Class program brings the outdoors indoors

Denise Barnes
March 13, 2005

District public school teachers and principals gathered at Patterson Elementary School in Southwest yesterday to learn innovative methods to make science classes interesting with hands-on activities, field trips and career opportunities for students.
More than 100 educators, environmentalists and students participated in the debut event, the Environmental Education Summit, sponsored by the University of the District of Columbia and featuring workshops, exhibits, lectures and the opportunity for the teachers to meet scientists working in the environmental science field.

"The day was wonderful because it brought together educators and environmental specialists so that we could get an idea of what resources and services are available to us," said Brenda Collum, a science teacher at P.R. Harris Education Center in Southeast.
Her students planted a rain forest at their school and are embarking on a university-sponsored Life Science Project on water environments.
Ms. Collum said students are learning about the Anacostia River, wetlands and the Chesapeake Bay watershed as part of the after-school program. "Environmental science is a vehicle for learning that includes all of the disciplines," she said.
Alberta Paul, program coordinator for the Life Science Project, said its purpose is to provide education and instruction to District public school students. The university has formed partnerships with 10 schools in Ward 7 and Ward 8 that focus on natural resources, waste management and recycling.
"They are going to be the next generation of scientists in this country and they are hungry for science and math and always seeking engaging activities," Ms. Paul said.
The learning day for teachers began with brief speeches by William Pollard, president of the University of the District of Columbia; Beverly Burt, Patterson Elementary School principal; and Thomas Custer, science supervisor for D.C. public schools.
Mr. Pollard chatted with teachers, scientists and parents throughout the day and said he was thrilled about the partnerships.
"Children don't have a rural tie," he said. "I grew up seeing tobacco and collard greens. [Here] they don't have gardens and children don't grow up cutting grass. ... What programs like this do is bring the concepts into the school."
Mr. Pollard said he was pleased because the university is a public urban land grant university and because the program is "consistent with our mission to serve various needs of this urban community in which we live."
Gloria Wyche-Moore, associate dean of the university's Agricultural Experiment Station, said the Life Science Project brings awareness of the environment directly into the community. "For example, students have planted flower boxes and trees and they have helped maintain them," she said. "This makes students aware of the environment."
Said Ms. Burt: "This is a great opportunity for me to know what's available for the students so that they can be exposed to it. Children in Ward 8 face so many challenges and they are so resilient. I want them to see more. I want to expose them to as much as possible.