Teaching Science Inquiry

Teaching Science Inquiry

Can I become a science inquiry facilitator? . . . If I’ve never been one?

by Jim Martin

What do I need to be competent in, comfortable with, being a facilitator instead of a top-down teacher? I think a first thing is the recognition that people can learn on their own; that they don’t need to hear me say every single thing that I want them to know. To be free to allow that, facilitators have to be comfortable with their understandings of the content they are delivering. And, they need to be comfortable developing effective work groups. Actually, I can think of a bazillion things, but these three are, so I currently believe, essential to making the transition.

If the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and New Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are going to become more than simply another swing of the pendulum that arcs through the schools with predictive regularity, then teachers need to rally to support and develop those pieces of these initiatives which are directly targeted at the deficiencies in our teaching. Deficiencies which have landed us in a mediocre position in the educational statistics describing achievement on the globe. We’re the only ones who can do it.

Both the CCSS and NGSS initiatives profess to be based on a constructivist, active learning model of teaching and learning. This, to me, is wonderful news. Our brain is admirably organized to learn by actively constructing conceptual schemata, conceptual learnings. It does this best by asking questions of the real world. This means that teachers aren’t , of necessity, people who put learning into other people’s brains; rather, they are people who can organize their teaching environments to draw out the learning potential which resides in their students’ brains. They facilitate those brains to enter a conceptual space, engage and discuss what is there, and find out as much as they can about it. Like the little robotic vacuum cleaners, when, once their switch is turned on, clean up all the dust and litter in the room. All by themselves, with no one directing them. Once you turn on a brain, it doesn’t turn off. Unless it loses its freedom to work.

I’ve observed this dichotomy of teaching practices as long as I have taught, and been a student. Didactic, teacher-centered practices, and constructivist, student-centered practices: Is it a matter of personality, or of comfort with the content and methods being used to teach it? That makes a teacher prefer one or another? I’ve had (and observed) teachers who told me what to learn and how to learn it, then tested me on the results. Twice, in high school, I had teachers who threw out an idea, then sat back as I tried to find out more about it. I remember what I learned by finding out 60 years later. And the excitement of the learning. I carry no specific memories of learnings from the rest, except for things which personally interested me, like diagramming sentences. Which, odd it may seem, I loved to do.

The didactic teacher I had from fifth through eighth grades was the kind who told me what to learn and how to learn it all the way to the last days of eighth grade. Then, she started us on the way to pre-algebra by saying, “You don’t have to learn this. Just see if you can follow the argument.” Then, she wrote on the board the first algebraic expression I’d ever seen, a + 2 = 6. I looked at that for awhile and thought, “Wow! You can use letters to stand for anything! You could learn about anything with that!” A mind, at last free to explore.

For that brief moment, my stern, demanding teacher had become a facilitator. All by herself. That was 1952. Had her stern and demanding exterior reflected a lack of comfort with the content she was teaching and the methods used to deliver it; or, was her exterior reflecting the personality within? I can’t answer that question, but the obvious interest and enthusiasm she brought to the introduction to equations suggest she may not have actually been a stern and demanding person. It seems almost, from hindsight, relief to be free to teach as she thought she ought that I observed those very few days at the end of eighth grade. Today, more teachers have experienced being facilitators, but many have not. What would you need to become one? How can you find out?

At this point, I should leave you to find out; but, I’ll barge ahead with my own ideas, just as any didactic teacher would. Hoping all along that you’ll adopt a constructivist approach to the subject. That said, let’s start with my offering of three things a person who is a facilitator must have encountered and successfully engaged.

The first is probably the most difficult for a teacher to entertain – recognizing that people can learn on their own. When I first experienced this, I was in my first year teaching below college, in a 7th grade self-contained classroom. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had begun employing a constructivist teaching paradigm. It was hard, exciting work, yet I always felt the anxiety-producing peer pressure from colleagues whose view of school was students sitting in rows doing quiet seat work. Luckily, I had a very supportive principal, who encouraged what I was doing. And I applied what I had so far learned from raising my own children, that they do best when they are following up on choices they have made, which I had offered them, and which were within the limits I knew were workable.

So, what did I learn about using constructivist vehicles for delivering 7th grade curricula? About whether and how students can learn on their own? One, that this worked. At least, for me. They had two and a half hours each morning for language arts. During that tiem, they scheduled and worked on open-ended (but contained) writing and reading assignments. We also used speech and drama to engage active learning. (I didn’t know that’s what it is called; I simply knew it worked.) For instance, while working in groups to write and deliver one-act plays to elementary classes, they also learned the current language arts curriculum I had to deliver. Students became involved and invested in their work, and I noticed they also seemed empowered as persons. These were outcomes of the work; I wanted to know how this involvement and investment in their educations came to be. And that started my lengthy, often-interrupted journey into the human brain. A long stretch for me, with my background in intertidal marine invertebrate communities!

How would a constructivist science-inquiry delivery look in an actual classroom in two very different activities? The first is a microscope activity, where students observe for the stages of mitosis in plant cells. The second is a field activity, where students observe the effects of streamside vegetation on the temperature and dissolved oxygen content of the water adjacent to it.

When you employ a constructivist paradigm to organize the delivery of your curriculum, the students’ job is to construct the concepts you hope they’ll acquire by examining the pieces of the concept they are acquiring. Instead of you telling them the concept, they learn its essential parts by engaging them, and then use these parts to tell themselves the concept. A different way to teach; but effective. The first few attempts call for courage and confidence on the part of the teacher. And, in time, the patience to take the time to allow the learning to happen.

How does this play out? In the mitosis activity, you might start by projecting a slide of plant tissue containing cells whose chromosomes have been stained; the usual root cells most of us have observed. You have students pair up to do two things: Locate as many chromosomal configurations as they can and draw them. Or, if you know your students well, ask them to find out if there is any underlying order in the mish-mash of chromosomal configurations they see. This done, they are to organize their drawings in the order they think they occur during the progress of cell division. If you’re truly brave, you might ask them to find and draw other cellular evidence to support your placements. That done, they can present their findings, then go to the books and internet to find what other scientists have found about cell division. They will learn as much, or more, than you would have taught them. And moved further on the road to becoming life-long learners; explorers of the world they live in.

