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Earth days: Local teacher takes part in outdoor workshop

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Kerry Stevens, a ninth-grade biology teacher and an 11th-grade environmental science teacher at Eastside High School, collects specimens at the Oxford Institute of Environmental Education workshop on Monday. The two-week program trains teachers on school yard investigations that they can use in their own classrooms.

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Kerry Stevens, a ninth-grade biology teacher and an 11th-grade environmental science teacher at Eastside High School, collects specimens at the Oxford Institute of Environmental Education workshop on Monday. The two-week program trains teachers on school yard investigations that they can use in their own classrooms.

COVINGTON -- Science teachers from all over Georgia are learning a little more about outdoor classrooms by exploring Newton County this week.

Fifteen teachers -- 14 from Georgia, including one from Eastside High School, and one from Florida -- have been studying at Oxford College and at rivers and outdoor areas of Newton County as part of the Oxford Institute of Environmental Education, which began last week and ends this week.

"All of our activities are working toward helping teachers use inquiry-based learning in school yard investigations," said Steven Baker, one of the Oxford College professors leading the program.

While participating in the workshop, teachers develop a school yard investigation plan that targets their individual schools and learn about investigations that students can use in their classrooms.

"I wanted to be able to teach environmental science and get more in depth," said Kerry Stevens, a ninth-grade biology teacher and an 11th-grade environmental science teacher at Eastside High School. "It really changes the way of how you want to organize your class. It's much more of a hands-on approach ... and getting the kids outside. Sometimes, the only outside experience they get is going from their house to the bus."

Baker said teachers will share their ideas with each other during the two-week- long program.

"That's the best way for students to learn," he said. "It then becomes their learning."

Teachers also learned about grant writing and explored sites at Bear Creek, Dried Indian Creek, the pond at the Oxhouse Science Center and the Georgia Wildlife Federation.

Since it began in 1991, OIEE has trained more than 300 K-12 teachers in Georgia and Florida. Teachers also can earn stipends and professional learning credits by participating in the program.

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

More information about it is available on its website, www.oiee.oxford.emory.edu. Applications for the summer institute generally are due in April.