Crafting a curriculum

After years of helping to write, edit and compile the Wyoming Stewardship Project curriculum, Buffalo resident Ashlee Seidel has received her reward.

Although nice, the reward is not being recognized as the Wyoming Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the year, Seidel said. The $5,000 check from Wyoming Ag in the Classroom is not the reward either, but it’s certainly appreciated.

Rather, Seidel has the unique gift of seeing her hard work pay off in the classroom as her fifth-grade students at Big Horn Elementary School dive headfirst into the curriculum she helped develop. The payoff includes watching them learn more about Wyoming’s resources as the result of her efforts.

“I do use the curriculum in my own classroom, and it has been great to see how much students have enjoyed it,” Seidel said. “This curriculum gives my students a better understanding of what makes Wyoming really unique and important – from agriculture to natural resources and tourism. I think it’s important for all our students to understand what makes our community special and what they can do to preserve it.”

Seidel was honored by Wyoming Ag in the Classroom – a nonprofit that strives to give students an understanding of Wyoming’s resources – on Aug. 14 as the organization’s Teacher of the Year. Seidel was specifically recognized for her work developing the organization’s Wyoming Stewardship Project curriculum, which is used in elementary schools throughout the state.

The purpose of the Wyoming Stewardship Project, according to the WAIC website, is to help students “gain an understanding of Wyoming’s vast resources and become informed citizens capable of serving as stewards for Wyoming’s future.”

The curriculum accomplishes this goal through 12 full units focusing on agriculture, minerals and energy, and outdoor recreation and tourism. The units allow students to explore Wyoming’s main economic drivers and address future challenges, Seidel said. The curriculum is provided for free to all second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms throughout the state and includes three units per grade level.

WAIC has been pursuing the creation of the curriculum since 2015, Seidel said, and educators from across the state were first contacted in 2016 to map key learning concepts to specific grade levels and draft some initial units for a pilot program.

Seidel was contacted in the summer of 2016 as she was preparing to take the teaching job in Big Horn after several years teaching sixth grade at Tongue River Elementary in Ranchester. Seidel said she was excited to be included on the ground level of the project.

“I thought it was a really worthy project,” Seidel said. “I think it’s always a good idea to broaden our students’ horizons and introduce them to new ideas and concepts.”

The Stewardship Project’s pilot units were tested in classrooms throughout the 2016-17 school year. In 2017, the educators revised the existing units and drafted more to create a total of 12 units. Those units were then piloted again throughout the 2017-18 school year, and more feedback was collected.

The units were revised one last time in 2018 before becoming available to all teachers and students in the fall of 2018, Seidel said.

“Some units we wrote and rewrote multiple times,” Seidel said. “But I’m pretty proud of how it turned out.”

Throughout the process, Seidel said, she also learned a thing or two about Wyoming’s resources.

“Going into this, I felt like I was pretty well-informed,” Seidel said. “I quickly realized that I wasn’t as well-informed as I could be. This experience has definitely broadened my knowledge about what Wyoming has to offer and given me more of an appreciation for the amazing state we live in.”

Although the curriculum has been completed, Seidel said that she is not done working on the project. WAIC has asked her to help teach teachers throughout the state on how to best use the curriculum.

“It’s an ongoing adventure, but it’s been cool to be involved with something that will have such an impact on so many kids,” Seidel said.

Wyoming Stewardship Project units can be viewed and downloaded for free at

https://wyaitc.org/curriculum/.

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