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Notes from the Field Station: Teachers' Academy Developed Partnerships with Nature

Posted on Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Twenty-six teachers from Western Pennsylvania walked or drove out to the Field Station for two of the four mornings of the in-service Teachers' Academy held the last week of June at Westminster College.  The Academy is sponsored annually by the Drinko Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning with support from the Grable Foundation.

Dr. Patrick Krantz, who coordinated the Academy, is director of the Drinko Center and associate professor of education at Westminster. 

Sessions on the main campus and at the Field Station explored methods and resources centered on the thread, "Developing Partnerships."  This year's topics took an integrated approach to professional development in content areas with a focus on the needs of the K-12 educator.  A vital part of that focus is outdoor education.

Monday morning's session, led by Summer Zickefoose, visiting assistant professor of art at Westminster, discussed and built unusual art pieces using unusual resources.  Some materials were recycled objects, others were materials found outdoors at the Field Station, and still others were materials brought in by the participants.  The projects emphasized how the process of developing an art piece can inform the final product, how innovative materials that have no cost to the teacher can be used and how art is all around us.

Wednesday morning's session, led by Dr. Helen Boylan, associate professor of chemistry and director of Sustainability in Motion at Westminster, discussed solar energy, built solar model cars, experimented with light-emitting diodes and powered small motors in fans from sunlight.  The group toured the solar energy array at the Field Station that generates electricity to the grid from the 11 solar panels on the roof of the shed.  The inverter inside the shed converts DC to AC and synchronizes the current with that of the electric utility.  The Sustainability in Motion program, a year-long effort to promote sustainable technology in classrooms, is funded in part by a grant from Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection.

Dr. Krantz, commenting on the Academy's use of the Field Station, said, "The Field Station is a resource that not only serves the College, but also serves the community.  My hope is that when teachers participate in high-quality programming at the facility, they will someday return with their students."

Dr. Boylan appropriately described outdoor education at the Field Station as a valid segment of the "leave no child inside" movement.

Clarence Harms, Director
Field Station

Dr. Patrick Krantz (standing, right) and Summer Zickefoose (standing, left) welcome Teachers' Academy participants
Dr. Helen Boylan (third from left) explains solar panels on the roof and the inverter inside the shed
Dr. Boylan (top right) describes how the sun's energy becomes electrical energy
Art piece fashioned from natural objects by an academy participant
Solar energy kits used by participants