Dr. Diane's Adventures in Learning

Adventures in Learning: Lynn Wareh Coles

August 03, 2022 Dr Diane Jackson Schnoor Episode 1
Dr. Diane's Adventures in Learning
Adventures in Learning: Lynn Wareh Coles
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Episode Summary: Science teacher extraordinaire (and long-time friend) Lynn Coles joins the adventure  to talk about connection, community, and bringing wonder into the classroom. From insects to sunsets and everything in between, we explore the magic of building classroom and real-world connections — with a sprinkle of picture book recommendations!

0:46 We explore the influence of Lynn's early childhood ambitions (you’ll love why she didn’t become an entomologist) and picture books on her journey to become a science teacher. At 06:48, we delve into how STEAM first impacted our adventures as teachers and how those connections carry through to our work today.

11:27 Building connections is critical to our success in the classroom — and our success as humans. 14:28 “If  you have a classroom where students can experience things with their hands and their minds, together with other people, and find a way to enjoy that and to see why it's relevant, then you're going to learn without even realizing you're doing so.” 

20:30 Picture Book Connections  Since Lynn brought up wanting to be an entomologist, I highly recommend Buzzing with Questions: the Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner. It's a beautiful picture book biography by Janice  Harrington, illustrated by Theodore Taylor II. 

Other book connections this week: 

  • What's in Your Pocket: Collecting Nature's Treasures (Heather L. Montgomery/Maribel Lechuga) encourages children to use the senses to explore the natural world. 
  • Ada Twist, Scientist ( Andrea Beaty/David Roberts) is  a great one for your budding scientists and for considering new ways to encourage wonder and exploration in kids.
  • A current new favorite is Fairy Science (Ashley Spires).  All the fairies in the woods think everything happens due to magic and our heroine uses the scientific process to try to prove them wrong.

In our conversation I referenced We Are Water Protectors (Carol Lindstrom/Michaela Goade), a beautiful book for exploring the power we all have to protect the water.  Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

From picture book and STEAM connections, we explore advice for teachers looking to build connections within the classroom.  24:44: A new must-have in Lynn's teacher tool-kit: the Seek app from iNaturalist25:45: We circle back to the wonder of childhood nature experiences with thoughts on how wonder enhances classroom and community connections — as well as makes us happier humans. 

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Adventures in Learning: Lynn Coles Transcript

Dr. Diane00:01

Wonder curiosity, connection. Where will your adventures take you? I'm Dr. Diane andthank you for joining me on today's episode of adventures in learning.

So welcome to this edition of adventures in learning. I am so fortunate to have scienceteacher extraordinaire Lynn Coles on today. Lynn has been a friend of mine for more yearsthan we'll talk about here on this podcast. And I'm gonna start by having her.  tell you alittle bit about herself. So Lynn.

Lynn Coles00:32

Hi everybody. I'm Lynn Coles. I'm a science teacher. I have, um, very many previous lives,uh, but it all comes into, uh, my joy and my passion of exploring the natural world.

Dr. Diane00:46

So that's a great segue Lynn into my very first question, which I'm sort of askingeverybody. When you were little, what did you wanna be when you grew up?

Lynn Coles00:56

Well, I am fortunate to have a mother who recorded all of that and I have a book and, um,in the first, uh, kindergarten 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, there's probably 25 different entries. Um, but the,at three, I stated to everyone, according to the journal that I was gonna be anentomologist. And I actually stuck with that along with all the other things like nursefirefighter.

All the other things, um, gymnast, um, I was a firefighting ballerina, so I guess, yes,exactly. But then when I got to be, I don't know, five or six, and I started to look into suchthings using the world book encyclopedia, most entomologists work. Um, With pestcontrol companies with their goal being to eliminate insects.

And it just broke my heart. I was like, well, I can't be an entomologist. So, um, I never diddecide. And I, when I went to college, the first two years, I changed my major five timesand I ended up with English as a major and I'm a science teacher. So I'm obviously one ofthose folks that liked a little bit of everything.

Dr. Diane01:59

Well, it just means that your learning adventure is ongoing. Exactly. And that's the way itshould be for all of us, I think.

Lynn Coles02:06

Right.  yeah. I'm  talking to somebody else. who's constantly learning. Adventure isongoing. We would be stagnant otherwise.

