The world is her classroom

  • Sarah Koenig<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:36am

When Dianne Lundberg was a child, she didn’t hesitate to get her hands dirty.

“I grew up next to a creek and I was in it all the time, catching the periwinkles, bullheads and sticklebacks,” said Lundberg, now a teacher/librarian at Cedar Wood Elementary.

Lundberg, recently honored as 2007 Teacher of the Year for the Everett School District, brings that same spirit of inquiry and exploration to her teaching.

Lundberg has brought her students to the school’s detention ponds to do science experiments and perform tests, for example.

“It was a real project, with data,” she said. “(The kids) figured out (the detention pond system was) not filtering the way it’s supposed to.”

Lundberg won a grant to buy electronic testing equipment and worked with Snohomish Surface Water Management to do the experiment several times over the years.

Her students also have spent time at the creek across the street from the school, examining insects.

“The project was learning about macro-vertebrates – bugs – and what’s going on with water quality. They won’t survive if the water quality is bad,” Lundberg said.

Her students compared the bugs with others found further north in the creek, where there’s less development.

For 11 years, Lundberg taught fourth and fifth grade in the Highly Capable Program at the school. This past year was her first as the school’s teacher/librarian, so the water projects were put on hold.

“My first year in the library, I focused on research skills,” she said. “I’m hoping (this year) to get back out into the wetlands.”

But she did manage to bring the outdoors into the library.

“We did a unit on worms, and looked at worms in the library,” she said. “We read the book ‘Diary of a Worm.’ I’m trying to incorporate hands-on experiences.”

That is the core of Lundberg’s approach to teaching and learning.

“(It’s) an inquiry approach, instead of just reading it in a book,” she said. “(Students are) taking it to the point where they can apply what they learned.”

That was the idea behind the school’s science fair, which Lundberg founded four years ago. After attending a conference on science, she returned to school and talked to other staff about the possibility of doing a science fair where students had to do real scientific inquiry.

She wrote a grant request for the funds to help make the fair a reality.

“(Students) couldn’t create a simple chemical reaction – they had to design, make observations, do research, draw conclusions and collect data,” Lundberg said.

Lundberg pushed for the fair, which now includes all grades, in part because she felt science was being overlooked. A lot of emphasis is placed on writing, reading and math, because of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), she said.

“I wanted to keep science out front,” she said. “I didn’t want it to be on the back burner but out front and part of the classroom.”

Lundberg’s Teacher of the Year award recognizes not only her approach to teaching but level of involvement in the school and community.

For example, she’s been a teacher/leader at the school for eight years, doing trainings on technology, science, reading and assessment.

She played a key role in getting the school’s PTA on its feet in 1991, co-chairing the presidency for two years with her husband. She’s also worked with senators to help bills get passed on student safety in public schools.

She started the school’s first “Seussian awards” ceremony this year, an Oscar-style awards event that honors books nominated and voted on by students. She also worked with the school’s reading specialist to create “Camp Read-A-Lot,” an event where students and their parents camp in a tent at the school and read by flashlight.

Lundberg also brings parents and community members to the classroom. Boeing engineers have helped students make their own toys for a unit on force and motion; a neurologist from the University of Washington has taught fifth-graders about the nervous system.

“Teaching is not an 8 to 5 job, it’s a way of life,” she said. “You’re always thinking of ways to incorporate (things) into the classroom.”

The work has helped give her life purpose, Lundberg said.

“I want to look back on my life and think I made a difference,” she said. “Education works with the future.”

Talk to us