The WWLPT summer institute in environmental sciences will be an inquiry-based experience designed to allow teachers to sharpen their research skills, expand their knowledge base, and to develop pedagogical models and tools for use in their own classrooms. Groups of middle- and high-school teachers will strengthen their pedagogic and research skills through work on research-oriented projects in particular areas of environmental science.
The Princeton area provides a wealth of opportunities for field-based projects in environmental science (including -- but not limited to -- coastal erosion, ground water management, soil and ground water contamination, stream hydrology and erosion, habitat fragmentation, ecosystem disturbance, suburbanization and its effects on runoff and ground water quality, and resource extraction and management). In addition, we will have the capacity at Princeton to explore system modeling at a local -- or global -- scale using readily available software and technology within the means of most secondary schools.
The institute is designed so as to empower groups of teachers to explore one such topic in some depth, to develop teaching tools around this topic, and to share their effects with all institute attendees. In developing these projects, teachers will have an opportunity not only to hone their research, technical, and leadership skills, but will be practicing the same pedagogical techniques that they can bring back for use in the classroom.
The institute is under the leadership of a group of individuals with expertise in a wide variety of environmental science (including geology, biology, and systems modeling), pedagogy, and the application of computer technology to the classroom. This leadership team is responsible for crafting an experience that will allow teachers to sample from a "smorgasbord" of specific colloquia, workshops, and lectures throughout the month.
These events will be lead by visiting faculty from institutions such as GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment), GREEN (Global River Environmental Education Network) U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Food and Drug Administration, High Performance Systems (makers of the STELLA modeling software), and many others. These events are designed to aid teacher groups in the completion of their research projects. Those events that a particular group does not find directly relevant to their project may nonetheless provide useful supplements to their summer experience. Lending cohesion and offering guidance on project development will be one member of the leadership team, who will be available for the entire summer institute, with experience in integrating the many diverse facets of environmental sciences.
Our means of communication and distribution will be the World Wide Web, and teachers will leave the institute with expertise not only in using the web as a research tool, but also in web authoring. Coupled with the system-modeling approach that will permeate all modules, the WWW technology will provide practice in effectively integrating computer technology with established pedagogical norms.
Although the first week of the institute will allow teachers to explore possible themes for teaching modules through field trips, workshops and demonstrations, teacher-groups are encouraged to consider those area(s) in which they are most interested in developing teaching modules before arrival in Princeton in July. To help encourage such consideration, a web site and email discussion list has been established for the discussion of ideas and potential listing of teachers with common goals. This same site will serve as a dissertation tool after the institute.
The summer institute in environmental science should thus be a tool not only for teachers to learn more about the integrated fields of study important to understanding the environment, but will also allow participants to hone their research an pedagogical skills through the use of the same approaches that they may wish to implement in their classrooms when the return home.