Josie Guiney Igielski has always been an out-of-the box thinker. But when the Lincoln Elementary School fourth-grade teacher was trying to envision a way to incorporate nature, wellness and sustainability into the curriculum, she wanted to get outside the box, literally. The result of her vision and leadership is the outdoor learning lab—a neighborhood space adjacent to the school consisting of a 1/4 mile wellness path natural playground built from a beloved fallen oak, native tree plantings, school and community garden, and a pavilion outfitted to facilitate outdoor learning. The space also serves as a community gathering place and gives the whole neighborhood a safe place to focus on fitness.
Guiney Igielski is a strong believer in the “whole child” education philosophy. Her classroom is democratic, inclusive and child-centered. Moving from large to small groups, students gain the benefit of interaction with a population that, like the school’s, is highly diverse.
An advocate of hands-on learning, Guiney Igielski co-organized a bird-a-thon, enabling students to spend the day collecting data and then sharing their findings about conservation with the help of Wisconsin's Audubon Society. Students raised money and awareness about native bird habitats. She also engages her students in a year-long phenology study to help them develop skills in observation and record keeping, illustrate the water cycle, and help kids think about how we affect nature. She takes her students outside one day a week for the whole school-year. In 2015, Guiney Igielski co-founded an Outdoor Summit, where elementary classes from around her district that engage in outdoor ed. have a chance to come celebrate, share their experiences and learn together for a whole day outside in a local natural area with amazing volunteers from local nature/outdoor organizations.
She continually sharpens her knowledge and then synthesizes that information to promote positive policy for the school-based leadership team. Guiney Igielski was has been an “Aristos Scholar” for the district’s think tank and serves on school and district leadership and policy committees. She is part of an inspiring teacher collective in her district that advocates for Outdoor Education. She received her National Board Certification in 2019.
Beloved by her students, their parents and her peers, Guiney Igielski models how to create an inclusive, child-centered learning community where students are intellectually challenged, productively engaged and happy. As one colleague put it, “Her door, mind and heart are always open.”
Nov 10, 2014
Wisconsin State Journal | Oct 29 , 2014 | Madison, WI
WKOW-TV | ABC | Oct 29 , 2014 | Madison, WI