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Newton teacher participates in annual Oxford institute

Newton County teacher Susan Bohannon, left, and classmat Cathy Tinder, a teacher from Vero Beach, Fl., work the Bear Creek together collecting as many different critters as they can find. Bohannon, a seventh-grade life science teacher at Indian Creek Middle School, was one of 16 teachers to visit Bear Creek Monday morning as part of the Oxford Institute of Environmental Education workshop. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Newton County teacher Susan Bohannon, left, and classmat Cathy Tinder, a teacher from Vero Beach, Fl., work the Bear Creek together collecting as many different critters as they can find. Bohannon, a seventh-grade life science teacher at Indian Creek Middle School, was one of 16 teachers to visit Bear Creek Monday morning as part of the Oxford Institute of Environmental Education workshop. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

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Oxford College biology professors Eloise Carter and Steve Baker show teachers the technique of using a net to gathering items from a water source. The two-week program has teachers from schools around Georgia and Florida participate in schoolyard and local habitat investigations that they can use in their own classes when the school year begins again.

COVINGTON -- Science teachers from around Georgia and Florida have been exploring Newton County this week.

As part of the annual Oxford Institute of Environmental Education workshop this month, 16 K-12 teachers are studying scientific investigations in the schoolyard and local habitats.

Of the teachers selected for the program are Susan Bohannon, a seventh-grade life science teacher at Indian Creek Middle School. She said she wanted to be part of the program because it is being taught by Oxford College professors and she wanted to learn more techniques for her students.

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

This year, teachers explored terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems at the Oxhouse Science Center's lake and 47-acre grounds at Oxford College, East Newton Elementary School's schoolyard and outdoor classroom, Bear Creek in Newton County and other areas around the county.

"You really don't realize how much diversity you have in your own area until you explore it," Bohannon said.

She said the teachers have participated in two or three labs per day last week and this week for the program.

Teachers also learned about grant writing, tree identification and other investigations, library and Internet resources, data analysis and how to apply knowledge to lesson plans.

"It's been a wealth of information," Bohannon said.

She also gets ideas for her classroom from the other teachers in the program. She talks to them about how they run their classrooms and gets ideas for labs that their students participate in during class.

"It's exciting," she said. "It gives me different ideas for my students."

At ICMS, students can explore a nature trail and a small outdoor classroom, which Bohannon hopes to use more often next school year.

"I have so many ideas now," she said. "I'm already preparing for next year."

The teachers who participate in the summer program are invited back in November to participate in a followup workshop.

Since the program began in 1991, OIEE has trained more than 250 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 Oxford College, the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia, Chevron Foundation, Georgia Power Foundation, Georgia Wildlife Federation and Wal-Mart.

More information about the program, including how to apply, is available on its Web site, www.oiee.oxford.emory.edu.