sealPurdue News

June 25, 1999

Teachers investigate the science of nature at Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Starting this fall, Indiana high school courses in environmental science will qualify as advanced science credits for students in college preparatory programs.

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This has prompted a number of teachers to enhance their own skills, as well as look for new ways to incorporate environmental projects into their classes. Nineteen teachers from across the state did just that at the Environmental Science Institute for Indiana Teachers at Purdue University June 14-25, an event underwritten by a grant from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

"Indiana's science teachers have been instructing students in environmental science in some form or another for quite some time," explained project coordinator Jim McDonald, a doctoral student in science education at Purdue. "In some cases it's folded into the course content of one of the traditional sciences, and some schools even offer it as a stand-alone subject. But this next school year will mark the first time that environmental science will qualify as advanced science credit."

Because of its interdisciplinary nature, the environmental science institute was open to teachers in all fields of science, math and language arts.

"Environmental science incorporates elements from biology, earth science, chemistry, math and even history," McDonald said. "By including teachers from a variety of disciplines and grade levels, we're able to show them how to select and develop local environmental research projects to meet the needs of many students regardless of where they happen to be in their science education."

The Purdue institute focused on research and issues surrounding the management of wetlands and watersheds, because of the natural resources available near the campus. Participants donned hiking boots and hip-waders to gather soil, plant and water insect samples at West Lafayette's Celery Bog Nature Area and Burnett's Creek in nearby Battle Ground.

After spending four days in the field, the teachers worked in groups to develop curriculum and identify local resources for use in their own classrooms.

Instructors included Dan Shepardson, associate professor of science education, Jon Harbor, associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, and Mary Cutler, naturalist with the Tippecanoe County Parks and Recreation Department.

"This has been an excellent primer on resources," said Diana Vermeulen, who teaches biology, environmental science and earth/space science at Memorial High School in Elkhart. "We've learned that there is just a wealth of information and support available to us, as well as access to additional training."

Lynne Barden, a biology teacher at LaVille Junior-Senior High School in Lakeville near South Bend, said she discovered some new options for outdoor student projects.

"I never realized that our entire school grounds is a watershed and can be used for a variety of observation and environmental testing exercises," she said.

The teachers will return to Purdue for two days in the fall and two more in the spring for review and follow-up on the local projects implemented in their own schools. They will also create a poster presentation for the 2000 Hoosier Association of Science Teachers Inc. conference.

Participants in the Environmental Science Institute for Indiana Teachers were:

Lynne Barden, Laville Junior-Senior High School, Lakeville.

Ashley Bennett, Jennings County High School, North Vernon.

Cassie Bennett, preservice, North Vernon.

Sheryl Braile, Happy Hollow Elementary School, West Lafayette.

Karen Caldwell, Tolleston Middle School, Gary.

Carrie Doyle, Central Catholic High School, Lafayette.

Betty Drinkut, preservice, Pennville.

David Emery, Memorial High School, Elkhart.

Vicky Flick, Brownsburg High School, Brownsburg.

Steve Guenin, Hamilton Southeastern High School, Fishers.

Christina Horvath, Hamilton Southeastern High School, Fishers.

Sheri Johnson, Happy Hollow Elementary School, West Lafayette.

Mark Koschmann, Concordia Lutheran School, Fort Wayne.

Dianna Rathert, Happy Hollow Elementary School, West Lafayette

Brad Ruff, Central Catholic High School, Lafayette.

Mary Starcher, New Palestine High School, New Palestine.

Vincent Suppinger, McCutcheon High School, Lafayette.

Evelyn Thomas, Tolleston Middle School, Gary.

Diana Vermeulen, Memorial High School, Elkhart.

Source: Jim McDonald, (765) 496-3025;

Writer: Sharon Bowker, (765) 494-2077;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


Lynne Barden, department chairwoman in biology at LaVille Junior-Senior High School in Lakeville, and Brad Ruff, a biology and earth science teacher and Central Catholic High School in Lafayette, collect water and water insect samples from the Celery Bog Nature Area in West Lafayette. The project was part of four days of field work during the Environmental Science Institute for Indiana Teachers at Purdue. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Mcdonald.environment.

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