We’re thrilled to share a new initiative that we have recently formalized,
Marlie Somers, EEC class of 2019, shares a bit of what she’s been up to lately!
Professionally, what are you up to these days?
I am an inclusive education teacher at Big Picture School in the Highline School District! Our school is part of a network that focuses on project-based learning driven by our students’ interests. I get to go into classrooms and support students as they engage with different competency areas through projects ranging from clothing altering to building a go-kart.
How are you spending your time when you’re not working?
When I’m not working, I try to get outside and spend time with my community. I ride my bike around the city and around trails and love the way it puts me up close to nature (yesterday I hung out with snails and today I listened to frogs on my bike!). I love to send my friends mail, spend time with my family (I live in a group house with my siblings and toddler niece), play ultimate frisbee, and practice solidarity with organizations in Seattle. Lately I have been trying to slow down and have more unscheduled time.
Is there anything particular about your IslandWood experience that you’re leveraging in your work?
IslandWood’s focus on community, identity, and experiential education provided the foundation of the work I do now. Each week brought a new group of students for me to meet, and I had goals to get to know each student as they also got to know each other. We pursued our interests by designing experiments that led from observations in the environment and gave concrete learning to our weeks.
At Big Picture, students start every day with an opening circle and end the day with a closing circle; each student is invested in each other pursuing their goals as they share them publicly. They have close relationships with their advisor and work closely to determine how they can leverage their interests to do deep learning through research, investigations, and internships. Conversations and coursework are centered on competency areas, not letter grades, so they are learning real-world skills through their interests.
If you could tell a prospective IslandWood grad student one thing you think they should know, what would it be?
IslandWood creates so many opportunities for those who attend the grad program. It is a step toward career pathways, sure, but also has the potential to model what life can look like when a group of people is meaningfully engaged in doing the work to imagine what is possible. There is nothing like laughing with your cohort at the end of a particularly difficult week, knowing you don’t just have the grace to fail but are actively encouraged to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and emerge on the other side.
I never would have found myself where I am today without IslandWood. It strengthened my lens to look at the world with hope and positivity. It let me be outside for hours a day, guiding curious questions from young people with insatiable appetites for learning. It gave me an excuse to ask riddles, perform in front of an audience, and to do deep dives into learning about the world around me.
Are there any books, articles, blog posts, podcasts that are inspiring you?
Much of my inspiration comes from being in spaces with liberation organizations in Seattle. I’m also a member of the Haymarket Book Club, which I highly recommend! Some other inspirations are below.
- Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis
- Against Erasure: A Photographic Memory of Palestine before the Nakba
- Completely Arbortrary, a podcast about trees. I cannot get enough of tree facts!
- Srsly Wrong, a leftist utopian comedy podcast. I love this whole podcast, but there are many episodes (263, 265, 266, 269) with a focus on child rights and the future of child liberation.
- All My Relations, an amazing podcast no matter what you’re interested in
What’s keeping you feeling hopeful?
It is a joy to go to high school every day. My co-workers and my students keep me feeling like we are moving the future of education forward to become a more liberatory space where everyone feels valued. I spend time with my niece, who learns more about the world every day and is capable of such endless love. I watch the crows fly to and from their roost and watch on windy days as individuals or pairs peel off and do aerial acrobatics, seemingly for the fun of it.
Learn more about IslandWood’s Graduate program here.
Are you an IslandWood alum? Want to share a Q&A with us? We’d love to hear from you and share what you’ve been up to! Email us at [email protected].
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