June 25, 2001
Environmental Institute wraps up 10th year
By Deb Hammacher
For the 10th year, Oxford College hosted nearly 20 Georgia K12
teachers at its Oxford Institute for Environmental Education, June 1122.
The program, which recently was recognized with the Conservation Educator
of the Year Award by the Georgia Wildlife Federation, trains Georgia teachers,
who often have limited exposure to ecology courses, in hands-on laboratory
and field techniques.
Many schools in Georgia have outdoor classrooms, but so few are
being fully used by teachers and students, said Steve Baker, associate
professor of biology at Oxford and director of the institute. We
get teachers with every level of experience in science and ecology, and
every one of them leaves with renewed confidence and enthusiasm for teaching
Hundreds of Georgia educators have gained or enhanced their skills in
using inquiry-based teaching of natural science during the decade the
institute has been in existence. The emphasis has always been on
investigative learning, Baker said. That has become hot in
education circles lately, but weve been focusing on providing those
teaching skills since the beginning.
The Oxford Institute for Environmental Education is housed at the Oxhouse
Science Center adjacent to the college, a 47-acre ecology laboratory,
which includes a small lake and 40 acres of forest, grassland and easy
access to both pristine and polluted streams in the area.
Over the course of the two weeks the institute is in session, the educators
asked questions and designed plans for scientific investigations in their
own school environments. Through this
Instead of just telling kids why the worlds rainforests are
endangered, the teachers can help their students discover how streams
in their own community might be endangered, said Eloise Carter,
professor of biology at Oxford and instructor in the institute. While
learning about the rainforest is certainly worthwhile, knowing about their
own school environment and community is much more relevant to kids.
In addition to the two-week summer institute, the teachers will meet
for a half-day session in the fall to relate experiences implementing
their plans and discuss future, long-range plans for additional investigations.
The institute staff also makes a concerted effort to visit each teachers
class during the school year to evaluate first hand the institutes
Participants in the 2001 institute included three teachers from Atlanta, three from the Covington/Conyers area, and others from suburbs such as Buford, Decatur, Lithonia, Monroe and Stone Mountain.