PDI-2: Enhancing Field-Based Learning in Environmental Science for the Upper Elementary Classroom
Date: Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Location: Philadelphia Marriott Hotel, Room 403
Science Area: Integrated/General
Intended Audience: Elementary; Middle Level
Recommended Pathway Sessions
The Center for Science and Mathematics Education (CSME) of The Jess and Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics, Towson University, Towson, Maryland and the Maryland Sea Grant College, University System of Maryland
Robert Blake, Jr., Towson University
Sarah Haines, Towson University
Adam Frederick, Maryland Sea Grant Extension
Stephanie Lee, Westland Middle School
- What role can increased content knowledge of the disciplines in environmental science (earth science, chemistry, physical geography, and life science) help elementary teachers in teaching science?
- How can field-based science learning be used as a means to enhance student understanding of science content and its application?
- How can the outside environment become an integral component in field-based learning?
- How can teachers integrate environmental science content into meaningful outdoor learning experiences for students?
- In what ways can student action projects demonstrate scientific understanding and environmental stewardship?
Are you concerned that you do not know enough content in order to teach science in your elementary classroom? Are you worried about your ability to engage elementary students in meaningful, inquiry oriented field-based learning experiences? Presented by members of Towson University’s Center of Science and Mathematics Education, the Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program, and a sixth-grade science teacher in Montgomery County, Maryland, this day-long work shop will not only enhance your content knowledge of the science in the study of the environment (earth science, chemistry, physical geography, and life science) but also help you in the construction and implementation of meaningful field-based learning experiences for your students. Ultimately you will learn how to help your students conduct field-based action projects that allows them to demonstrate knowledge of and stewardship towards the environment.
Research clearly indicates numerous benefits for students engaged in field-based learning activities. These benefits include positive changes in behavior with respect to the environment (Hungerford and Volk, 1990); greater academic achievement in reading, mathematics, science, and social studies, increased motivation to learn, and decreased disciplinary issues (Lieberman & Hoody, 1998; NEETF, 2000; SEER, 2000; Bartosh, 2003; Falco, 2004); a greater attachment to a sense of place, involvement in environmental stewardship, actual time spent outside, and an increase in their degree of civic engagement (Duffin, Powers, and Tremblay, 2004); and an increase in attentiveness of children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (Taylor and Kuo (2009).
Unfortunately, all too often elementary students either learn very little science and/or the time spent is usually on textbook and direct classroom instruction (See Page Keeley’s comments in Elementary Science Education in the K–12 System, NSTA WebNews Digest, 4/22/2009 and Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8, NRC, 2007). Due to a lack of an extensive science background or a lack of available time elementary teachers often feel that it is just not viable to teach science in the classroom. Louv (2006) in his book Last Child in the Woods extends this issue further, outside the classroom, and labels the lack of student/child involvement in the outdoors as a "nature deficit disorder." He describes that the trend in today’s society, where children are not spending significant amounts of time outdoors, exposed to nature, as having a negative impact in both academic and health-related areas.
Our aim for this professional development institute is two-fold; to enhance teachers’ content knowledge in science, and to help them be better able to engage students in experiences that are outside the classroom, that focus on the school grounds and local community as a context for learning. We also believe that engaging students in field-based learning is fun and is one way to increase motivation which can lead to greater student and teacher involvement and help to create ownership of activities and projects. These experiences can be active, integrated, contextualized, and meaningful, and allow both teachers and students to move beyond the classroom walls and to bring their questions and investigative ideas outside and into the field. In other words, we can help to create students who are stronger academically and better environmental stewards by having them investigate environmental issues that are relevant to them and affect their local environments.