In Memory of Edwina Czajkowski

by Kathi Mitchell

Whenever Edwina Czajkowski suggested trying an activity or a new program, I always said “yes” because I knew it would be a great learning experience for me and my students, as well as a whole lot of fun.

Learning was always active and energetic with Project SEE – no sitting in a classroom listening to someone lecture. Hawk watchers were outside with binoculars on a nearby rooftop watching and tabulating numbers of hawks flying overhead. Then there was the Hawk Convention where students from each elementary school represented various raptors and cheered for their favorites. There was a wonderful combination of learning and being an active participant in that process.

Fifth graders studied oceanography at the ocean and on a whale watch. First graders learned about birds by standing outside the cottage at White Farm with seeds in their small palms as chickadees swooped down to eat – studying nature up close and personal. Younger students learned about penguins and penguin behavior and could name the various types of penguins. Do you know the difference between gentoo, chinstrap, and adelie penguins? Generations of Concord kids do because of their Project SEE experiences. Cow

Who can forget the time kindergarten students got to Meet A Cow - a real cow? Then there was a natural dyeing demonstration in a downtown Concord bank parking lot where Edwina brought some sheep for everyone to see and touch. Later, there was also a visit from a wolf as well as other assorted mammals.

Monarch butterflyMonarch butterflies and Karner Blues became a special part of the curriculum especially since the latter were found across the Merrimack River in the pine barrens. Learning experiences were connected to the community. 

Every Concord sixth grader learned about winter ecology, spending a day in January following and recording animal tracks, snowshoeing, building a fire to cook lunch, and getting acquainted with the amazing resource that is White Farm. Afterwards, there were animal tracking counts and personal journals to complete.

Third graders studied wetlands by visiting them and getting their hands wet (and sometimes their feet). They used microscopes to study plants and animals and always recorded the results.

But, it wasn’t just animals and nature. Concord students learned about simple machines by using them, even lifting their teachers into the air. Edwina made arrangements with St. Edwina CzajkowskiPaul’s School to bring kids and parents at night to the observatory to use the telescopes to view what they had been studying about astronomy. She also brought the Game of Village to Concord where sixth graders learned about land use, city planning, finances, jobs, and town meetings. Each student was responsible for creating a miniature house to develop a miniature village. Students assumed various community roles and established a monetary system as well as a government over a six week period of time. They all had to work together to accomplish the task, which was always an essential component of anything Edwina did. Many years later, those students still remember their adventures in running a community. In 2008, a Kimball School student wrote a college paper about the impact the the Game of Village had on ten of her peers. Edwina’s legacy continues.

Edwina involved the local community in her many activities. Parents were always invited to visit and assist on field trips or in the classroom. Other members of the school community were helpful partners in various activities including developing a trail system at White Farm for Concord citizens. Edwina utilized retirees as well. She would often speak about the need for intergenerational connections, and she would endeavor to create them.

Edwina was the finest teacher I have ever known. She brought intelligence, creativity, and a solid background in the curriculum to every class. She kept up to date on what was happening in the educational world and was quick to provide teachers with information and ideas to accomplish goals. She would introduce new ways to teach old topics. She would regularly offer suggestions for a good book to read. She taught me more about teaching than any college course.

Her workshops for teachers were the best ever. First of all, there was food, which in the late afternoon was a life-saver. Then there were hands-on activities that made the time fly by and which were so very creative. She knew how to engage the adult students in the same way she taught the younger ones. She made her students think and explore scientific topics while having a good time. If you ever asked her for help with a project, you found yourself with tons of materials and ideas, and you just wanted to use all of them because they were so valuable.

Edwina made a difference, was the very best teacher, and will be missed.

After Edwina passed away in January of 2020, friends and a former student wrote and produced a book to remind us of the lessons that she exemplified. The book is available as a free PDF file through the link below for you to read and enjoy.

The Story of Edwina Czajkowski: Building Project SEE

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