In the streamside activity, you ask each group to take a reach along the stream, then find out the effect of the vegetation on temperature and dissolved oxygen in the water along that reach. Nearly all students can do this. You can provide gentle hints about overhanging vegetation if necessary. The hard part of this work for you is locating a stream which has enough overhanging vegetation for the number of groups in your class. When they’ve collected the data, they find out what they can about temperature and dissolved oxygen, and relate that to what they observed. Next, they prepare presentations about their work, what their data tell them, and what next steps would be if they have discussed them in their groups. (Note that these are things the students and teacher do. To know what they think, we need to go into the brain.)

Eventually, with a constructivist approach to conceptual learnings, coupled with a didactic approach to things like safely lighting a bunsen burner or using a dissolved oxygen probe, I became convinced that this consistently led to solid learning. So, I slowly began to learn about the brain we carry with us, and the ways that it learns. What I found reinforced what I observed; validated it as a teaching paradigm based on real evidence. I had observed evidence over the years that students seeking answers to their own questions involved and invested them in their work; but that was just me, making observations and inferences. As I learned more about how the brain processes input from the world outside the body, I discovered that what I observed was real. Students get better and better at this. Probably quicker than you do. This relates to students as autonomous learners. Autonomous because they are pointing their needs to know, and following up on them.

The other two things a facilitator must engage, comfort with understandings of content, and comfort with developing effective work groups, are our responsibilities. Here is how I approached them. First, I recognized that they are, indeed, our responsibilities. Just as it was my responsibility to take college and graduate courses to fill the gaps in my understandings when I taught in college. Goes with the job. We’re teaching professionals, and that places the onus on us to do what is necessary to become comfortable with the content we teach. The only way to do that is to learn the content. We can take courses in it, work out an internship with someone who does the work, or teach ourselves. It’s an unfortunate fact of American education that we’ll be asked more than once in our careers to teach content we’re either marginally prepared to teach, or know next to nothing about. It will take all of us, working together, to resolve that.

When I finally decided to teach in K-12 schools, I knew nothing about teaching reading. I’d taken literature courses in college, but could only recall that we read, then discussed, then wrote papers. Not much help. I’d noticed in the few teacher education courses I’d taken that the most informative were the special education courses, so I enrolled in a course in corrective reading. It was taught by Colin Dunkeld, and delivered within a constructivist paradigm. (This was in the early 1970s!) I became comfortable enough to make my own decisions about teaching language arts. The corrective reading course was very hard and time-consuming work, but had a great payoff – confidence in content and comfort in delivery. That, and my life-long love of words helped me build a useful / effective / profitable / worthwhile7th grade language arts curriculum.

When you decided to do the mitosis and streamside vegetation activities, you marshallled together your understandings about those topics. You’d observed slides of dividing onion root-tip cells in a genetics course you took in college, and felt familiar enough with the process and observations that you would probably only have to review and practice to come up to speed in the mitosis activity. You’d also taken two botany courses because you’ve always loved plants, so felt you could understand the vegetation part of the overhanging vegetation activity. Temperature and dissolved oxygen in streams is new to you, so you decide to ask around about finding help. You contact the school district science specialist who recommends a field trip program which focuses on the riparian (streams and their banks) which includes water temperature and dissolved oxygen in its offerings. As a real bonus, the program includes measuring the effect of streamside vegetation on temperature and dissolved oxygen near the stream bank, and a field trip for you and your students. Offerings like the one described are fairly common! You do have to ask.

If your circumstances are different for your preparation to teach these two activities, how would you approach them? Leave your thoughts as a comment for others who will, you can be sure, be interested. Or, leave a question for me to answer!

Aside from knowing and teaching the learner inside each student who enters your door, your becoming comfortable with content and its delivery is something you cannot bypass. Its effect on your students is profound. Think of yourself as being assigned to perform as a heart surgeon, even though you’d never done it. Would you be satisfied knowing that, while you did have experience in knee surgery, you had none in heart surgery? Like surgeons, we directly affect the quality of our students’ lives, and must be certain we are delivering the best education possible. We can’t do that if we’re uncertain about our content understandings and delivery methodologies. Knowing is our responsibility.

If you know the learner who lives within your students, and are comfortable with the content you teach, then you’re ready to become comfortable developing and using what I call Effective Work Groups. These are small groups of students who know how to work together to accomplish tasks, and who can coalesce into larger groups to carry out projects. Humans are social beings, and can learn to work together effectively. Let’s look at the two examples of constructivist approaches to learning as they would appear from within an effective work group, or team. First, make the groups, then have each group discuss the work and decide how to organize it. After each session, they will discuss how it went, decide on any modifications, and then continue. When the work is completed, and it’s time to move on to more curriculum, they in their groups, then as a class, nail down what they know about effective work groups. (Be sure to call them that, and that they know this is a goal. Toward the end of the year, have them develop a description of effective work groups.)

Now, here is what one group has decided to do. Mitosis: Identify chromosomes; find different examples of chromosomes; each person will use a microscope because they all need to develop this skill; sort chromosomes out; declare the steps in mitosis; research what other scientists have found out about chromosomes; develop and critique their report; report to the class; assess their work. Communication is important here; one of the keys to becoming effective. You have them assess the role of communication in the effectiveness of their work after they have found and identified chromosomes, sorted them into a process, and have prepared their report to the class. They decide they’ll each observe their own slide, and will show others what they find and what they think it means. They assign tasks when they present. Streamside vegetation: They divide into temperature and dissolved oxygen teams; each team learns how to do the observation, then teaches the other group; then they divide the reach. After they arrive on site, they decide to assign a group of Mappers to map the vegetation. The group works on communication when they discuss data’s meaning, and divide jobs when they look up other scientists’ work on web and in books. You ask them to assess their roles in their group, and the outcome of their working together.

Active learning within a constructivist paradigm is effective, even at the college level. Many teachers engage it, but far from enough. It takes confidence in your students’ capacity for autonomous learning, and confidence in your capacity to do and facilitate this kind of work. And patience; lots of it. If you don’t believe students of almost any age can engage this paradigm, find a class of young students which uses it and observe them at work. When they are born, children possess wonderful potential. The environments they develop in determine, to a large extent, whether they will generate the capacity to achieve their potential. If their environment believes they cannot, more than likely they won’t. If their environment recognizes the learner within, they more than likely will. And feel this is normal.

jimphoto3This is a regular feature by CLEARING “master teacher” Jim Martin that explores how environmental educators can help classroom teachers get away from the pressure to teach to the standardized tests,and how teachers can gain the confidence to go into the world outside of their classrooms for a substantial piece of their curricula. See the other installments here, or search Categories for “Jim Martin.”

