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Age: Middle + High School, Grades 7-12
Title: Systems and Relationships in Nature
Cait Ward and Patrick Donovan both teach Environmental Science at Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts. Cait will first provide a review and two case studies that exhibit ecological systems and relationships in nature. Patrick will then provide local examples of interconnectedness in nature and introduce some practices for learners to consider, which will both be inspired by and draw connections to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.
Cait Ward always enjoyed being outside as a child, but it wasn’t until college that she developed a deep love for the natural world. After two years of suffering from Post-Concussion Syndrome, Cait decided to go off the grid in hopes of finding a reprieve from her constant symptoms. For three months, Cait lived in a yurt village with eleven other students, no running water and limited electricity. This program changed the trajectory of her healing process and her life goals, and ever since, she has worked to apply the lessons she learned then to life in our overstimulating world.
Cait is currently a high school environmental science teacher at Berkshire School, located in Sheffield, Massachusetts, which sits below Mt. Everett on the Appalachian Trail. She teaches AP Environmental Science and developed an Environmental Science Research Program, which she instructs out of a screen-free cabin in the woods behind the school. Outside of the classroom, Cait is an instructor for the Ritt Kellogg Mountain Program based out of the boarding school, and also coaches girls ice hockey. Inspired by her own love of off-grid travel, she has taken students backpacking in Utah and Arizona, dog sledding in Minnesota, sea kayaking in the Everglades and rock climbing in New England.
Cait is currently in the process of founding a non-profit, Concussed, for people suffering from Post-Concussion Syndrome. Goals of this program include retreat offerings for those struggling with PCS, consulting for students returning to the classroom after a concussion, and opportunities to connect with a community. You can learn more at www.concussedcait.com.
Patrick J. Donovan (he/they) was raised by his parents and the mountains, streams, rivers, and lakes of Western Maine, alongside his three younger brothers. Among other places, Bethel Maine, Killington Vermont, and Sheffield Massachusetts have been home places for Patrick, which coincidentally are all communities directly connected to the Appalachian Trail. The A.T. has been a consistent teacher and friend to Patrick! Hiking, skiing, and canoeing have taken him into the Andes in South America, the Alps in Europe, and many of the mountain ranges of western United States. Each of these people and places sparked and continue to feed a love of the outdoors, people, and community that continues today.
Patrick recently graduated from the University of Vermont’s Masters in Leadership for Sustainability program, with a concentration in Education for Sustainability. He currently teaches at Berkshire School in Western Massachusetts and facilitates learning that engages land history, environmental science, ecology, sustainability, and leadership. He is committed to contributing to pursuits of social justice, climate justice, and a healthier earth for all. He invites students into practices of deepening their relationships and understandings of the realities we are facing as one human race on this shared planet today and looking forward.