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Release date:
June 1, 2001
Contact: Deb Hammacher, Assistant Director, 404-727-0644, or

Award-Winning Oxford College Program Boosts K-12 Teachers' Environmental Science Skills

For the 10th year, Oxford College of Emory University will host 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 had 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," says 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," says Baker. "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 Oxford 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. The educators ask questions and design plans for scientific investigations in their own school environments; 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," says 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 so much more relevant to kids."

In addition to the two-week summer institute, the teachers reconvene for a half-day session in the fall to relate experiences with 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 success of the institute.

The Oxford Institute for Environmental Education receives funding from the Eisenhower Program for Higher Education, the Georgia Power Foundation and Oxford College, and receives in-kind support from the Georgia Wildlife Federation.

Participants in the 2001 Oxford Institute for Environmental Education are:
Karen Booth, Eastside High School, Covington, Ga.
Dianne Fortenberry, McNair High School, Atlanta, Ga.
Iris Franklin, Social Circle Elementary School, Social Circle, Ga.
Debra Gothmann, Kingfisher Academy, Atlanta, Ga.
Sally Joyce, The Nature Conservancy, Atlanta, Ga.
Michelle Kennedy, Eastside High School, Covington, Ga.
Lucien Lockhart, Salem Middle School, Lithonia, Ga.
Ricky Manis, The Friends School of Atlanta, Inc., Decatur, Ga.
Kristi Mendheim, Stephenson High School, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Sharon Shackleford, George Walton Academy, Monroe, Ga.
Mary Ellen Smith, Kay’s Kiddie Corner, Conyers, Ga.
Donna Turman, Harmony Elementary School, Buford, Ga.
Janet Westervelt, Old Peachtree Montessori, Auburn, Ga.
Cheryl Newsted, Pate’s Creek Elementary School, Stockbridge, Ga.
Carlin Marsee, Kennedy Elementary School, Winder, Ga.
Amy Wade, Washington Park Elementary School, Monticello, Ga.
Sheila Patterson, Washington Park Elementary School, Monticello, Ga.

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