Finding Lessons In the World Around Us: Bringing the Pieces Together

Finding Lessons In the World Around Us: Bringing the Pieces Together

Finding Lessons

Were You Assigned A Class You Have No Background or Preparation to Teach?

 

by Jim Martin
CLEARING Associate Editor

One year, I worked with a middle-school mathematics teacher who decided to engage his class in some work on a wetland and lake bordering a large river. He did this partly as a diversion from classroom struggles – his background and training weren’t in middle school mathematics; there was no one else available to do the work. And, he was interested in the concept of engaging his students in their community – project-based learning.

So, we went down to the site and took a tour. As we walked and talked, he suddenly stopped, took a few steps back, and stood looking down a shallow slope to the lake, then up the slope toward a wooded copse. I waited a few moments, then he remarked in an excited voice that everything changed as you looked from the water to the slope, and on up to the trees. He said something made that change, and it had to do with the slope. Then, he described what students would explore on a transect along the slope, and how. Wow! His class did the project, and, within two years, he developed into a very effective teacher.

What happened here? He knew he wanted to do something. He knew where he was in his mathematics teaching. And he was interested in his students. But he didn’t get any further until he took a walk, talked about what was there and what students had done, and noticed a slope – geological and mathematical – and, in terms of subsequent progress as a teacher, clarivoyant. The pieces of the puzzle suddenly came together.

How do we move from teaching our curricula one piece at a time, a disconnected clutter of disparate parts? Parts, learned long enough to refer to in a test; then, lost in a long trail of discarded artifacts. We need clear, strong trails if we are to lead effective, self-actualized lives. Learning has the potential to help us organize our selves so that our lives produce clear, permanent trails. In his teaching the middle school mathematics teacher began to build these clear trails, both for himself, and for his students. Part of the secret is learning about the curriculum in the real world, and its connection to the disparate clutter of artifacts we teach. In the classroom and on environmental education sites. I suggest we need to integrate them.

BEETLES-2One thing this teacher did was to let the class in on the plan. Doing this at the start involved and invested them in the work, and began to empower them to take responsibility for its parts. Early on, he began to notice that students were doing good work, and that they brought different sets of skills and abilities to the work. This was a pleasant surprise for him, and he began to see the class as a group of individuals who could make the classroom work environment an interesting one to be part of.

Soon enough, he reorganized the class into work crews, each one responsible for part of the job of assessing a transect up the slope from water’s edge to wooded copse. Accomplishing this was an utterly new experience for him, but he took to it as if he’d done it for years. Within a few weeks, he was beginning to coordinate his curriculum to the work on the slope. Aware of the mathematics curricula he was charged with, he organized the school week into days dedicated to mathematics and to the project. Students didn’t divide their new sense of personal investment in school. They became reliable students each day. Why? I think, because they were learning as humans evolved to learn. How their brain is best organized to do that job. Go into the real world, find real work to do, then focus all resources on this.

I think there were several vehicles which enabled this classroom to navigate from struggling to self-powered learning place. Specifics varied among teacher and students, but each vehicle carried them through its part of the course. The teacher was charged with teaching mathematics, for which he wasn’t well-prepared to do. He was both interested in improving his teaching, and in engaging his students in learning projects in the community in which they lived. Then he saw something, a slope in a landform, that brought these two seemingly disparate entities into a dynamic construct, a conceptual foundation for real learning, learning for understanding.

His students also boarded their first vehicles: crews, embedded curricula, brain work. At first, their commitment varied, but nearly all became interested in the project when they heard about it from the teacher. At the beginning, they were randomly assigned to their groups; but, as the teacher became more aware of them as individuals, he began to reorganize them into effective working groups, crews organized to execute particular parts of the plan.

So, the relationships among the people in the class began to morph. The teacher became the project manager, and the crews became technicians and staff working with a crew leader. Project manager and crews learned to reach out to local experts for advice. The teacher, because he was managing the project, and feeling responsible for teaching mathematics, began to use the mathematics embedded in the work site and the work itself to deliver part of his curriculum.

Locating embedded curricula seems difficult at first thought, but once you try, it becomes relatively easy. For instance, students can measure the maximum width and length of a leaf, and calculate the width to length ratio. They repeat this with other leaves from the same tree to see if that ratio holds true. Then they can see if there is a ratio for the maximum width of a fir or pine cone and its length that is consistent among a sample from the same species. As they do, ratio and proportion becomes sensible, a conceptual tool to use, rather than something to memorize for a test.

This doesn’t apply just to mathematics and science. Look for examples of alliteration in a natural area or in the school’s neighborhood. I’m looking at an example just now – a small tree whose leaves are attached to thin branches in an alternating sequence. When I see a set silhouetted against the sky, their leaves tripping along the branch, I see alliteration. Looking out the same window, I see many metaphors. Metaphors which can activate the same parts of my brain that are activated when I am engaged in close pursuit of the answer to an inquiry question. A very useful brain tool.

Looking past the leaves and metaphors, I see examples of social studies, music, art, drama, history. It’s all out there, the curricula we teach, in a form our brain is organized to use. Once it is engaged, we can then move into the prepared curricula which lives in classrooms. With one difference – this curricula will come to life because it will be engaged by a need-to-know generated by the world we live in. And learned in a way that ensures it will be used. In time, you will find that you can milk the prizes found on one excursion from the classroom to the schoolground, neighborhood, or riparian area for more than the embedded curricula you find. What you find and use generally has links to other curricula, and you can extend these threads quite far before you’ve either used them up, or have become tired of them.

These are things the teacher I worked with learned during the time we explored learning for understanding. By moving into the world we live in and discovering the curricula embedded there, and the involvement and investment the experience invoked in his students, he began to reorganize his teaching. The mathematics he discovered on site clarified what he was trying to teach in the classroom. The energy and growing expertise his students brought to the work helped him learn them as persons, to know when they engaged what I call the moment of learning, and to use their individual strengths to overcome their weaknesses. And they all grew. Because, in my opinion, they engaged their brains in the way brains evolved to learn and cope. Once engaged, they were ready to enter the more formal, abstract curricula which lived in their classroom. To learn it, not to pass a test, but to build their lives.

jimphoto3This is a regular feature by CLEARING “master teacher” Jim Martin that explores how environmental educators can help classroom teachers get away from the pressure to teach to the standardized tests,and how teachers can gain the confidence to go into the world outside of their classrooms for a substantial piece of their curricula. See the other installments here, or search Categories for “Jim Martin.”

