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Newton teachers participate in Oxford workshop

Six teachers from the Newton County School System were selected to be part of this year's Oxford Institute of Environmental Education summer workshop. Pictured is Angela Cooper, a biology teacher from the Newton College & Career Academy, studying a leaf near Old Church in Oxford for a tree identification study. Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Six teachers from the Newton County School System were selected to be part of this year's Oxford Institute of Environmental Education summer workshop. Pictured is Angela Cooper, a biology teacher from the Newton College & Career Academy, studying a leaf near Old Church in Oxford for a tree identification study. Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

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Kim Young, a fifth-grade teacher at East Newton Elementary School, sketches a leaf during a class. The week-long program also had the teachers investigate a pond in Oxford and press plants.

OXFORD -- Summer just began, but some Newton County teachers remain hard at work getting ready for next school year.

As part of the annual Oxford Institute of Environmental Education workshop this week, 14 K-12 teachers are exploring the local science world to assist in their classrooms. The program selected six Newton teachers who applied earlier this yearr.

"We were happy to have a number of good teachers from Newton apply this year," said Steve Baker, one of the program organizers.

Most of the teachers are from the metro-Atlanta area, but others come from elementary, middle and high schools from all parts of Georgia.

The program is led by Oxford College faculty, who teach classroom lessons and outdoor investigations.

"We're trying to broaden our science program with more hands-on activities and utilizing our outdoor classroom to get the kids more involved," said Kim Young, a fifth-grade teacher at East Newton Elementary School, when asked about why she wanted to be in the program. "We want them to be more aware of their surroundings."

This week, teachers participated in several schoolyard investigations that involved trees around Oxford, took a closer look into the lake at Oxford College and learned about pressing plants and creating a classroom herbarium. Teachers also learned about creating outdoor classrooms and grant writing, among other skills and tips from the college staff.

"It teaches us how to get the kids outside and still cover the curriculum," said Kemily Pattillo, a physical science and chemistry teacher at the Newton College & Career Academy.

Fellow NCCA teacher Angela Cooper, who teaches biology, said that they have been able to interact with fellow teachers and learn activities to use in their classrooms.

"Everything we've done applies to the classroom," she said, adding that she needs more activities for her students that are more hands-on and outside of the classroom so they are more interested and learn better.

Even Pre-K teacher Leslie Studdard, who teaches at Middle Ridge Elementary School, said she is learning things for her students next year and beyond.

"It's teaching us a way to get out and engage them," she said. "It has to be hands-on, so they enjoy it."

This year, the program was shortened from a two-week program to a one-week program in order to fit better into their often short summer schedules.

Teachers can receive stipends and classroom grants through the program, which began in 1991; they also can earn professional learning units.

The institute is funded through Oxford College, the Chevron Foundation, Georgia Power Foundation and Georgia Wildlife Federation.

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