Three teachers from the Mountain Christian School in Joppa got a lesson of their own last month when they spent a week in Colorado learning how to make environmental issues come to life in the classroom.
The group came back from a teacher training session at the Key Issues Institute armed with new curricula, free lab equipment and a plan to get their pupils involved with preserving an area of wetlands on the edge of Mountain Christian's property.
The three teachers who attended the session - Joyce Browning, a science teacher; Karen Clark, a math teacher; and Chelley Corpuz, a social studies teacher - teach middle school pupils at Mountain Christian, a private school for kindergarten through eighth-graders, which is associated with Mountain Christian Church.
They applied and were accepted to the teacher training program at the institute, attending from June 22 to 29. The institute, which is in Silverthorne, Colo., is part of the Keystone Center, a nonprofit organization that works with teachers and students to improve education on the environmental sciences.
Brooke Carson, director of teacher training at the institute, said that the center looks for applicants "who have enthusiasm and are excited to learn a new way to approach environmental issues."
A grant from the chemical company WR Grace allowed the three to attend the session.
While in Colorado, the Mountain Christian teachers had the chance to write an interdisciplinary curriculum on the topic of their choice.
They chose to develop a curriculum on land use. The lessons will take a hands-on approach, having pupils from the sixth through eighth grades study the state of the wetlands on Mountain Christian's property while the school and church are developing new facilities.
"I see it as a long-range implementation into our curriculum. That's what makes it so cool. We're actually going to make a difference in preserving the land on our property," Browning said.
As early as September, the science classes will be analyzing plant species in the wetlands at Mountain Christian. Social studies classes will use role-playing activities to consider economic issues related to land use, while math classes will tackle problems involving water contaminants.
As another part of the training session, the three teachers from Mountain Christian, along with 70 others from around the country, participated in a role-playing exercise to study water issues.
"We learned how to look at an environmental issue and evaluate it, and how to help kids fully understand environmental decision-making and all the players involved," Browning said.
Carson said Keystone's teacher training program targets middle school teachers because environmental issues fit in well with the curriculum of that age group, and middle schools are the best place to implement interdisciplinary learning.
"What we're trying to do is provide a model for inquiry-based learning. The students really determine where they're going to go, and they have to use scientific process to get there," Carson said.