The Educating for Environmental Change Summer Science Institute welcomed Indiana elementary and secondary-school teachers to the Indiana University-Bloomington campus to learn how to better educate young Hoosiers on climate-related issues.
“These are folks from all over Indiana who have given up a couple days of their summer to come and learn about what it would look like to teach climate change and climate science in their school classrooms,” said institute co-instructor Kirstin Milks, who teaches science at Bloomington High School South.
The Summer Science Institute was planned in partnership with the IU Research & Teaching Preserve, the IU Center for P-16 Research and Collaboration, WonderLab Museum of Science, Health & Technology and IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute.
During the week, teachers attended presentations by IU environmental researchers, visited WonderLab, and conducted field work at the Morgan Monroe State Forest, Griffy Lake and Dunn Woods. The first day of both sessions started with a discussion about the signs of climate change and how to identify humans as a major cause.
“The consortium of collaborators for this project really wants to model for teachers what doing science looks like in the classroom,” said Milks.
Milks said that one of the main things she’s noticed about her high school students throughout the years is that they’re no longer questioning climate change, but rather asking what roles they can play moving forward. One major goal of the Summer Science Institute was to teach educators how to show students that anyone can do science and that it can be done anywhere.
“What makes this program stand out is that we provide our teachers face-to-face access to the climate scientists themselves,” said Adam Scriber, Director of STEM Education at the IU School of Education.
The activities the teachers completed during their sessions were designed with this goal in mind and were easily adaptable to their classrooms.
During their Dunn Woods excursion, elementary school teachers completed a tree observation exercise designed to help students recognize the changes created by a shifting climate over time.
Megan Somers-Glenn of Templeton Elementary in Bloomington, and Michelle Blacconiere of Marlin Elementary in Bloomington, were partners for the exercise. They chose a tree in Dunn Woods and filled out a worksheet that asked questions about its color, smell, size and health. The two teachers counted leaves and branches and discussed how they might adapt the activity to suit their own students.
“In this particular module, the teachers are modeling students, but they’re doing the exact same types of observations that teams across the world are bringing together to do data analysis of timing and events of life cycles, which are changing as climate changes in different ways, too,” Milks said.
Somers-Glenn told the Indiana Environmental Reporter that she hopes the teachers who attended the workshop can help their schools implement a year-round curriculum that addresses climate issues, instead of only talking about the environment for a fraction of the year.
Blacconiere said she hopes to plant a seed for her students that will encourage them to think independently about the climate both inside and outside the classroom. She praised the workshop as a professional development opportunity that didn’t place an additional financial burden on teachers.
The event was free to attending teachers and included funding for travel, housing, meals and field trips as well as admission to WonderLab and a daily stipend.
The Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) is part of IU’s Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge initiative and aims to prepare Indiana for environmental change through research and education. The Grand Challenge grant also funds the Indiana Environmental Reporter and a full-time reporter at Indiana Public Media.