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Ernie Pyle Students Poised to Learn from Educator’s Fellowship in Iceland 

Students at Ernie Pyle School 90 will soon incorporate knitting and gardening into their educational regimen, thanks to the assistant principal’s recent fellowship to Iceland. 

Frances Rivera came up with the idea during her time teaching dual language programs when she saw how the need for students to learn more about how cultural heritage could be tied to environmental conservation. She then wrote and submitted a proposal to Fund for Teachers which would allow her to learn how other countries teach cultural preservation and environmental conservation.  

While in Iceland, she explored issues of global warming, biological and cultural conservation, and sustainable development, and gain real-world exposure to these contemporary issues while developing tools to teach these topics in the classroom. 

Iceland is renowned for its rugged landscapes, northern lights, volcanoes, glaciers, and waterfalls. Iceland is also famous for its history and being settled by the Vikings. 

On her first day, Rivera toured  ÁRBÆR Open Air Museum and the National Museum of Iceland, where she interviewed museum educators. Then she went on a Folklore and Culture Tour of Reykjavik, the nation’s capital. 

“The tour was not only insightful but very thorough,” Rivera said. “While there I also visited the Geothermal Expedition, the eighth largest geothermal plant in the world, which is located on the site of an active volcano.” 

Also, during the trip, Rivera visited:  

  • Laugarvatn Fontana—a tourist attraction where she learned how Icelandic families who live near geothermal sites can use areas around hot springs to cook. 
  • Friðheimar—a family-run greenhouse facility and restaurant offering tomato-based dishes grown at onsite greenhouses. 
  • Thingvellir National Park—a national park known for the Alþing (Althing), home of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also the home of Þingvellir Church and the ruins of old stone shelters.  

“After a couple of days near the capital city, I drove about 5.5 hours and headed to the more remote northern Iceland to visit the town of Husavik,” Rivera said. “In Husavik I went on on an Icelandic horse ride where I learned more about the importance of native species conservation. 

“I also went on a whale and puffin-watching tour with North Sailing, and they were kind enough to give me some of their time to interview their staff members,” she said. “Oceans Missions also kindly did the same, and both organizations shared their goal to educate all generations about the effects of global warming and environmental conservation and its effects on culture and heritage.” 

But it was on her last days in Iceland when she hit upon the idea of incorporating gardening and knitting into her school’s curriculum.  

Upon her return to the capital, she attended a culture and craft knitting workshop, learning to knit while listening to old Icelandic folkloric stories. The experience allowed Rivera to glean more about how culture and knitting are incorporated in the Icelandic education system. 

“As a result, I plan on expanding our school garden and incorporating culture and environmental conservation into it, such as turning it into a salsa and sofrito garden,” she said. “This will allow students to learn about the different cultures in our school. 

“Incorporating the knitting might be a bit trickier, but I believe we can use it as a force for good as an SEL tool, like a knitting club, where we can talk about life in general and how to problem-solve by making good choices. Knitting is one of those things that if you make a mistake, it can always be fixed with a little thinking, and I think that can be a great SEL tool.”