M.A., Adventure Education, Prescott College
Brett Mayer teaches Grade 8 science at Carolina Day. He earned a B.A. in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia and an M.A. in Adventure Education from Prescott College (AZ). Brett has more than twelve years of teaching experience in independent schools, including Landon (MD), Hotchkiss (CT), and Episcopal High School (VA). In addition to his love of science, Brett is an avid paddler who currently serves part-time as Public Policy Chief for the American Canoe Association and works with the Outdoor Alliance to represent the interests of paddlers. Brett played college soccer as a goalkeeper and still has an abiding love of "the beautiful game." His daughter Aoife Mayer is enrolled as a new kindergartner.
Get to know Brett Mayer:
What interesting background, training, etc. do you bring to your position?
"Throughout my career, I have worked, primarily, as a high school science teacher specializing in environmental studies, ecology, and the earth sciences. I have worked in both boarding and day school environments and served in a variety of capacities advising, coaching, and mentoring students. I have a background in adventure education and am passionate about the intersection of service, expeditionary, and project-based learning pedagogies.
I recently concluded a tenure as the board chair for the Potomac Crescent Waldorf School, where my children Aoife and Stokes both attended. The philosophy of Waldorf is close to my heart, and I am grateful for the opportunity I had to serve."
What professional recognition have you received?
"Most recently I was invited to speak at the 50th anniversary of the River Management Society’s symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of our nation’s Wild and Scenic River’s Program to present my research on the lived experiences of whitewater paddlers through time.
Through my career I have always made efforts to do independent projects on topics related to sustainability and outdoor education, which include traversing the country in a waste vegetable oil powered car, participating in an expedition to Antarctica, and traveling with students to Peru and Belize."
In what ways can you teach/engage children at CDS that you couldn't at other schools?
"My family and I chose to come to CDS because we were intrigued by the school’s strong commitment to learner-centered growth and the school’s view of education as a process of becoming. These are the experiences we want for our children, and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to pursue engaging students in the classroom through experiences that focus not just on content acquisition, but center on creating and making in relation to essential questions relevant to everyday life and the world students are going to encounter upon graduation. It is an exciting time in education, and a tremendously exciting time to become a part of the CDS community."
What do you like most about your job at CDS?
"Well, I just got here, but so far, I am struck by the level of honesty and authenticity that seems to reverberate through all parts of this community. It is inspiring."
In your opinion, how does the CDS community inspire students to be courageous and curious, wonder about things that they don’t understand, try new things, and develop individual passions?
"Again, I am new to the community, but so far, my impression is that failure is celebrated and recognized here, not as a means to ruin, but as a vital pathway to becoming your best self. Education rooted in joy helps move students beyond a sense of fear of failure, and provides students an opportunity to anchor themselves in a spirit of courage and curiosity."
What books and authors inspire you, your curriculum, and your classroom? Why?
"There are so many books and authors that I find inspirational, and that influence my work, but most recently there are two books that stand out. The first is Let Them Be Eaten by Bears by Peter Brown Hoffmeister. I related a lot to the author and his style of raising his own children in his spirited narrative guide to help kids and parents enjoy nature and get outside. Getting out is key to a basis of inquiry about the world in which we live. Great science students are those that cultivate a strong sense of observational awareness and there is no better training ground that I can think of then the great outdoors. The second book is Middle Schooled by Andy Mullen, a friend of mine who is a middle school counselor in Philadelphia. He kept a record of weekly emails to parents about the trials and tribulations of going through middle school through the calendar year. It is an honest, humorous, and lighthearted book that connected me back to my own sense of growth and change during those years of my life."
What is your favorite quote about education, mentorship, children, and/or learning?
"Well, I am not sure it is directly about education, but I think it applies to so many things:
'Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.' I enjoy the apparent irony in this simple quote. I heard it while training for the Green River Narrows Race a few years back. We all move so quickly, and I think doing things quickly along with the quest for ever greater efficiencies can be a kind of addiction. Go slow, breathe deeply, and enjoy the process. This seems so simple and yet it is so difficult. I think reminding students and ourselves that building mastery and a strong skill set is something that does not come easy, or quickly. It is a practice that must be gardened over time."
How would you describe yourself and/or your approach to your job in 10 words or less?
"Helping students unearth a sense of adventure and discovery about the world."
Which classroom projects/events are you known for?
"One of my favorite projects, which I am constantly refining, is a pallet project that asks students to take an old shipping pallet and repurpose it into something new. While doing so, they get a chance to learn about the life cycles of products and think about their world in relation to objects, consumption, and environmental impact."
What personal passion brings balance to your life?
"Right now, being outside with my family is my favorite thing to do. Finding new experiences for all of us to do together is such an awesome opportunity, and one of the big reasons we wanted to move to Asheville. Last weekend we were hiking Graveyard Fields in bare feet through the mud and eating blueberries the whole time. I cannot imagine a much better way to spend a day. I am also an avid paddler, mountain biker, skier, climber, surfer… there is not enough time to keep up with it all, there are too many fun things to do!"
Is there anything else we should know about you and your work?
"The thing I am most excited about right now as an educator is working hard to create classroom experiences that are supported by assessment methods that provide students with the opportunity to reflect on their growth in areas related to process and content. Education is moving in this direction and doing this well is an exciting challenge."
How is CDS different from what you experienced as a child in school? Why/how is what you see now valuable?
"CDS is moving in the direction I want to go as a teacher. This is also the way I wish I had more of an opportunity to pursue as a student. Producing, making, and creating something as a product of one’s learning is a powerful way to engage in the world. I am excited about being here, and feel so lucky."