Dr. Diane02:14

Exactly. So another question I like to ask is, do you remember what your favorite book waswhen you were a kid?

Lynn Coles02:21

Oh, it's so hard to pick favorites. Um, Two immediately popped to mind visuals, um, thedog party at the end of go dog go. Um, that book was such an adventure and you've justgathered all kinds of friends, you know, big ones, little ones, spotted ones, striped ones. Imean, from the neighborhood, from the town, you gathered all your friends and you endedup at this massive adventure.

I mean, I could just pick my picture myself up there, all the little details, you know, thepicnic and the playing bad mitten and all of that. Um, I, I, I think the things I liked mostwere about adventure and about exploring other places. Um, the other one that comes tomind is, um, my parents gave me when I was five, a copy of Richard Scary's busy, busyworld.

Yes. And I traveled all through the world with those characters and, um, Continue to lovethat all that detail, all that adventure, all those different animals in this case, exploring andhaving, you know, some, having some mistakes. ,  putting too many people into Tokyo,subway, you know, but, um, but you know, being with each other and enjoying thatcommunity, so.

Dr. Diane03:31

Of course. And, you know, you talked about wanting to be an entomologist when you wereyoung  um, so clearly science was something that has been important to you all the wayalong. Are there specific moments you remember from your childhood, like moments ofwonder?

Lynn Coles03:46

I, um, wonder is a great word. Um, I, I, I would consider it one of my theme words andespecially finding wonder in the ordinary, in the outside, in the natural world.

Um, I. My parents tell a story. And I actually recall this. Um, I grew up in Florida, so lots ofbugs. Um, unfortunately you go out in the same yards and you find just a fraction of thatdiversity of life that were in the yards, especially with frogs, toads and insects. So, sosaddens me, but, um, I wasn't scared of anything.

And, and, and I had friends, I had imaginary friends. A dragon and octopus. And I had allthese creatures that were my friends and I would pick them up and talk to them and carrythem around. And I came in the house one time with, to tell, to listen to the story,something like 13 daddy, long legs, all on my arms and came in and said, mom, look at mynew friends and into the house.

And, um, I didn't know this at the time. And this is a Testament to my mother. She wasdefinitely afraid of spiders. And I don't even remember exactly. I remember being divertedand I'm going back outside something like, they need their mommies. You need to take'em back outside so that they're not away from their moms.

you know, were gonna come to lunch and, um, You know, given the, um, given thefreedom to explore like that. I mean, I spent a long time on my belly looking at thegrasshopper nose to nose, you know, catching the cicadas up in the maple tree, um,rescuing the  catydid from the spiders web and just catching all the frogs and toads and,um, getting stung by some things as well.

But just having the freedom to explore, I, I fear for our youngest generation that not onlyare. That diversity of life isn't out there, but we don't take the time. We don't find thewonder to get out there, get off our screens. Familiar refrain and just really connect withthe natural world in that way.

Dr. Diane05:55

I remember riding my bike and sort of roaming as a child and I've given  my parents griefabout the fact that I was responsible for a three year old at the age of six. Um, I'm surethere were adults around. I just don't remember it. But what you're saying about noticingthe natural world mm-hmm  um, I remember some of that as a kid.

I'm actually rediscovering that now. And so I find that it's almost like it's a first time for somany of these things that I'm taking walks and I'm paying attention to the idea that theseeds are on the trees. And, oh, this is the time of year for us where the acorns arestarting to come out or watching the insects in the yard and looking at the pollinators alittle more closely. And so maybe that's part of what we're sparking as educators is thatsense of wonder in ourselves and hopefully that sense of wonder in our students as well.

Lynn Coles06:45

Exactly, exactly.

Dr. Diane06:48

So thinking of sense of wonder gets me thinking about, STEM and STEAM., This is aquestion that I've been thinking about a lot lately, because the term itself didn't reallycome into play in the United States until the early  2000s, but as a teacher, I rememberconnecting science and technology and engineering and art and math all together when Iwas teaching elementary school. When's the first time you remember sort ofencountering the concept of STEM or STEAM?.

