A handful of students, faculty and community members roamed the Discovery Learning Center last fall, where the Build a Better Book program was introducing its latest project, 3D picture books. Attendees paused and inspected each table in the makerspace, which were covered in colorful 3D storyboards. Interns blindfolded willing attendees and demonstrated the usefulness of 3D figurines to illustrate picture books for visually impaired children and adults.
Build a Better Book intern Estelle Silk, a sophomore and student ambassador for the CU Boulder School of Education, learned about the project through one of her professors.
“The professor was looking for education students to work with Build a Better Book so that we could apply what we’ve learned about how kids learn how to read,” Silk said.
The Build a Better Book project is a collaborative effort between the School of Education, the College of Engineering and Applied Science, CU Science Discovery, the ATLAS institute, the Colorado Center for the Blind as well as numerous library, school and community partners. Working with school and library makerspaces, the project aims to engage youth in creating inclusive media with innovate technology, such as 3D picture books.
“I thought it was really cool because I’d never considered 3D picture books before. It's different from normal braille so it gets kids interested. Adults who go blind also find it really interactive.”
The internship with Build a Better Book opened Silk’s eyes to the importance of inclusivity in teaching and the importance of learning to teach in new ways.
But Silk has not always been as enthusiastic about education as she is today. Coming into CU Boulder, Silk had her heart set on studying social work.
“I wanted to help people out and being a social worker is such a direct way to help people’s lives in ways they needed it,” Silk said.
In her first year, Silk decided to take a class through the School of Education— just to try it out.
“My mom and my grandma were teachers, so for the longest time I wasn’t planning on being a teacher. But I took an education class and it really clicked for me,” Silk said.
Aside from the tight knit community and helpful advisors in the School of Education, Silk said that the relationships she has with her professors has helped solidify her vision for her future in education.
When Silk took the School and Society course (EDUC 3013) with Terrenda White, assistant professor in educational foundations, policy and practice, White’s first-hand experiences in education made all the difference.
When deciding if I should commit to an elementary education major, I thought about the people who made the largest impact on my life and I realized it was my teachers."
“When she taught, it didn't feel like it’s out of the textbook,” Silk said. “Her class really pushed me to want to help beyond being a teacher but the education system as a whole.” A year later, White helped Silk put together a roadmap to law school.
“At that point, I knew I wanted to work in education. I wanted to do something really big, and she shared with me and talked me through all of it,” Silk said. “Hopefully having a law degree will allow me to help students and help address the problems in education.”
Passionate about education reform and inclusivity, Silk is now pursuing an Elementary Education degree and plans to continue on to law school after graduation. At the end of the day, Silk hopes to help people, and she knows that the School of Education is teaching her the skills to do just that.
“When deciding if I should commit to an elementary education major, I thought about the people who made the largest impact on my life and I realized it was my teachers,” Silk said with a smile.
“I wouldn’t be where I am in school right now without my teachers and professors.”