March 16, 2009


Teachers bring nature into class

8th annual educators’ conference promotes environmentalism

ConferenceJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
From left, Sue Connelly and Cathy Bishop watch as environmental educator Douglas Weeks, right, plays the role of an interplanetary archaeologist demonstrating how planets like earth have buried themselves in trash as part of a “green” educators’ conference Saturday at Homer High School. Weeks’ program is designed to teach students about the impact of pollution and the benefits of recycling.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — About 80 teachers from Cortland and Broome counties learned classroom activities to help students appreciate nature as part of the 8th annual Cortland Educators’ Conference held Saturday at Homer High School.
To kick off the conference, Cincinnatus teacher Kurt Schmidt suggested in his keynote speech that teachers have students lay a small piece of string on the grass and document everything they see.
“You can’t swing a cat these days without someone telling you to be green,” Schmidt said, holding up newspapers and magazines such as Rolling Stone and Time.
“The average child can identify thousands of corporate logos but have no idea about the trees located in their own backyards,” Schmidt added. “That’s partly our fault.”
After Schmidt’s speech, the teachers glanced at booths with books about animals, seeds and rain forests and pamphlets about how to incorporate gardening into classroom lesson plans.
Teachers also attended workshops throughout the morning that explored lessons on birds and recycling, as well as how to prepare students for the emerging jobs dealing with green technology, such as solar panels.
“We’ve been seeing more information on schools that want to recycle more and incorporate nature in the classroom,” said Bonnie Calzolaio, the director of the Cortland County Teacher Center, who helped organize the event.
The conference was sponsored by eight area teacher centers, as well as the Homer School District and SUNY Cortland’s Center for Educational Exchange.
“We just wanted to provide good programs for teachers that would give them lesson ideas to latch onto,” Calzolaio added.
Ryan Marchewka, who teaches biology at Binghamton High School, said he was impressed with the conference and liked the idea to grow a garden as part of the classroom activities.
“Many of the kids that I teach are from an urban environment and don’t have any idea what goes into growing food,” Marchewka added. “So it would be a valuable lesson.”
Beth Hubbard, a special education teacher in Homer, said the material presented at the conference was interesting.
“This is a good opportunity, and I wish that more people had taken advantage of it,” Hubbard said.


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