Lynn Coles07:21

well, it's interesting because in middle school I started doing science projects and theywere very, they were either biological or, or biochemical, um, very traditional scienceprojects and, but our regional and national and international science fairs were STEM fairs.And so I met students from all over that were working on projects that weren't just aboutthe estuary like mine was, or about a catalyst and a chemical reaction. like another one ofmine was, and engineering projects, math projects, even. And so that was my firstexperience with STEM without hearing that word STEM.

Um, and I've also been an elementary school teacher. And the thing about having aself-contained classroom is you know, you have the same group of students and you'reteaching them all the content areas. So you're teaching them science, you're teachingthem technology, engineering, math, language, arts,  social studies, all of that.

And it's most effective when you can make connections between those things. Otherwise,absolutely. It really doesn't make sense, you know, here's this lesson in isolation, youknow? And so,  I think any teacher, especially an elementary school teacher that'sself-contained like that is, is applying that concept.

I didn't hear STEAM with the arts, even though in elementary schools, we were doing that,until only very recently. And in the secondary schools, we actually, here in Florida, weactually offer a STEM class that, that, but not a steam class, but you're just now seeing,and primarily in private and charter schools, you're seeing steam programs.

I have several colleagues this year who are starting up steam programs in elementaryschools or in a, um, ones in a K through eight. But these are brand new positions. They'relike creating those positions as they go this year. So it's really very new, um, with the, withthe language.

Dr. Diane09:15

Right. And that's exciting when you think about that as a vehicle for helping to build thoseconnections and to give teachers the empowerment to do what we know our bestpractices in terms of building connections and linking things together. And then for me,the other piece is looking at that marvelous world of children's literature and connectingdiverse picture books back into that, because those picture books work, whether you arein elementary school or whether you're teaching middle school or high school, they'refabulous mentor texts that we can use to sort of spark kids' interests, let them seethemselves reflected and then carry those connections forward.

Lynn Coles09:52

And if you're having an adventure through the books, then you make that connection tothe real world, the natural world, and you, you are having that adventure in life. You'rehaving that adventure in real life. And I think that's very powerful.

Dr. Diane10:06

Absolutely. And that's a great spot for us to stop. We're gonna go to a break.

And when we come back, we're gonna learn a little bit more about your adventure inlearning.

Hey, early childhood and elementary school teachers and librarians. Are you looking forways to spice up your curriculum? Build connections with engaged steam learners andintroduce multicultural versions of fairy tales and folk literature. If so head over todrdianeadventures.com and check out our on-demand virtual course beyond ever aftersteam on-demand virtual course allows you to work at your own pace and learn how tobuild these stem steam connections through multicultural fairy tales and folk literature.You'll receive professional development credits after you complete this high energy threehour on demand course produced with Steve Spangler, Inc. As a bonus, you're gonnareceive a PDF that's filled with curriculum connections and program ideas you can put towork immediately in your early childhood elementary or library setting. Discounts areavailable for group purchases. Plus you get special pricing when you purchase it as part ofa regular professional development workshop. So head on over to drdianeadventures.comand get started on your own beyond ever after experience.

All right, we are back. And so, Lynn, I have so loved sort of looking into childhoodinfluences on  your science, STEAM/STEM journey. And what I'm wondering is, can youdescribe a little bit more, you talked about how everything sort of happened in a spiralthat you've tried, all these different things? So can you tell us a little bit more about youradventures in learning? What do you currently do and how did you get to that?

Lynn Coles11:54

What I currently do is very simple. I'm a middle school science teacher. How I got to thatpoint is a complicated spiders web.  I've tried all different kinds of things.  I have worked incommunity, organizing in volunteer management, um, in national service programs whereyou and I connected for the first time.

I've been a Navy wife, a mom of three.  I have,  worked as an IT account manager, and Ihave taught from second grade up through eighth grade.  So, you know what I think a lot,you know, especially if you're trying to build a resume or try to communicate succinctly tosomeone else, you know, what connects all of this,  is community building, communitybuilding and a connection with the world. Um, if we want to engage students, we have tointerest them and we have to show them that it's meaningful to them. If we want toengage volunteers, it's the same thing. If we want someone to purchase something thatcosts a lot of money to support their business, it's the, it's the same thing. And so thedifferent kinds of things I have done are all about bringing people together and, and for apositive effect to in this community we call earth. So I always liked the, um, the bumpersticker, you know, think globally act locally. And that's what I feel like I've done as I'vemoved all around this beautiful country and this world.

