Faculty Member Leads Experiential Adventure Learning Teacher Workshop
A group of middle school and high school teachers, led by assistant professor Brant Miller, participated in a weeklong Adventure Learning workshop traveling through the Coeur d’Alene Basin in July 2015. The project was part of a five year, $20 million NSF EPSCoR grant, Managing Idaho’s Landscapes for Ecosystem Services (MILES) that is a partnership between University of Idaho, Boise State University and Idaho State University.
In addition to the 10 teachers on site, 20 educators joined the project digitally, following along at a distance, sharing their perspectives and commenting on the experience through daily blog posts.
During the experiential learning workshop, teachers had the opportunity to work alongside Miller and other University of Idaho researchers, as well as experts from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, government agencies and industry to explore concepts around water quality, quantity and the socio-ecological systems and management on the Coeur d’Alene watershed.
Participant Cynthia Rust, a science teacher at Post Falls High School, said that getting an authentic learning experience is vitally important to her.
“I am learning something that stimulates your natural curiosity. It almost puts you in a role of what kids would feel like,” said Rust, who has been teaching for nearly 20 years. “You can feel, think or see how kids naturally would be engaged and work to put them in the same position in the classroom.”
The group explored a large portion of the watershed, investigating different areas each day including Benewah Creek, sites along the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes and multiple sites along the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River and Teepee Creek. In keeping with Adventure Learning principles, the group biked, hiked, snorkeled and kayaked throughout the week. Additionally, the group toured a number of historic sites that showed the impacts of human use as well as restoration successes to bring ecosystems back in to balance.
“Teachers get a real authentic experience through Adventure Learning programs,” Miller said. “They in turn, take their learning back to the classroom.”
One mission of the project is to support teachers throughout the academic year beyond the summer workshop, Miller said. Through the grant, each teacher receives a stipend, the option for continuing education credits as well as funding to purchase materials for their classroom to enhance their students’ understanding of socio-ecological systems and the many ecosystem services that are so important to the places we live and recreate.
“I plan to use the infectious techniques I learned,” said Brian Reathaford, a K-8 teacher at the Coeur d’Alene Tribal School. “The students will pick up on the infectious desire to keep our resources safe, clean and treasured in the Gem State.”