Something to Crow About: Our 20th Anniversary!

As the calendar flips to a new year, 2021 brings much hope with it. Vaccines to protect against COVID-19 are beginning to be rolled out in communities across the world. A new president is days from his inauguration. Each new year is also a time for reflection on our experiences, challenges, and accomplishment. This year is also a time for celebration, as Laughing Crow Curriculum marks its 20th anniversary in 2021!

It’s hard to believe that two decades have passed since I launched this consulting firm. At the time, as an informal science/environmental educator, I saw a need in the local informal education field for someone who could provide expertise in curriculum design. That little idea has turned into a twenty-year old company! Seems like a good time for some reflection.

Our Mission: My goal was to design and grow a curriculum consulting firm in line with my vision toward equitable and culturally-relevant STEM education. As such, Laughing Crow Curriculum is passionate about making science accessible, equitable, authentic, and personally relevant to learners of all ages. Our dedication to producing curricula products that are aesthetically engaging and beautifully designed sets us apart from other educational publishers. Our expertise in the collaborative design of curricula means that we can facilitate the design process with teams of teachers, school leaders, STEM professionals, and program staff. It was also important to me that we provide support and guidance through all stages of the curriculum design process, from idea inception, design, expert review, piloting, revision, publication, dissemination, and professional learning.

Clients: Over these past two decades, I have had the opportunity to work with many wonderful people at science museums, afterschool programs, biotech companies, university programs, government agencies, global health organizations, and other types of organizations (see client list). I’ve even developed curriculum or programming for organizations outside of what we typically think of as STEM: for example, the Washington State Bar Association, Washington State Department of Agriculture, a cruise ship line, a public utility, an environmental health journal, and an IMAX film production company. Our clients have been local Seattle-based organizations like Pacific Science Center, Seattle Parks, the University of Washington, and local schools. Our clients and projects have also been national or global in scope, such as partnering with NASA, Boeing, the Israel Antiquities Authority, K2 Communications (IMAX company) and others. I’m thankful for the relationships I’ve developed, the network I’ve grown, and the number of organizations that we’ve been able to support with creative curriculum, programming, and educational products.

Topics: One of the things I love most about designing curriculum is it allows me to be a generalist who deep-dives into a topic as needed. Our curriculum projects here at Laughing Crow Curriculum have run a very wide gamut: whale evolution, archeology of the Dead Sea Scrolls, infectious diseases, bioethics, rocks and minerals, Alaskan ecology, hydropower, the physics of flight, the neuroactive properties of plants, food safety, the physics of light, health and wellness, data visualization, global warming, bioinformatics, and so much more! Each project challenges me to learn about a topic, consider the needs, interests, and everyday expertise of the audience, and then design innovative learning materials.

Curriculum: We’ve designed curricula for youth and teachers across learning settings: K-12 students, museum visitors (including families), summer campers, and others. Our goal is to design authentic, engaging, culturally-relevant curriculum materials to support diverse learners…we make learning STEM fun and relevant! I also have provided professional learning opportunities for teachers and informal science educators and present my work at conferences. Leveraging my own passion for nature journaling, I’ve also hosted nature journaling workshops for kids (as young as Kindergarten-age), families, and educators. When schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I launched a series of #StayHomeSTEM blog posts to support families in at-home learning. Design of and for learning, it’s what we do!

Products: Curriculum is something that happens in the background; it is not something that learners see or interact directly with in the same way as a physical object. Learning with and through the use of materials is important. We’ve designed material products for use as instructional and learning tools, including workshop props built by museum exhibit fabricators, a series of science-themed Bingo board games, and infographics and posters.

Partners: All of this wouldn’t have been possible if not for the amazing people I’ve partnered with to support these projects through graphic design, logo design, copyediting, curriculum writing, project management, and administrative support. Thank you to Clayton DeFrate, Kathryn True, Polly Freeman, Joanna Prasertong, Beth Cullen, Matthew Merritt, Lisa Buckley, Gina Tesoriero, Janneke Petersen, Thad Tichenor and others who have worked on projects throughout the years.

In reflection, these past two decades have been about people, projects, learning, and design within the context of STEM education. I wish I knew the total number of teachers who have used our curriculum materials or products. I wish I could rattle off the total number of kids who have engaged in workshops, lessons, labs, or activities that we designed. I wish I had a way of quantifying our impact. But I do know that K-12 teachers, informal educators, children, youth, families, and parents have been inspired to wonder about and explore their world through our educational materials. That feels just about right.

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