Dr. Diane13:25

So it sounds like you're able to take all the connections in the community, building thatyou've learned from all of these different tasks and bring them into the classroom.

Lynn Coles13:35

Yes. So I'm an interdisciplinary person.

Dr. Diane13:40

So what does it mean to build those kinds of connections in the classroom? Like how doyou go about doing that?

Lynn Coles13:46

Well, there's, there's layers upon layers. There's the student's relationship to each other,to the teachers/instructors, the relationship between them and the content, and therelationship between them and their school community and greater community. So, Imean, research shows that in order to engage students in school,  they have to achievesuccess and they have to have fun doing it. And so how do you define those things? Wedo a lot of celebrating, um, celebrating success, you know, a lot of formative how are we,where are we? What are we doing? And finding your place. That's all about finding yourplace in the world, in the community. And you're gonna do those things with each other indifferent ways.

Um, so if you have a classroom where they can experience things with their hands, withtheir minds together with other people and find a way to enjoy that and to see why it'srelevant, then you're going to learn without even realizing you're doing so, you know, likewe all do as we go through our lives.

Dr. Diane14:52

Absolutely. And I was lucky enough to get to be in your classroom this past spring. Andso. I saw all of the children's literature that you had around the room. Can you offer like,just a couple of examples of ways that even with your middle school students, youconnect children's literature to the science and STEM that you teach.

Lynn Coles15:13

Well, and other teachers, particularly language arts teachers are surprised to see that. Ithink in some ways it started coming from an elementary school background becausehaving a classroom library is just assumed in an elementary school. In a middle schoolclassroom, it is not common at all, even in the language arts classrooms for lots ofreasons.

And we have a great, you know, we have a library, we have a media center,  but, What is sochallenging, and what I see in this generation of students that have grown up withdevices, is that they have very short attention spans. And in order to understand science,there's a lot of vocabulary. There's a lot of reading.

I mean, sixth and seventh and eighth grade science are, you know, lay the backbone for allof those high test classes that you take in high school, chemistry, physics, biology, Marinebiology, all of that. And, um, If you can't read, it's a challenge. And so, um, I, I have builtmy classroom library of nonfiction texts of all levels.

I mean, some of 'em are ones from my childhood, you know, why don't haircuts hurt. Imean, things that will bring them in. Um, but. I also have, uh, a fiction library and, youknow, that's something that students can choose to do as part of their work in myclassroom in Florida, we have something called the sunshine state books, um, whichhopefully will continue and, uh, where, uh, let me see 16 books or chosen.

And they announce them. They're usually Florida authors and then our fabulous mediaspecial. Does incentives and prizes. And, you know, you read five, you read 10 and all thissort of stuff. And, and then there's a battle of the books between the schools and it, and alot of excitement around it. Well, I read them every summer as well and have some of thecopies in my book.

And there are things like a science fiction book, all about potions, where they'recombining things and we get into fantastic conversations in the class. Well, okay. Haveyou read this sunshine state book? Could, could that really happen? What laws of physicsdo they defy, you know, and, and the same thing with big cannons, like Harry Potter and,um, uh, you know, all the fantastic beasts could, could that survive.

Is that an adaptation? Is that a symbiotic relationship? Um, you know, the science of starwars, you know, well, what would happen if the planets were aligned with two moons? Youknow, what's, what's holding that in place. , you know, so trying to make thoseconnections with the world of fiction. And science fiction and the world of science.

Dr. Diane17:47

Very cool. You know, I was thinking that when I was working in museum education,  I wouldgo out and I was working with kids between the ages of preschool and eighth grade.  Iwould do different lessons and I'd usually have about. 30 minutes with a group of kids , but I always tried to connect it back to some sort of book.

And so, for example, when I was teaching about water and point and non-point sourcepollution, I used we are the water protectors, , because it's such a gorgeous book.  And itopened up questions for them in terms of climate action, in terms of being citizens of theworld, as well as looking more closely at the water where they lived.  Is there a book that,you know, just lights you on fire that you think this is one I love using when I teach?

Lynn Coles18:31

Oh, gosh. Um, no, but I love it when students bring it to me, you know, it's like, what areyou reading? And how does that connect with,  how does that connect with what we'redoing?