Teaching Science Inquiry

How Big is Science? Can I Discover its Dimensions?

JimMartinOil

How Big is Science? Can I Discover its Dimensions?

There is great beauty in thoughts well conceived and clearly expressed.
This is science, when it is skillfully done.

by Jim Martin
CLEARING Associate Editor
(Photo by Jim Martin also!)

When I first taught high school science, I assumed that published curricula would provide reliable instruction for my students. Midway through my first year, it began to dawn on me that this might not be so. The curricula the school used was organized so students studying it would learn about science. This, besides being rather boring, would not do what I expected. I believe students come into my classroom to DO science, to become scientists. A much different process than learning about.

By this time in my career, I had learned that students’ brains could think; all by themselves. Sort of an ‘Oh, duh’ thought, but new to me. What first put me onto this was observing students move from serial to parallel processing as they developed conceptual understandings. That, and reflecting on student frustrations and failures in lab when I assumed that their lab manuals had been written by authorities who “knew.” Thinking about these frustrations and failures revealed to me that students, and many of their teachers, hadn’t acquired the knowledge to comprehend the content as it was laid out in our texts and manuals.

My flag, the whirring that my antennae have learned to make when I’m not being careful about where I’m headed, was the perception expressed by students that, “this is harsh.” I can’t think of a better way to describe it; texts and manuals that were filled with directions and expectations insensitive to where students were at this stage of their educations. And me, expecting them to learn from them as written. The labs, in particular, were replete with concept load, where more than one concept lies embedded in words meant to clarify. What we do to enable our students to learn should never evoke the comments I heard. If we care for our students, and expect them to discover the beauty of our discipline, we should teach effectively. So, I ask, Is empowering students in science something that we can learn to do for practically every student who enters our door?

Science is a product of human endeavor, and can be learned. Look at the good teachers whose students learn to express themselves in competent poetry and art. We can do it in science if we become competent and humane practicioners. This tells me that all of the pedagogical classifications our profession employs – Maslow’s pyramid, hierarchy of cognitive function, inductive/deductive, etc. – reflect expressions of central nervous system function, expressions emergent from our brain at work, and that these underlying neurological processes aren’t as complex as the concepts and classifications we use to describe, understand, and manipulate them.

It takes confidence for a teacher to move from the recitation of facts to the manipulation of concepts in the solution of problems. In fact, examination of this transition provides some useful successive approximations which can be used as signposts to move ourselves from one end to the other on the spectrum. Science engages concepts and processes along with the brain’s mechanisms for generating critical thinking and learning for understanding. While complex to address individually, they all come into play when you do science. Just as similarly complex combinations of concept and process come into play together in painting an image, writing a poem, swishing a three-pointer, or playing a long, slow, syncopated sax line.

How do you prepare your students to engage in self-directed inquiries in the environment, while also preparing them to take standardized tests on the content they are expected to cover? A good first step is to prepare yourself. We can start by looking at what teaching inquiry looks like along a developmental continuum from fully teacher-centered to fully student-centered; a line with particular dimensions. The names of the stages along the continuum describe its dimensions, and the time to learn to express each dimension is the length of a particular piece of the continuum. Let’s picture different ways you might execute a streambank restoration project, and develop our continuum along that process.

There is a creek about four blocks from your school, and you have learned that the city wants to restore a section of its bank for a wildlife observation park. When you inquire, you find that part of the project involves planting native riparian trees. How might you exploit this as an opportunity? Let’s say you begin this work at what I’ll call the Fully Teacher-Centered level, in which you instruct the class on the project, show them how to plant the cottonwood cuttings you will be using, and have them set up pots and plant their cuttings in them. You will show them how to measure the cuttings’ growth, and graph their data. Typical teacher tells, students do, classroom learning. During all of this work, you have been attempting work in which you have little or no experience, especially in involving students in work outside the classroom.

You can begin to move toward the next phase, the Introducing Student-Centered level, by finding ways to make the activity, while it is not student generated, become relevant to them and enables your students to feel that this new learning is important to them. You can do this by engaging them in selecting learnings they would like to attempt. Let’s say one student, when planting her cutting, asks which end goes into the ground. A tough question if you’re not a botanist, which I am not. So, you suck it in and respond, “I don’t know. How can we find out?” (The most beautiful words a teacher can utter!) What happens next is up to your students. They’ll answer their question, and you’ll have grown at least another inch and a half in stature.

In this stage, you and your students will become aware of your need to learn more about the community outside the classroom. You might have already involved them in work outside your classroom organized by a local environmental education organization. You make sure your students have practiced the work they will do before going out in the field. And you might find yourself looking for other teachers who take their classes out into the field, and helped them become active members of effective work groups. In this stage, you still rely on other knowledgeable people, especially environmental educators, to facilitate your work.

Another thing to look for, and in future expect, is students who begin to see their role in making field work eminently doable. Students who are involved and invested in the work, and empowered as persons. They will become partners with you in planning and doing the work; and, in doing the learning and research to comprehend what they have discovered.

If you continue this work, you will find yourself at the next level, the Teacher:Student-Centered Level, where you and your students collaborate on the project from its initial conception to the final product. You initiate projects, and then include your students in designing and doing the project. You are experienced now in involving students in work outside the classroom and exploiting the curricula embedded there. Student work groups know what to do and how, and practice tasks before going into the field. You know how to design, organize, and implement the work, and to integrate the field work with curriculum. The results of their field work are brought back to the classroom by the class for discussion and follow-up work.

As you continue in this work, you will find yourself working at the Fully Student-Centered Level. You have a set of partners in the community whom you work with to design, develop, and execute projects in the community, and to tie them to your classroom curricula. You work closely with your students to plan field work and classroom followup. Students are organized into effective work groups who, working together, have developed the skills to carry out their field work, are involved and invested in their work, reach out to help others in their groups, communicate effectively, and can be counted on to make sure their equipment and materials are ready to go. You facilitate this by maintaining effective contact with your partners and agencies. You have eyes out for opportunities to expand your network, while ensuring you don’t overextend yourself.

