The great outdoors: Teachers from across region visit Oxford for environmental education

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

OXFORD -- Two Newton County teachers and several Oxford College professors are playing outside this week and learning a few things to take back to their classrooms.

Since June 7 and continuing until Friday, 22 teachers from elementary, middle and high schools in Georgia and north Florida are participating in the Oxford Institute for Environmental Education, led by Oxford College professors.

"My colleagues and I look forward each year to the two weeks of OIEE," said Steven Baker, Oxford College professor of biology and OIEE director. "Environmental concerns are global, but education starts on the local level; it is exciting for us to work with the teachers of our region in employing best practices for imparting environmental awareness and methods to their students."

Since its founding in 1992, OIEE has trained more than 300 teachers and by extension has influenced science education in the region, Baker said. The institute was awarded the Certificate of Environmental Achievement from the National Awards Council for Environmental Sustainability and named Conservation Educator of the Year Award by the Georgia Wildlife Federation.

Two of those participating in the 2010 10-day seminar were from the Newton County School System -- Kia James, a science teacher at Newton High School, and Sondra Glenn, a life sciences teacher at Clements Middle School. Both are attending for the first time. They, along with the 20 others, were chosen from a pool of 70 applicants this year.

"It seemed really in-depth," James said about why she applied for the institute.

It met her expectations, as the teachers created group projects, held classroom discussions, searched for organisms in the pond at the Oxhouse Science Center, identified leaves and even trampled through Newton County's Bear Creek.

"It helps me as a teacher take things I learned and bring it back to my classrooms," she said. "I've gotten some great ideas from other teachers, too."

Glenn, who just completed her first year of teaching, was especially pleased with the workshop.

"It's helped me out with a lot of great ideas," she said. "This year, I noticed that our school didn't have a lot of outdoor activities. I want to set up a space at our school for outdoor projects."

In the fall, the teachers will reconvene for a follow-up meeting to discuss what they learned and present their continuing projects.

The institute is funded through the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Chevron Foundation, Georgia Power Foundation, Georgia Wildlife Federation, Georgia Teacher Quality Program and Wal-Mart.

More information about it is available at www.oiee.oxford.emory.edu. Applications for the summer institute generally are due in April. Teachers can earn stipends and professional learning credits by attending the workshop.