And,, I'm a candy classroom, so it's like, oh, um, you know, bring it in here and let's talkabout it and share it with the class. And, you know, I, I try to incent that behavior.  But, Ican't think of a specific one that I, that I use a lot.

Dr. Diane19:01

Thank you for indulging me and one of my favorite topics. I love exploring ways that bookscan be used to enhance STEAM learning.

We're gonna take a break. And when we come back, we're going to explore learningadventures and how they connect to the future.

Hey, early childhood and elementary school teachers and librarians. Are you looking forways to spice up your curriculum? Build connections with engaged steam learners andintroduce multicultural versions of fairy tales and folk literature. If so head over todrdianeadventures.com and check out our on-demand virtual course beyond ever aftersteam on-demand virtual course allows you to work at your own pace and learn how tobuild these stem steam connections through multicultural fairy tales and folk literature.You'll receive professional development credits after you complete this high energy threehour on demand course produced with Steve Spangler, Inc. As a bonus, you're gonnareceive. A PDF that's filled with curriculum connections and program ideas you can put towork immediately in your early childhood elementary or library setting discounts areavailable for group purchases. Plus you get special pricing when you purchase it as part ofa regular professional development workshop. So head on over to drdianeadventures.comand get started on your own beyond ever after experience.

Welcome back. While we were on break, Lynn and I were talking about some children'spicture books that might connect to this wonderful conversation. And I was thinking interms of entomologists who have inquisitive minds and look at ways to learn about insectsin order to be able to study the natural world and look at cause and effect.

One of the best books I've discovered is Buzzing with Questions: the Inquisitive Mind ofCharles Henry Turner. It's a beautiful picture book biography by Janice  Harringtonillustrated by Theodore Taylor II. I'll include a link to that one. Some other books that youmight be interested in terms of encouraging wonder as you're going outside includeWhat's in Your Pocket: Collecting Nature's Treasures. It's by Heather El Montgomeryillustrated by Maribel Lechuga. It reminds me so much of the things that Lynn did as achild. And a couple other books that you might wanna think about as well. -- Ada Twist,Scientist by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts. It's a great one for your budding scientistsand looking at some ways that you can encourage that exploration in kids.

A current new favorite of mine is Fairy Science. It's by Ashley Spires. She wrote The MostMagnificent Thing. And this one is lovely because all the fairies in the woods think thateverything happens due to magic and our heroine goes out to prove that science is part ofit. And so the scientific process is embedded into this wonderful book about fairies andnature.

It's a great read. And then finally, the one I referenced is We Are Water Protectors. It's byCarol Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade. And it's a beautiful book for exploring thepower that we all have to be able to protect the water. So those are our picture bookconnections this week. Let's resume our conversation.

So Lynn let's think about ways we can take this amazing conversation about connectionsbeyond your classroom. What is the best piece of advice you've ever received from amentor teacher?

Lynn Coles22:34

My first teaching mentor said that you need to think about the student in your classroomthat is the most challenging to you, and we all know who that person is to ourselves. Andare you reaching him or her? And is there something you could be doing differentlybecause you're reaching the folks that are easy and you're reaching maybe these othertrouble kids, but what about this one kid that has a block of some kind or family situationor just talks all the time or whatever it is that is your personal thing that gets you? Youknow, are you reaching that student?  Another, um, another piece of advice that I think ofis the importance of reflection and the way she stated it was, at the end of each day, thinkabout, would you have liked to been  a student in your classroom today? Why or why?  andif the answer's no, what could you do differently? And, and reflection is so important.

Dr. Diane23:30

And Lynn, I know you've also been a mentor teacher  for many other teachers. So whatadvice do you give them?

Lynn Coles23:43

Find your people  find your people share with them.  No one, and this is not just teachingadvice, but you're, you're not in this alone. You're not in this alone. And even if you're anintrovert, you know, here's a great book, that'll help you with that if you don't wanna talkto me about it.  It's, it's hard to go through this world, it's very challenging to be a teacherin the current environment.  If you can find your people, and the same thing that. Is shownto help students succeed is what will help teachers succeed, you know. How can you dothis with people that you enjoy and have fun doing it?

So again, it's all about building those connections. We need them.