It is surprising how little it takes to move a teacher from the textual delivery of facts and information to the contextual delivery of understanding. Experience in initiating, doing, and communciating self-directed inquiry is a key piece of the puzzle. In spite of this effort, and most school science is taught from texts, standardized labs, and worksheets. In time, teachers will be the decision-makers in their schools, and schools will become dynamic centers of learning. In the meanwhile, we have to do the best we can to teach well and let others know what we’re doing.

Science has many dimensions. We’ve begun to enter a discussion of the amount of structure we impose upon our students’ efforts, and the amount of structure we build into our approach to meeting students’ needs. As with any kind of learning, we expect the learners to move from dependence on instruction to independent activity. Do we, in our classrooms, allow that? Do we allow this for ourselves?

jimphoto3This is a regular feature by CLEARING “master teacher” Jim Martin that explores how environmental educators can help classroom teachers get away from the pressure to teach to the standardized tests,and how teachers can gain the confidence to go into the world outside of their classrooms for a substantial piece of their curricula. See the other installments here, or search Categories for “Jim Martin.”

Helping Teachers Gain Competencies in a Technological Age

Helping Teachers Gain Competencies in a Technological Age

1491260_10204437629959081_7680906990564955211_o Helping Teachers Gain Competencies in a Technological Age

Is Active Learning, Learning?

by Jim Martin

Because active learning requires practice and feedback on thinking like an expert (a scientist), it demands considerably greater subject expertise by the teacher. . . . [A problem that] will remain until college science teaching improves to the point that all students, including future K-12 teachers, graduate with a solid understanding of science and a better model for good science teaching and learning. . . . Most people, including university faculty and administrators, believe learning happens by a person simply listening to a teach¬er. That is true if one is learning something very simple, like “Eat the red fruit, not the green one,” but complex learning, including scientific thinking, requires the practice and interaction described earlier to literally rewire the brain to take on new capabilities.
– Carl Wieman

Wieman is describing what I view as the historical residuals that impede effective teaching in today’s schools: We are leaving the educational needs of the Industrial Revolution, and embarking on the needs of our Technical age, and evolved social and cultural structures. Rote learning limits human empowerment, yet we still, in large part, rely on it.

The two issues Wieman describes both limit the education our students receive, and perpetuate the problem because under-prepared graduates make under-prepared teachers. Teachers are the only people who can correct this. Teachers can’t give effective feedback to learning students if they haven’t the requisite extensive experience and knowledge of what they are teaching to do so. A teacher who has done the science, and comprehends the concepts and processes involved in what is being learned, will have a much better perspective to process a student’s efforts, place them within a meaningful context that the student can respond to, and observe for first, critical, steps toward learning for understanding. For a teacher without the background to comprehend and do the science, a student’s efforts which seem to be going in the wrong direction might be interpreted as being altogether wrong, the appropriate material in the text or instructions pointed to, and the student moved on; perhaps even to learn what was to be learned, but not empowered as an autonomous learner. And less likely to become a competent student. Ultimately, what was to be learned will not be learned well enough to remain in memory after the test.

If teachers are to engage their students in active learning, which has the capacity to produce effective long-term conceptual memory, we all need to help build an environment where teachers are assisted to become competent in the concepts and processes they teach. Since I started tracking teacher preparation for the content they are asked to teach, about half are reported to have had the coursework and/or experience to teach it. Wieman finds a similar pattern. Even those who teach teachers aren’t immune. A chemist, who mentored science teachers for a federal education support agency, didn’t know that cold creek water which was overhung by vegetation and aerated by an upstream riffle might have what appears to be an elevated dissolved oxygen content. This is a real deficit, and we all need to do something to resolve it.

Environmental educators have generated an enlightened public which has produced a State, Oregon, that is an epicenter for streambank restoration in the world. We’re now faced with a nation which is near the bottom in science education among the highly developed nations. Environmental educators can help inexperienced science teachers gain the confidence and expertise they need to improve science education in our classrooms. Everything we need to do that is on our sites and in our heads. We only need the bootstrapping will to take the first step – sit down with someone of a like mind, talk about what needs to be done, then, together, sit with someone else and do the same.

Here’s one I experienced years ago at a constructed pond within a large industrial area. The pond was connected by a canal to a large natural lake. There was a parking lot on one side of the rectangular pond; a large drain pipe removed water from the parking lot and surrounding area and dropped it about ten feet from its open end into the pond. We visited one Spring as part of a science inquiry workshop. Teacher participants were practicing water quality observations, and asked to decide in each of their groups where to make their observations.

As we gathered to review their findings, most groups’ dissolved oxygen (DO) measurements were within the range we’d expect for pond water at the temperatures they’d recorded. Two groups, however, recorded very high DO values. One group had made their observations in the center of a large algal bloom at one end of the pond, and they decided that, since these were algae producing the high DO levels, the levels observed there represented excellent water quality. The other group had measured water quality at the place in the pond where water flowing out of the drain pipe splashed into the pond. Their DO measurements were higher than those in the algal bloom. This group decided that, since the water leaving the drain pipe must be polluted, the high DO values represented very poor water quality.

What would you have interpreted from the DO data and places where the observations were made? Those teachers were using the science they knew, and taught, but in a place outside the classroom or lab. What might they have thought and said if it were their students who made the observations, and their interpretations of the results were different? Perhaps even the opposite of those they had made themselves?

We’ve all been faced with dilemmas like this. How do we respond? How might a teacher respond who has never made a scientific observation outside the classroom? Perhaps never made one at all? (Or the chemist who didn’t understand dissolved oxygen dynamics in a natural environment?) How might an environmental educator respond to this issue? By that last, I don’t mean give the correct answer; I mean relieve the deficits in experience and understandings that brought the problem into existence.

Most issues in education become issues because we don’t lay the practical and conceptual foundation our careers require. To fix it, we need to jack up our structures, rebuild their foundations, lower the structure back on a solid foundation, then let the creaks, groans, and cracks in the structure tell us how to reorganize it. This is something our top-down educational organization is unable to do. We have to do it ourselves. I say that teachers who are comfortable teaching inquiry science, and environmental educators who are comfortable reaching out to teachers, need to get together to bring science back to young people in ways which restore its inherent interest, excitement, and empowerment.

