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June 25, 2001

Environmental Institute wraps up 10th year

By Deb Hammacher


For the 10th year, Oxford College hosted nearly 20 Georgia K–12 teachers at its Oxford Institute for Environmental Education, June 11–22. 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 environmental education.”

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 we’ve 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
process teachers gain the tools to design lessons that are particularly pertinent to their students.

“Instead of just telling kids why the world’s 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 teacher’s class during the school year to evaluate first hand the institute’s success.

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.


Back to Emory Report June 25, 2001