With a lively smile on her face, Kate Schafer ’92 shows me a bright blue notebook she started filling out last year – her entries are filled with carefully annotated hand drawings depicting her examinations of nature. One entry she is particularly enthusiastic about documents the changing height of the tide – the result of hours of careful observation.
Schafer’s hobby, nature journaling, began at the start of the pandemic last year as a way to get away from his computer.
“It transformed my experience of places and what I see,” Schafer said of nature journaling, which allows him to appreciate nature in a new way.
The start of the Nature Review is not the only result of Schafer’s reflection on his passion for environmental science. This coming school year, she will begin a new teaching position at Sequoyah School in Pasadena, Calif., Specializing in interdisciplinary, project-based education with a focus on environmental protection.
While she described the job change as “exciting” and “a new adventure,” the defining moments that shaped Schafer’s career began in Woods Hole, Mass., Where she took a biology class. Marine ; Fittingly, Schafer returned to the same town to conduct our interview.
Between snorkeling sessions and studying the organisms that inhabit the waters of Woods Hole, Schafer discovered the mysterious world of marine biology.
“I’ve always loved the ocean,” Schafer said. “But I never really thought about what was actually in the water, so it really sparked my interest and excitement in learning more about ocean ecosystems.” Driven by her interest and enthusiasm, Schafer was drawn to Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, which allows undergraduates to take advanced courses in marine biology.
Schafer’s second moment of discovery came in Jamaica, where she helped establish a marine protected area. Jumping into the coral reefs of Jamaica’s warm, clear waters, she was struck by their beauty, but also sought to learn more and research the reefs.
This experience, coupled with witnessing the dramatic “before and after” comparison of coral reef bleaching in Belize, inspired her to research coral reef ecology for her doctoral thesis.
After obtaining his doctorate. At the University of California at Berkeley, Schafer held several jobs, including teaching on a boat in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the process, she discovered her love for teaching – her “third moment”.
“I really missed the long term relationships that I developed with the students,” she said. “I really missed getting to know people in a more substantive way.” Besides her love for teaching, Schafer attributed the energy of high school students as another reason she became a high school teacher.
The opportunity to realize his love for education and science came in the form of a job offer from Harker School in San Jose. During her 15 years there, she taught and developed several courses, including Biology, Marine Biology, AP Environmental Science, and a research class. As part of a summer ecology course offered by Harker, Schafer traveled with his students to Southeast Alaska.
“There are things [in Alaska] reminiscent of Northern California, but in a broader and deeper way. Schafer said. “I feel that tugging and that need to be there.”
Having called Northern California her home since her time at Stanford, Schafer said she was ready to embark on a new adventure in SoCal.
As the California wildfires reddened the Bay Area skies in 2020, the urgency of the climate crisis prompted Schafer to reflect on what was most important to her and how she could get it. the greatest impact. The result: the start of a new teaching position at Sequoyah School in Pasadena, California.
Students at Sequoyah School, a Kindergarten to Grade 12 day school, embark on several camping and hiking trips each year. Locations range from the Grand Canyon to Costa Rica via the Colorado River. These interactive and hands-on learning opportunities spoke to Schafer.
People are more “connected to nature and more inclined to… improve conditions in the world if they have these experiences,” she said.
In addition to off-campus trips, Sequoyah School also runs a Social Innovation Program, in which students pursue in-depth research and social projects to support one of the United Nations‘ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Sequoyah School also offers five and 10 week interdisciplinary electives that allow students to explore environmental protection through the prism of science, English, history or another department.
These interdisciplinary electives, Schafer said, remind him of Stanford programs.
“One of the amazing things Stanford has done is create these interdisciplinary programs that really draw on the expertise of many different departments.” Schafer said. “Having these experiences at university where people from different backgrounds come together allows students to be successful when they step into the real world.”