Local teacher traveling to bring service-learning to classrooms

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 5, 2019

With stops at Yellowstone National Park, Seattle and then all the way to Belize, a Rowan County educator is putting in the miles this summer to bring a new perspective to local classrooms.

Though her travels will consume all but a matter of days in this year’s nine-week summer break, North Rowan Middle School teacher Angie Fleming is enjoying every moment.

“I am loving being a teacher this summer,” Fleming said while in line for a rental car in Seattle.

Fleming, an English language arts teacher and, starting next year, and academically gifted community lead teacher, began her summer excursions with the Educators of Excellence Summer Institute through the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

The institute was held at Yellowstone National Park, with 12 North Carolina educators attending. They observed the park’s geology and wildlife and ways to connect Yellowstone conservation efforts with those in North Carolina.

“It was a very intense 10 days,” said Fleming. “I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone.”

At Yellowstone, Fleming said each day’s expedition would begin at 5 a.m. Many days, she said, the group would not return until 11:30 at night.

“I’ve never gone so many days with so little sleep,” she said with a laugh.

During the hourslong explorations at Yellowstone, Fleming and fellow teachers engaged in what she called “intense biological and wildlife observation,” field studies, and tours of the park’s geological wonders like the Old Faithful geyesr.

Through it all, Fleming said, she was impressed with the level of passion and dedication from park staff. And it is just this sort of focus on positive global citizenship that she wants to bring back to North Middle.

“We’re trying to explore some different aspects of outdoor learning, of caring for the environment, of taking on the issues,” she said.

All are a continuation of work already happening at the school. It had recently implemented a Nature’s Children program, facilitating trips to state national parks. Students also partnered with Muddy Sneakers to tackle plastic pollution and worked with like-named North Middle in Seattle on service projects Fleming facilitated through National Geographic.

“I love seeing how engaged students get when they’re doing something that matters to them,” she said. “Experiences like these really help educators create projects where kids get to take action.”

Fleming left the Yellowstone institute to participate in the Seattle-based National Endowment of the Humanities Landmark summer seminar. From there, she’s headed back to Wyoming for the National Geographic Summer Institute, and then headed to Belize for more graduate-level “Earth Expeditions” coursework through Miami University.

“By creating these service project experiences, our students are seeing that the things they do really matter, that there are places outside of Rowan County,” said Fleming. “It opens doors to possibilities and excitement for them.”