Each year it seems there's more emphasis on hands-on experiences in education—opportunities for students to get their hands dirty and find real-world applications for whatever topic they're studying.
Sydney Hale, horticulture and outdoor education coordinator at Greenbush, specializes in getting her hands dirty. Her current projects include working with students in the newly renovated hydroponic greenhouse; leading groups on expeditions into the five ecosystems present on the Greenbush campus; and showing students how to incorporate high-tech drones into agricultural projects.
"I’ve always been an extremely outdoorsy person, mostly thanks to my dad," Hale said. "He didn’t go to college, but he knows everything. He loves to learn, and he taught me learning is always important."
Hale grew up near Moran, exploring every inch of her father's farmland as he pointed out the flora and fauna on display. She decided to become a professional outdoorswoman by pursuing a biology degree from Pittsburg State University.
"I went into the field with the idea that I would work at an outdoor education center, or a park," Hale said. "I knew I didn’t want to be in a classroom, so I didn’t get my teaching degree."
Hale worked as a fisheries biologist for the Kansas Department of Parks, Wildlife and Tourism but found that she most enjoyed working with students.
"My favorite thing has always been working with kids and doing education, so even as a fisheries biologist, hosting fishing derbies and clinics—that was what I really enjoyed doing," Hale said.
On a whim, Hale decided to apply to become a summer camp counselor at Greenbush.
"It seemed like a good opportunity to get into education," Hale said. "As soon as I started my camp counselor position, I thought, 'This is great.' And when I got the opportunity to teach my interests, it was a whole new ballgame."
Hale said the transition from biologist to educator has been a smooth one.
"It came pretty naturally because I’m a talker," Hale said. "I come from a family that loves to chat. And I like to share things with people. I think it’s a great outlet for me to share my passion with kids and maybe inspire kids to find their passion."
For a look at Sydney in action, check out this video of the ecosystems lab she piloted this school year for members of the Student Enrichment consortium: