative pilot program around this local resource.

“Taking the community, the surrounds, and the expertise around you to further education–to make it more substantial, more excited. It’s all about enthusiasm,” said Parks.

Dr. Nicely is also working with a district design team to inject more real-world learning into student experiences at Kearney High. As part of the Kauffman Foundation sponsored initiative, the team has been visiting some of the best schools in the country. He talks about their efforts to add more work-based learning, community-connected projects, college credit, and industry credential opportunities.

Key Takeaways:
[:14] About today’s episode!
[1:55] Tom welcomes Rebecca and William to the podcast.
[2:01] Rebecca speaks about her role as Principal at Southview Elementary and LENS.
[2:25] Rebecca tells the backstory of LENS.
[2:45] What does it mean to Rebecca to be a place-based school?
[3:12] Rebecca speaks about the inspiration that Gary Staab is to their school district.
[4:17] Bill gives the backstory of how they came to partner with Gary.
[5:55] Why does Bill think place-based learning is important for students?
[7:49] Rebecca shares her enthusiasm for place-based learning!
[8:31] Why place-based learning is so successful in getting kids excited about learning.
[10:06] Why is teaching more real-world learning such a timely initiative in today’s day and age?
[11:35] About the real-world experiences that are place-based at Kearney School District and how they’ve been building more and more towards it every single day.
[14:42] What would Rebecca like LENS to be three to five years from now?
[15:36] What would Bill like to see graduates leaving Kearney with, three to five years in the future?
[16:06] Tom thanks Bill and Rebecca for the work they do at Kearney School District!

Mentioned in This Episode:
Rebecca Parks
Southview Elementary
LENS — Learning and Exploring through Nature and Science
Gary Staab — Staab Studios
Dr. William Nicely
Kearney School District
Kauffman Foundation
Iceman Reborn on PBS (Gary Staab)
Recreating King Tutankhamun (Gary Staab)

For more, see:

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