Dr. Diane24:24

Absolutely. Probably now more than ever in terms of connections with one another,connections with the world around us, building those positive connections that help usget through the day.

So,  that's actually a great segue to the next question I was gonna ask. What's somethingthat currently brings you joy?

Lynn Coles24:44

Oh gosh. Um, well there's the tangible and the intangible. So. Um, the tangible is, and Idon't know why I didn't know about this already, but I discovered this summer, this app byiNaturalist called Seek. And all you do is you take your phone and you point it towardssome living thing, and it tells you what it is, its species, this genus, and it tells you what itis. And I mean, I spent a lot of time out in my garden or in the woods or, or at the beach,which I'm lucky to be able to do here in Florida and observing and making observations.And I talk to my students all the time about how observing as a scientific process, and wework on ways to hone that and make ourselves stronger observers. But. You know, hereit's in the palm of your hand, the universe. And so, um, there's my plug for Seek byiNaturalist.

Dr. Diane25:38

And you know what, we'll go ahead and put a link to that in the story notes.

Lynn Coles25:43

so as far as the intangible, what brings me joy is, and you, it's interesting, you brought thisword up in the very beginning of our conversation is the idea of wonder or awe.  A fewyears back, I read an article by a cognitive behavior therapist about seeking wonder and,and how good that was for your psyche,  your mental health, she gave a variety ofexamples and ways that you could seek and find wonder in your life, you know, slow down,look around you and number one was get outside. So something that really resonated tome, and by the way, one of the other things on the list was spend time with children.

Dr. Diane26:22

So  you're doing both.

Lynn Coles26:23

So let's see if we can get outside with a book and spent some time with children, thenwe've hit the trifecta and there's wonder around us everywhere, but I just love it.

Yesterday or the day before when we had a big thunderstorm come through right in theevening,  there was just the most spectacular sunset that, that you've ever seen. And all ofa sudden social media was flooded with pictures of the sunset. So just think thousands ofpeople were standing outside, just looking up at the sky.

And, and I just, I, that, that just brings me joy.

Dr. Diane26:57

That is awesome. I love that. What was the name of that book?

Lynn Coles27:02

It was an article I read.  I will try to find it for you.

Dr. Diane27:05

Awesome. We'll look for it. That's we'll put it in the story notes for you guys. All right. Sothat leads me to my final question. What makes you hopeful as a human, as a teacher?

Lynn Coles27:16

Easy  teenagers. I bet that's not the answer you were expecting.

Dr. Diane27:22

I love it though. Tell me why teenagers make you hopeful.

Lynn Coles27:26

So I have  a teenager in my house and I spend time with her peers and I teach teenagersand I volunteer with teenagers. And so I'm around a variety of different kinds of teenagersand they are, despite all of the situations in our world and what they've gone through inthe last couple years with COVID and their school environment in particular, they areoptimistic. They are hopeful. They are engaged in the world. They have found ways to usethese fantastic technologies that are at our fingertips to engage with each other acrossthe world, across the country. They're connecting over musical taste, they're connectingover art. They're, you know, selling each other their used t-shirts and connecting over, youknow, fashions and, and, and in very thoughtful ways. I mean, whether that's politicaladvocacy or sharing music and creating art or you know, talking about text. I mean,there's so many ways that they are talking to each other.

And so they're building connections. They're using the, the tools that, you know, we neverhad growing up. They're using their tools and they're building community, they're buildingconnections. And I just, I find that fantastic

Dr. Diane28:49

Lynn Coles, science teacher extraordinaire. Thank you again for being on Adventures inLearning.

And thank you for reminding us of the power of community building and connection in theclassroom and outside of it. You've been listening to the Adventures in Learning podcastwith your host, Dr. Diane, if you love the Adventures in Learning podcast, we'd love for youto subscribe, rate, and give us a review.

We can't wait to see you for our next adventure in learning.

Childhood Connections to Books and STEM/STEAM
STEM/STEAM in the classroom
Lynn's Adventures in Learning -- Journey to Teaching Science
Building Connections in the Classroom
Picture Book Connections to Wonder, Nature, and Entomologists
Advice for Teachers (Mentorship, Support, and Building Connections)
Hope in Unexpected Places -- Teenagers
Link to Resources

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