Working together, environmental educators and teachers who routinely engage their students in inquiry, are a practical hope for building a stronger science edifice in our schools. Current efforts from the top of education’s administrative structure to embed a common core curriculum and new science standards in the schools haven’t, to date, funded the basic professional development support that a large number of teachers will need to bring these initiatives to life, and make them a basic part of all education in the nation. A good way to make this happen, in an effective, non-punitive, way is for the work to start in the classroom, supported by teacher mentors and environmental educators.

Why do I include environmental educators in words about science inquiry education in classrooms. Because inquiry education relies on active learning, which is an effective way to build conceptual learnings into long-term memory. Active learning is the teaching modality that most environmental educators use. The familiar concrete referents students and their teachers will use at an environmental site make learning to do and understand science inquiry much more effective. And because school curricula, even though it may be so disguised that it seems appropriate only to school, is actually about the world we live in. You can find it embedded in nearly every place you see, from a busy neighborhood business area to a riparian forest or a mountain stream.

It’s been my experience that teachers respond well to developing the capacity to take charge of their science curricula by beginning with inquiries in a natural environment, zoo, or school neighborhood. Inquiry workshops which introduce groups of teachers to science inquiry in places with familiar concrete referents, then use these experiences to transition participants into science inquiry with the materials they have in the classrooms, are a good first step in improving science education. If it could be arranged, environmental educators and teacher mentors would ensure that a large number of these teachers would complete the journey to become those who, along with their students, routinely learn for understanding. And are willing to help empower other teachers.

Here are two sets of five assessment statements which have been used with effect, and which would emerge from the classrooms of teachers who have been freed to teach science as it should be taught. Freed because they have overcome the obstacles their teacher preparation and current punitive emphasis on standardized test results place on them. Freed to give effective feedback to their learning students. A teacher who has done the science, and comprehends the concepts and processes involved in what is being learned, will have a much better perspective to process a student’s efforts, place them within a meaningful context that the student can respond to, and observe for first, critical, steps toward learning for understanding.

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards teacher certification program effective professional teaching propositions:

1. Teachers are committed to students and their learning;
2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students;
3. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning;
4. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience; and,
5. Teachers are members of learning communities.

I believe that #2 above is not effectively addressed by current reforms. The five propositions listed above lead to what comes next:

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Measures of Effective Teaching and Cambridge Education Project teacher assessment assessors developed by students, themselves:

1. Students in this class treat the teacher with respect,
2. My classmates behave the way my teacher wants them to,
3. Our class stays busy and doesn’t waste time,
4. In this class, we learn a lot almost every day, and
5. In this class, we learn to correct our mistakes.

Becoming comfortable and experienced in teaching inquiry-based science is a fundamental step in meeting these propositions because it engages a paradigm shift which provides you with a more realistic perspective about science and students becoming scientists.

jimphoto3This is a regular feature by CLEARING “master teacher” Jim Martin that explores how environmental educators can help classroom teachers get away from the pressure to teach to the standardized tests,and how teachers can gain the confidence to go into the world outside of their classrooms for a substantial piece of their curricula. See the other installments here, or search Categories for “Jim Martin.”

How Teachers Are Learning About Place Through Service Learning

How Teachers Are Learning About Place Through Service Learning

To view this article in .pdf format, click here: MyMcKenzie

MyMcKenzieTitleBlock

An environmental education professional development program using
place-based service-learning

by Kathryn Lynch
University of Oregon Environmental Leadership Program

Where does your drinking water come from? It is a simple question, and given that humans can survive only a few days without water, a critical one. Yet, too many people cannot answer this most basic question. In Eugene, this lack of connection is often compounded by the transient nature of a large sector of the population (university students) who are often just passing through on their way to careers elsewhere.

To respond to this serious disconnect with nature, the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) launched a set of new EE projects in 2012 focused on helping students develop a connection to the sole source of their drinking water, the McKenzie River. This stunning 90-mile long river provides many gifts: clean drinking water, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, hydropower, and inspiration. The watershed offers fascinating and complex geology and geomorphology, multi-faceted and controversial land use issues, and a strong sense of community and history tied to place. Many organizations are doing work in the watershed, which provides opportunities for students to directly engage in conservation issues. In sum, the watershed provides a great laboratory for interdisciplinary, place-based education and service learning.

ELPquote1The two main goals of the new EE effort were to: 1) create a year-long program for UO students interested in EE careers (that would provide them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to develop and implement place-based, experiential programs) and 2) develop age-appropriate, engaging MyMcKenzie curricula for local youth, grades 1-8, that promotes the stewardship of the McKenzie River.

To prepare the undergraduates for their service projects, we offered a new fall course called Understanding Place: the McKenzie Watershed. The goal was to provide the necessary foundation for them to become effective place-based educators. During the 10-week course, we examined the geological, ecological, historical, social, and political influences that shape the McKenzie watershed. Six field trips took us from the headwaters to the confluence, where we explored lava flows, springs, hiking trails, dams, hatcheries, restoration projects, historical sites and more. Guest speakers provided diverse perspectives on Kalapuya culture, salmon restoration, water quality and management, and sustainable agriculture, among other topics. We wanted students to hear directly from the farmers, anglers, residents, scientists, policymakers and regulatory agencies that shape the watershed’s past, present, and future. Through diverse hands-on, student-led activities, the class gained a spatial and temporal understanding of the McKenzie, and contemplated the meaning of “place,” what contributes to a sense of place, and how it influences people’s worldviews and choices.

In the subsequent winter course, Environmental Education in Theory & Practice, UO students learned how to transform their new knowledge of the McKenzie River into engaging place-based educational programs. Participants gained a working knowledge of best practices in EE through readings, guest lectures, field trips, and most importantly, their service-learning project in which they developed educational materials for their community partners. The “Critters and Currents” team worked in partnership with Adams Elementary School to develop two classroom lessons and one field trip for each grade level. The “Canopy Connections” team developed and facilitated field trips for middle-schoolers that included a canopy climb, building watershed models, and mapping, among other activities. All the activities used the McKenzie River as the integrating context, and placed particular emphasis on systems thinking, and how the health of the river directly affects us, as the river provides our drinking water.

