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Teachers study ecology at Oxford
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Several teachers are learning about schoolyard ecology and how to teach their students more about science and all that nature has to offer as they attend a hands-on professional development seminar this week at Oxford College.

At the annual Oxford Institute for Environmental Education seminar, Oxford biology faculty are training K-12 teachers in new techniques for teaching science. The professional development program runs through June 7.

Oxford biology faculty members, including Steven Baker, Eloise Carter and Theodosia Wade were on hand Tuesday morning teaching 14 teachers from Newton County Schools and the surrounding areas how to create their own schoolyard investigations.

During Tuesday’s instructional session, teachers learned more about botany. Carter demonstrated to teachers how to create their own plant presses and then teachers took to the outdoors to practice the methods taught to them.
Teachers participating in this year’s program include Newton College and Career Academy’s Angela Cooper and Kemily Pattillo; Eastside High School’s Shannon Lawrence and Victoria DiLetto; East Newton Elementary’s Kim Young; and Middle Ridge Elementary’s Leslie Studdard.

After listening to the botany lesson, teachers, including Cooper and Pattillo, worked together outside to put together their own plant press, a process that involved collecting plant specimens and labeling them for display.

Cooper said since she hasn’t been in the biology classroom for a few years, the OIEE course is refreshing her knowledge of teaching science.

“It’s so neat to have someone teach me how to teach outdoors and how to take what I know and take the kids outside other than in the traditional classroom,” Copper said.

“And then how to design an activity to get them to discover, rather than me just sitting in front and lecturing to them, but let them do the learning with lots of hands-on…things I can really use in the classroom.”

Pattillo agreed that Oxford’s biology faculty teaching the OIEE program have been helpful in sharpening her science teaching skills.

She said she likes that the biology staff members are teaching educators how to ask the right questions to get students thinking and then in-turn to get students to ask questions.

“I have taught biology the last couple of years. Next year, I will be teaching chemistry and physical science, so maybe the direct activities won’t be the same activities I do, but the process… I can still use in my classroom and figure how to get them outside and go through the process of asking questions and make observations and use it in the curriculum,” Pattillo said.

OIEE was founded at Oxford College in 1992. Since its inception, the program has trained more than 350 teachers and by extension has influenced science education throughout Georgia and the region.

Major funding for OIEE comes from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, with additional support from the Chevron Foundation, Georgia Power Foundation, Georgia Wildlife Federation, Georgia Teacher Quality Program and Walmart.

The institute has received the Certificate of Environmental Achievement Award from the National Awards Council for Environmental Sustainability and named Conservation Educator of the Year Award by the Georgia Wildlife Federation.