Nature as a Context for Learning

3rd grade teachers Ruben Sandoval from Garfield Elementary School and Susan Reeves from Adams Elementary School carefully dug through leaf litter looking for insects during an “ecosystem comparison” lesson at Bald Hill Farm as part of the IAE-sponsored teacher professional development workshop, “Exploring Oregon’s Ecosystems: from Oak Savanna to Riparian Woodland.”

During the 3 day workshop, 16 teachers studied ecosystems from the ground up; looking at living systems as well as current and historical human-land interactions throughout the Willamette Valley.

The goal of the workshop was to increase teacher preparedness and confidence in using oak savanna and riparian habitats as a context for learning with their students.  One 5th grade teacher commented while collecting aquatic insects in Mulkey Creek, “I now have an increased comfort level using outdoor inquiry based tools and guides due to this hands-on workshop.”  Teachers explored riparian corridors along the Willamette River by kayaks on the last day of the workshop.  “This has been a fantastic resource, collaboration and a fun learning experience,” added another 5th grade teacher.

Institute for Applied Ecology’s Ecological Education Program, Marys River Watershed Council, Greenbelt Land Trust and Cascadia Expeditions partnered on the workshop which was supported by Gray Family Foundation, Willamette Habitat Restoration, StreamWebs, Corvallis School District and OSU Thrift Store Foundation.