While the specifics of the curricula were left up to the teams to determine, all teams were required to: 1) incorporate an interdisciplinary approach, 2) include multicultural perspectives, 3) use experiential, inquiry-based methods, 4) promote civic engagement, and 5) articulate assessment strategies. Their materials were pilot-tested at the end of winter term, and then the teams worked with their community partners to implement their EE programs throughout spring term. Each UO student completed approximately 120 hours of service, which entailed facilitating field trips, classroom visits and developing supplemental educational materials (e.g. websites, presentations). What follows next are descriptions of the two 2013-2014 projects, written by the team members themselves.

 

LynchUO2014-1Case Study 1:

Critters and Currents

By Leilani Aldana, Leah Greenspan, Courtney Jarvis, Claire Mallen, Anna Morgan, Trevor Norman, Makenzie Shepherd, Tony Spiroski, Britney VanCitters, Cheyenne Whisenhunt, Alicia Kirsten (graduate project manager).

Hiking along the McKenzie River trail is unlike anything else in its breathtaking beauty and awe. The trees tower above, the firs paint the horizon green, and the moss blankets the forest floor. Squirrels dart back and forth, winged insects buzz through the misty air, and regal ospreys circle above the river, spying on possible prey below. All these organisms work together in the carefully orchestrated equilibrium that is a Pacific Northwest forest. And although the forest can be serene, delicate, and quiet, it also tells a bold and enduring story to those who are willing to listen and fortunate enough to hear.

The forest’s tale is told by the many plants, fungi, animals, and humans that call it home. At one point, the entire McKenzie watershed told this story; the indigenous Kalapuya and Molalla people lived closely with their varied and unique plant and animal neighbors, constructing a narrative out of the reciprocity that encouraged a long-lasting relationship. Eventually the plot of this story was thrust in another direction, as the influx of newcomers would alter the face of this territory through extensive land management techniques and exploitation of natural resources. Today, the story of the McKenzie River watershed illustrates the growing disconnection between forests and our society brought by global urbanization. But the story is not yet over, and we have the unique opportunity to transform it.

The prominence of technology and urbanization in the 21st century has established an obvious distinction between the urban and natural worlds. Younger generations, increasingly disengaged and separated from their local natural environments, exhibit symptoms of what is colloquially called “nature-deficit disorder” (Louv 2008). Marked by rising levels of ADD/ADHD, obesity, depression, and muted creativity, nature-deficit disorder will accelerate if not immediately and holistically addressed.

Nature has the ability to inspire us, teach us, and transform our lives. By giving children the chance to explore the natural world, we allow them to experience the story nature has to tell. Utilizing place-based lessons and hands-on activities, environmental education helps students gain an ecological awareness and an understanding of natural processes. Infusing curricula with environmental themes and concepts has proven to foster stewardship and improve support for conservation (Jacobson 2006).Communities need to work collaboratively to ensure that children are provided with the awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to tackle future environmental problems. As environmental educators, we have enthusiastically decided to face this task; we are working to encourage deep and meaningful connections between students and nature, with the goal of nurturing responsible and active citizens.

The 2014 Critters and Currents team worked to help students connect to and build kinship with the McKenzie watershed.Our team of ten undergraduate students and project manager collaborated for six months with Adams Elementary School to bring children to visit the Delta Old-Growth Forest, the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, and Green Island which is managed by the McKenzie River Trust. We created curricula that promotes environmental awareness, inspires respect and compassion for the natural world, and encourages positive environmental action now and in the future.

Building connections and gaining understanding is crucial to implementing environmental education. David Sobel, whose work focuses on place-based education, states, “If we want children to flourish, to feel truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.” (Sobel 1996:39). By encouraging children to experience and explore the McKenzie River, students will become empathetic and compassionate toward their local ecosystems.

Throughout the spring, students at Adams Elementary School in Eugene, Oregon were able to participate directly in the narrative of the McKenzie River watershed. By constructing and decorating fabric bird wings that they can wear, our students were able to become the birds that live in the McKenzie River watershed; by developing proper habitats for real life decomposers such as pill bugs, sow bugs, and earthworms, our students were directly responsible for the lives of those who prolong McKenzie River ecosystems; by intimately learning about a particular McKenzie River critter through storytelling and haiku writing, our students became empowered to protect and defend that critter and its home. Providing our students with activities that nourish empathy for the McKenzie River watershed and its inhabitants inspires a sense of love and awe that lasts, like the narrative itself, a lifetime.

ELP-Tree-StudyAs adults, we often overlook the joys of simply being in the natural world. A childlike sense of wonder allows us to tap into long-forgotten natural connections that help foster a symbiotic relationship with nature once again, one that not only takes our breath away but also fills us with life. We stand in awe of the towering pines and vibrant mosses that carpet the old-growth forest floor; we are struck with silence as the wings of the great osprey beat the air above us and the tiny patterns of a water skimmer are drawn across a serene pond. These subtle, yet profound, experiences allow us to narrate our own story about the environment that surrounds us and how we as a community will care for it.

Let us persist with our place-based environmental education movement, where classrooms shift from hard desks and chalkboards to engaging the senses and producing first-hand experiences; where students can form intimate relationships with the story told by an old-growth forest or the wetlands of a floodplain forest, rather than reading about it in a textbook. Let us begin the shift to the great outdoors, where we can learn from the greatest storyteller of all: nature itself.

 

Case Study 2:

Canopy Connections

By Justin Arios, Brandon Aye, Jen Beard, Cassie Hahn, Megan Hanson, Tanner Laiche, Hannah Mitchel, Christine Potter, Meghan Quinn, Christy Stumbo, Jenny Crayne (graduate project manager).

The 90-foot tall Douglas-fir swayed gently in the wind. Multiple ropes hung from the top, waiting to be climbed. The students buzzed with excitement and nervousness as Rob and Jason from the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute prepared them to climb. On their own effort, most students ascended to the top of the tree, swaying with the tree and seeing the forest with a bird’s-eye view.

ELPquote2Canopy Connections 2014 was developed and facilitated by 10 undergraduate students and included a 50-minute pre-trip classroom lesson and an all-day field trip to HJ Andrews Experimental Forest. Through our field trip, we sought to immerse students in nature, foster a connection to place, and teach students about the processes and biology of an old growth forest. Connecting to nature at an early age combats Richard Louv’s theory of “nature-deficit disorder” and instills a culture of respect and awe for the natural world and hopefully, the long-term protection of natural places.

