Teacher Spotlight: Rebecca SandersFor Rebecca Sanders, a 5th grade teacher at Crellin Elementary School in Oakland, Md., environmental education is not just a way of teaching but a way of life.
When summer science camp students found acid mine drainage was seeping into nearby Snowy Creek in 2003, Sanders saw it as an opportunity to teach problem solving and environmental science. By working with local, state and federal agencies, the property surrounding Crellin was turned into an environmental education laboratory in which the students use conduct stream studies and collect data on the biological and chemical quality of Snowy Creek.
"Snowy Creek and the surrounding ecosystems provide an avenue to actually engage students in hands on lessons that result in mastery of scientific processes, while improving science literacy," Sanders said.
In addition to monitoring the quality of Snowy Creek, students have planted native gardens that provide habitat for butterflies and birds. They also use Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to track the impact of their stewardship efforts on the Snowy Creek watershed.
Sanders maintains that environmental education is not separate from other subjects that Crellin students learn. Instead, it is integral to them.
"The theme of environmental education is the thread that weaves through all subject areas. Interdisciplinary activities support the growth and understanding that have resulted in sustained student academic achievement," Sanders said.
Sanders said that she has found that the enthusiasm displayed by the students for what they are learning helps earn the support of parents, community members and school administrators. It encourages them to participate in environmental projects at the school. Inviting environmental experts from the community to co-teach lessons, assist with class projects and share their interests with the students is also another important way that Sander ensures her students are engaged.
Sanders believes the environmental education laboratory at Crellin Elementary has made a big impact by helping students feel empowered to be stewards of the local environment. "Students learn to be responsible and respect the environment," says Sanders. "They learn teamwork and persistence as they investigate environmental problems and they realize that their cooperative actions can make them a part of the solution to a problem."
Sumbitted by Dana McCauley, Principal, Crellin Elementary School
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