2014 Master Teachers: Susan Michal
Forest Knolls Elementary School, Silver Spring, Maryland
I am the Coordinator of the school wide Communication Arts Program at Forest Knolls Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland. In my role as coordinator and teacher, I design and implement a communication program in print and electronic multi- media, public speaking, digital photography, video, and graphic arts to support the Common Core Curriculum in reading language arts, writing, science, and social studies for all 700+ kindergarten through fifth grade students. In addition, I teach three accelerated reading language arts classes to 3rd and 4th grade students. One of the most exciting opportunities in our school is the invitation for any second through fifth grade student to participate in our Jr. Press Corps, a rigorous journalism program, with a special emphasis on community needs, environmental responsibility, and philanthropy. Many of our Jr. Press Corps projects involve science.
We are a certified Maryland Green School. I serve as our school’s Lead Green Kids Teacher in partnership with the Audubon Society Green Kids team and Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education team. We practice recycling, conservation of energy within our building, and our Girls Scouts have been involved in storm drain management as they identify and create signage for drains throughout our school neighborhood. These drains empty into our local stream and eventually our Chesapeake Bay estuary before entering the Atlantic Ocean. Water has been an important theme in my environmental teaching. In fact, my former reading students produced an award-winning documentary on the life of a plastic bag that flies away, ends up in the storm drain and eventually, the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, we have worked with the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum scientist, Elizabeth Ban, who served as our resource for NOAA. Our water studies also involved our friendship with an Australian reporter who was covering the ever-invasive lion fish along the Pacific Ocean. She came to our school with a variety of video news reports and discussed how this invasion dilemma is changing the security and reproduction of healthy native species all along the Pacific Ocean.
Since water has been a major force in our studies, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico provided me the opportunity to discuss with students, the effects of a human disaster on the animals and plants that inhabit this area of the United States. We have been privileged to work with Lea Prouty, a bird specialist, with Second Chance Wildlife Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland, as well as serving with the Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania tri-state bird rescue team. Lea kept us informed of her experiences in rescuing and cleaning affected birds along Florida’s Gulf Coast. She has been our friend and expert in teaching us about the devastating effects of polluted water on our animal and plant species. It is no wonder, that water continues to be a life force for me and our students. Through our collaborative real world human resources, research, and multi-media dissemination to children and people of all ages, we are committed to preserving our Earth and its precious resource of water. I am honored to partner with my GPM colleagues, and their students as we embark on this exciting NASA Global Precipitation Mission.