June 27, 2014
Gresham resident Amanda Asp will enliven her teaching curriculum in July during a 10-day exploration of sustainability practices in the Tuscan region of Italy.
A 2009 Centennial High School graduate who recently received her degree in education from Western Oregon University, Asp is participating in the Center for Geography Education in Oregon’s 2014 Advanced Summer Institute.
The program is intended to improve geography instruction in Oregon’s K-12 classrooms.
Fifteen teachers from across the state, including Asp, will compare sustainability practices in Tuscany to those in their hometowns, creating lessons and work products to share with fellow educators.
“It’s giving teachers the tools to better relate our local areas to the world,” Asp, 23, said. “I can’t wait to go into a class, such as ancient world history, and be able to say that I have been to all of these ruins — to tell students my honest experience rather than finding pictures on Google.”
The group will spend the majority of its time in Spannocchia, an organic working farm in the heart of Tuscany, venturing out on historic tours, visiting gardens, markets and museums and tasting local food and fare.
With a hands-on teaching philosophy, Asp said she likes to help students teach themselves, and she believes there’s no right or wrong way to go about learning history, geography and social studies.
“It’s really about interpretation,” she said. “I like to give them a blank piece of paper and ask them to draw Africa, labeling everything they know. Then I share an actual map and explain that Africa is a lot bigger than it looks … Their reactions are priceless. I like to show them lots of perspectives.”
Asp fell in love with social studies in eighth grade when her family took a trip to the East Coast. She was fascinated by the differences in geography and people’s ways of lives, taking particular interest in Civil War history.
With a teaching focus on social studies and English for Speakers of Other Languages, Asp conducted her student teaching at Centennial Middle and High schools.
She has substitute taught within the Centennial, Gresham-Barlow and Reynolds school districts, with hopes of launching her teaching career on her stomping grounds.
Upon successful completion of the institute, participants such as Asp receive four graduate credits in geography or curriculum and instruction at a reduced rate, with 96 professional development units also available.
The Advanced Summer Institute is funded largely by a grant from the Gray Family Foundation, which “works to encourage greater civic engagement in Oregon through investments that promote environmental literacy.”