We built our field trip around the theme of “Students as Scientists,” integrating both science and the humanities. In addition to ascending into the canopy of a Douglas-fir, participating students collected scientific data, sketched native plant species, creatively expressed their observations through journaling, and built a debris shelter. Each lesson incorporated activities of various disciplines and catered to different learning styles. This rationale is supported by Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory which argues that students learn and process information many different ways. We used this reasoning to construct activities that engaged students’ learning habits via kinesthetic, linguistic, visual, inter- and intrapersonal, naturalist, and logical learning methods.

Our first interaction with the students was during the pre-trip lesson. We built upon their knowledge of geography to construct a map of Oregon, highlighting cities, mountain ranges, and rivers connected with the McKenzie River. At Fern Ridge Middle School, the students were eager to add other features to the map as well, including the Long Tom, the small river flowing behind their school. Once complete, half the class was given a term relevant to the field trip such as “geomorphic” and “species richness” while the other half was given definitions. The students mingled in the class, helping each other to match the terms with the definitions.

On the morning of their field trip, the students arrived at HJ Andrews, armed with the knowledge gained from the pre-trip lesson. As they filed off the bus, we were there to greet and guide them to the staging area. After an introduction to HJ Andrews, the community partners, and the field trip agenda, each group journeyed into the forest to the first of their four stations.

ELPquote3Nestled at the end of the Discovery Trail was the River Reflections station. Here students learned about the complex interactions and disturbances that occur in a riparian zone through scientific observation and personal reflection. This station reflected the essence of the ongoing work at HJ Andrews by focusing on the Long Term Ecological Research and Long Term Ecological Reflections programs, highlighting the value of using both scientific and artistic lenses to understand the natural world. As scientists, the students compared the temperature, humidity, canopy cover, and species composition between two plots, one adjacent to the river and another 10-15 meters from the river. From our position on the creek bed, students saw a gravel bar in the middle of the river that provided a perfect example of the species found in newly disturbed areas. The students then journaled quietly by the river. To our surprise, students were so engaged in the journaling activity, they did not want to leave the station! Every student filled his or her own page in journals dedicated to collecting Canopy Connection’s Ecological Reflections.

At another station, students discovered the diversity found in old-growth forests, both in terms of composition and structure. They did this by identifying plants as tall as a western redcedar and as small as stairstep moss. Each student sketched and learned about a different plant and reported back to their group. After getting a close up view of forest biodiversity, the students embarked on a riddle quest to discover what makes an old-growth forest different from other forests. Every hidden riddle led them to a location on the trail identifying snags, woody debris, old trees, and canopy layers, which are the 4 main features of an old-growth forest. The students gathered in a circle to discuss how to mitigate threats to biodiversity through conservation measures.

ELP-Survival-ShelterAt the “Stewardship in Action” station, the students reflected on the importance of taking care of nature by learning about and applying the Leave No Trace principles. Each student described their favorite place in the outdoors and how they felt there. This led to a discussion about the Leave No Trace principles. Students creatively expressed the principles through a short rap, poem or skit. The highlight of this station was applying the Leave No Trace principles by constructing and deconstructing a survival shelter using only debris found in the forest. The students were excited to get their hands on the branches and debris to build a shelter and crawl in for a picture!

The most profound experience was the tree climbe at the “To Affinity with Nature and Beyond” station. Each student had the opportunity to climb into the canopy of a 90-foot tall Douglas-fir tree using a system of ropes. Ascending the tree was a unique experience because students had to overcome any fears they might have had to get to the top of the tree. While climbing, students observed the change in temperature in the canopy layers and were surprised to discover that (on sunny days) it was 10 degrees F warmer at the top. While this station incorporates scientific observation, what most students will remember for the rest of their lives is the sheer wonder of viewing the old-growth forest from the canopy.

Between each station, the students found a compass bearingwritten on a slip of paper and hanging on a tree. This bearing led them to a riddle hidden 20-30 feet down the trail. The riddle related to the previous station the students had left not long before. This activity was a fun way to keep students engaged during the transition time between stations, while helping them reflect on what they learned at each station. The students learned how to read and use a compass, a valuable skill, while we were able to quickly assess if we met our learning objectives.

All in all, the Canopy Connections team spent over 1,800 hours to create and facilitate field trips for 6 middle schools and 230 students. While each field trip held the same content, every student left with his or her own distinct experience.

ELPquote4One student from Roosevelt Middle School said, “I learned a lot about old growth forests that I did not know before, and I think I am more likely to participate in activities taking place there.”

Throughout this program, our team and our students gained a great deal of knowledge, while fostering a connection to place and respect of old-growth forests. We have inspired our students to be curious, and want to learn more, about old-growth forests and the natural world. Ultimately, we hope these students will be more environmentally aware and will continue to care about the forest and natural environments as much as we do. As much as we hope to have touched their lives, the overall experience of working with these students has motivated us to continue pursuing careers in environmental education and work to nurture a healthier environment in the future.

 

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the Luvaas Family Foundation of the Oregon Community Foundation and Steve Ellis for their generous contributions that made these projects possible. Special thanks also to our community partners: the children, teachers and staff at Adams Elementary School, the McKenzie River Trust, Kathy Keable and Mark Schulze from HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, who hosted the field trip, and Rob Miron and Jason Seppa from the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute (PTCI), who facilitated the tree climb.

 

Works Cited

Jacobson, Susan Kay, Mallory D. McDuff, and Martha C. Monroe. Conservation Education and Outreach Techniques. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print

Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin of Chapel Hill, 2008. Print

Sobel, David. Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education. Great Barrington, MA: Orion Society, 1996. Print

 

KatieKathryn Lynch is Co-Director of the Environmental Leadership Program. Katie is an environmental anthropologist who has a strong commitment to participatory, collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches in both her research and teaching. She has worked in Peru, Ecuador, Indonesia and the United States examining issues of community-based natural resource management. This has included examining the role of medicinal plants in Amazonian conservation efforts and the potential for engaged environmental education to promote conservation. Before joining UO she was a researcher at the Institute for Culture and Ecology, where her research focused on the relationships between forest policy and management, conservation of biodiversity, and nontimber forest products. She has also facilitated various courses and workshops that examine the nexus between environmental and cultural issues.