Honeywell, Montezuma Audubon Center, and Onondaga Audubon Society Help Middle School Educators Transform Textbook Lessons Into Hands-On, Experiential Learning
Fourteen Onondaga County middle school science teachers from 10 Central New York school districts completed a five-day, inquiry-based exploration of the Onondaga Lake watershed last Friday. Through Honeywell and Audubon’s professional development program, Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education, the teachers learned how to take the classroom outdoors, inspire students to take a more active role in preserving their environment, and acquire critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
“It has been a wonderful opportunity to be around so many experts and teachers in my field and learn a variety of ideas that I can bring back into my classroom,” said Kim Buchanan, a seventh grade science teacher from Fabius-Pompey Middle School-High School. “I now have more to offer my school, students, and community based on what I learned about citizen science during Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education.”
At the end of the week, the teachers spent time discussing their experiences throughout the week and working together to develop lesson plans that will help them integrate what they learned into their classroom curricula this fall.
On the final day, Honeywell Syracuse Program Director John McAuliffe and President of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) Cornelius (Neil) B. Murphy Jr. joined the 14 educators to congratulate them on their completion of the Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education.
“Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education is a great program that provides educators with new and exciting ways for students to learn about their environment in their own backyards so they can make a positive impact here in Central New York,” said SUNY-ESF President Neil Murphy. “SUNY-ESF is proud to be a part of this innovative and powerful program.”
Now in its second year, Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education provides opportunities for teachers to explore freshwater and field habitats, take a boat tour of Onondaga Lake, and investigate freshwater streams and marshes with environmental educators and naturalists. These experiences will help teachers transform textbook curriculum into new and inspiring lesson plans designed to promote a unique, hands-on approach to geology, watershed dynamics, and human-ecosystems dependencies. It is part of an overall initiative to recognize the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education and to educate youth about habitat and conservation.
“Honeywell and Audubon are proud to bring Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education to the Syracuse area,” said Honeywell Syracuse Program Director John McAuliffe. “As one of the world’s leading technology companies, Honeywell is committed to providing opportunities for educators to continue improving science and math education for our youth in order to help inspire students to pursue careers in these fields.”
Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education offers inquiry-based techniques for educators to teach students about habitats and ecosystems, water quality, birds, native plants, and sustainability. During the program, the 14 science teachers examined the geology and hydrology of the Onondaga Lake watershed, the chemical and physical characteristics of Saw Mill Creek, and surveyed local birds with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The curriculum promotes environmental stewardship, supports birding, and raises awareness of the Onondaga Lake Important Bird Area.
“The program provides top middle school educators in Onondaga County with tools to develop conservation result-based projects in the classroom that can foster a heightened sense of accomplishment amongst their students,” said Director of Montezuma Audubon Center Frank Moses. “The teachers are able to bring the hands-on experiences back to their classrooms and encourage students to become environmental stewards. Through Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education, we believe we are preparing our students to become tomorrow’s leaders in the fields of science and technology.”
Teachers also toured Onondaga Lake on Mid-Lakes Navigation’s flagship Emita II. Joining the teachers on the tour were Gene Huggins from the Onondaga Audubon Society, Chris Gandino and Dave Snyder from the Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Protection, and Joseph McMullen from Terrestrial Environmental Specialists, Inc.
“Today fewer students than ever before are pursuing science-related careers,” said Onondaga Audubon Society President Gene Huggins. “Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education is a great and unique opportunity for teachers to take the lessons they learn and bring them back to the classroom to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers.”
“The opportunity to work with such outstanding, engaging, and motivated teachers has been amazing,” said Christopher Lajewski, education manager at the Montezuma Audubon Center and project leader for the Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education. “I look forward to hearing about the different ways the teachers use the week’s activities and hands-on lessons to educate their middle school students.”
By completing the workshop, each teacher has the opportunity to receive 30 hours of professional development credit, classroom resources and support, and the ability to apply for a Honeywell-sponsored class field trip next year.
All 14 educators received a scholarship from Honeywell Hometown Solutions, Honeywell’s corporate citizenship initiative. Honeywell Hometown Solutions focuses on key areas of vital importance: Family Safety & Security; Housing & Shelter; Science & Math Education; Habitat & Conservation; and Humanitarian Relief. More information on Honeywell Hometown Solutions can be found at www.honeywell.com/hhs.
Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds, other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. The national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences. For more information about the Montezuma Audubon Center, the Onondaga Audubon Society and the Audubon New York Important Bird Areas, please visit: http://ny.audubon.org/montezuma.htm, www.onondagaaudubon.org or http://ny.audubon.org/BirdSci_IBAs.html.
For more information on the Onondaga Lake restoration, please visit www.onondaga-lake-initiatives.com.