Environmental Job Skills Program at Rocking the Boat

Dawn Henning is an educator in the Environmental Job Skills Program at Rocking the Boat (www.rockingtheboat). High-school students in her program restore ecosystems in the Bronx River and participate in college trips. They also help scientific institutions monitor the quality and biodiversity of urban aquatic ecosystems, and teach communities about the river and rowing.

Photo: Dawn riding a powerboat with her students on the Bronx River, New York City.

I asked Dawn about the goal of her program and to share with me one teaching tip. Here is what she said to me:

“In Rocking the Boat’s apprenticeship programs the main goal is not environmental restoration and not turning all students into environmental scientists. We help high-school students explore what they like to do and they want to do. In addition, we help them to learn how the skills they are learning are transferable to other aspects of their life. My first teaching tip is to treat students with respect as adults. When you ask them something, you listen, and incorporate their suggestions in your program. You don’t say, “What you suggest is okay, but I’m going to do it another way.” For example, yesterday one of my students came with the idea of having a fun facts board to post any kind of interesting information about the Bronx River in our classroom. It will help visitors to see what we are doing, and it would remind ourselves of all cool things that we are learning. In addition, students have an opportunity to evaluate the program a few times during a semester. Through the evaluation early in the program students asked me to give them a day-to-day schedule of our activities, so now I give them the schedule in advance. Their suggestion has been instituted, and it really works and now students can better prepare themselves for each day, at least mentally.”

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