A Nurturing Education

Christie McKelvie and family climbing a mountain

A love of science, a desire to continue her education, and a well-timed flyer led to Christie McKelvie M’09 nurturing the next generation of learners.

McKelvie was teaching elementary school in the Northern Lebanon School District when she learned about LVC’s master’s of education in science education degree.

“I knew that I wanted to pursue a master’s degree in education and not just take random courses here and there. Since science is one of my all-time favorite subjects to learn and teach, I knew this would be a perfect fit for me,” she said.

While working full-time, McKelvie appreciated the flexible scheduling but valued that she could still pursue her classes in person and enjoy the face-to-face interaction and hands-on components. She immediately began to incorporate her lessons into her teaching.

“Not only did it help me with my own science understanding, but it provided me opportunities to learn best practices and increase effective science pedagogy in the classroom,” she said. “At a time when it was difficult to prioritize science in my elementary classroom due to a hyper-focus on math and reading, my learning from LVC helped me successfully weave science concepts and activities into social studies, math, and ELA.”

Through her time at LVC, McKelvie also formed personal and professional relationships with fellow teachers and instructors—many of which she maintains today.

“We don’t teach in a vacuum. Having that network to rely upon for ideas, feedback, and support throughout my teaching career have made all the difference as I seek to be the most effective and impactful teacher I can be,” she said.

LVC’s personal attention and flexibility rose to a whole new level when McKelvie became a mom.

“My last class was to end a week before my first child was born. When my son came five weeks early, the school was wonderful about working with me to finish that course strong. LVC was also very understanding when I needed to defer my thesis writing for a semester due to the birth of my second child.

“There were times that I wanted to take the ‘easy way out’ and do a final project instead of a thesis, but several of the instructors encouraged me to push through and finish strong. To this day, I’m so thankful for their encouragement and how they spurred me on,” she said.

After completing her degree, McKelvie chose to stay home and educate her kids by exploring and learning in nature. Around the time her oldest child was about to enter kindergarten, she recalled that a seed was planted to start a nature-based preschool.

“This seed laid dormant for about eight years until my children were older, and I felt it was the right time to start pursuing this dream. I desired to see children rooted in place-based learning and free to grow in truly individualized ways.”

In 2020, McKelvie and her husband launched Rooted & Free Nature School with monthly sessions at Camp Kirchenwald in Lebanon before expanding to add a full preschool curriculum starting this fall. Field experiences including a Susquehanna River canoe trip and horseshore crab tagging in the Delaware Bay that were part of her graduate program provided additional context for learning and empowered her to lead similar experiences with her students.

“I truly believe that my master’s degree from LVC played a big part in me taking this step because it helped me think outside the box when it comes to what education can and should look like,” she said. “LVC offers a fabulous graduate program that will not only grow your mind, but will also connect you to like-minded people. If I had to do it all over again, I’d still choose LVC in a heartbeat!”


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