Statewide tour instructs teachers on environment


CAMBRIDGE -- When school starts again in the fall, Howard County teacher Jean Longstreth is going to put her summer experience to work in the stream right behind Wilde Lake Middle School in Columbia.

"I'm hoping to take the kids out and study the riparian buffer," she said. "That's the growth on the side of the stream."

Ms. Longstreth, a seventh-grade teacher at Wilde Lake, was one of 20 participants in an environmental course that concluded Monday. Sponsored by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies, "Ecology of the Chesapeake Watershed" has taken 17 teachers and three mentors on a statewide tour of Maryland's ecology.

And Ms. Longstreth's localized application of her new knowledge is exactly what course designer Wayne Bell had in mind.

"The initial idea was to give educators an opportunity to see the state," said Dr. Bell, vice president for external relations for the university and a marine biologist. "These guys are the deliverers of information for the next generation. They're challenged with the delivery of good science."

Several years ago, he designed the two-week course, now in its third session. Funding for the project, which costs about $100,000, was provided with an Eisenhower grant from the Maryland Higher Education Commission and matching funds from the environmental center.

This year's course drew teachers from around the state, Dr. Bell said, and the grant covers their expenses. The course was designed to show them the state's watershed from west to east, so that each teacher could localize his or her knowledge.

The teachers began in Western Maryland, and as the course followed the watershed to Cambridge, the teachers heard from farmers, watermen and foresters who depend on the state's natural resources for their livelihood, and from state and federal officials charged with protecting those resources.

"The idea is to get locally relevant examples," Dr. Bell said. The course was offered to science and math teachers, he said. Science teachers can use the environmental information; math teachers can show students how to run calculations on such things as the amount of fertilizer needed for a crop or field.

"It's my goal to improve math and science education, no matter how we do it," he said. "If we're not literate in math and science -- and the environment is part of that -- we just can't afford that. I believe in math and science. I believe in curiosity."

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