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Getting Smart Podcast

Dec 4, 2019

In today’s episode, Tom Vander Ark is joined by Rebecca Parks and Dr. William Nicely. Dr. Nicely is the Superintendent of Kearney School District and Rebecca is the leader of two schools within the district — Southview Elementary and LENS. Southview is a great K-5 school, serving 550 learners, and LENS (Learning and Exploring through Nature and Science), located just right next door, is a new place-based program for about 50 3rd and 4th graders.


What is so fascinating about LENS is that it was inspired by a local Paleo Artist by the name of Gary Staab. In his work, Gary finds and recreates fossil records like King Tut, the iceman frozen in Europe 5,000 years ago, and the 54’ megalodon shark in the Smithsonian. As you can imagine, this type of work can really help bring history to life for learners! Place-based learning means taking advantage of local opportunities to bring learning to life. Recognizing this, Dr. Nicely jumped at the opportunity to create an innovative pilot program around this local resource. LENS serves as a fantastic example of leveraging a local asset to engage students in inquiry-based learning as well as place-based learning!


Join in for today’s conversation as Tom speaks with Rebecca Parks and Dr. William Nicely about place-based learning and their efforts to add more work-based learning, community-connected projects, 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)


Want to Learn More About Place-Based Education?

Take a listen to Getting Smart Episode 168: Giving the Gift of Place with Teton Science Schools


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