Honeywell, Montezuma Audubon Center and Onondaga Audubon Society Help Middle School Educators Transform Textbook Lessons into Hands-On, Experiential Learning
Fifteen Onondaga County teachers from 10 Central New York school districts completed a five-day, inquiry-based exploration of the Onondaga Lake watershed on August 13, 2010. Through Honeywell and Audubon’s professional development program, Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education, teachers learned how to take the classroom outdoors. The instructors’ interest will carry through to the classroom, enhancing students’ awareness and encouraging them to pursue careers in science, engineering and environmental studies.
During the program teachers explored freshwater and field habitats, took a boat tour of Onondaga Lake and investigated freshwater streams and marshes with environmental educators and naturalists. These experiences will help teachers transform textbook curriculum into new and inspiring lessons designed to promote a unique, hands-on approach to geology, watershed dynamics and human-ecosystem dependencies. The curriculum promotes environmental stewardship, supports birding and raises awareness of the Onondaga Lake Important Bird Area.
“Honeywell is proud to partner with Audubon 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 improving science and math education for teachers and students. Through Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education, teachers will learn new techniques to bring science to life and inspire students to pursue careers in science and technology.”
“The whole week was a great experience,” said Jennifer Cohen, a sixth-grade science teacher at Longbranch Elementary School in Liverpool. “The speakers were so engaging, so knowledgeable and so inspiring. I can’t wait to bring these activities back to the classroom and even bring the speakers into the classroom.”
Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education offers hands-on lessons and inquiry-based techniques for educators to teach students about habitats and ecosystems, water quality, birds, native plants and sustainability. Field studies included examining the geology and hydrology of the Onondaga Lake watershed; the chemical and physical characteristics of Saw Mill Creek with Mat Weber, Coordinator of Project Watershed, an Izaak Walton League Program; and surveying local birds with Karen Purcell, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project Lead of the Urban Bird Project.
On Thursday, August 12, teachers went on a tour of Onondaga Lake on Mid-Lakes Navigation’s flagship Emita II. Onondaga Audubon Society’s Gene Huggins, the Onondaga Department of Water Environment Protection’s Dave Snyder and Tony Deskins, and Syracuse University’s Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Dr. Charles Driscoll all joined the teachers on the boat.
“Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education is an excellent avenue for educators,” said Onondaga Audubon Society’s Gene Huggins. “It gives teachers an opportunity to think through lesson plans and bring students to the lake to conduct experiments with plants and animals.”
“There is a huge shortage of students who want to study science and technology,” said Syracuse University’s Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Charles Driscoll. “Through Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education, teachers can jazz up interest in science among students. The teachers can get ideas and give students creative ways to learn science hands-on. This will make them interested. We need students to create innovative technologies.”
“Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education provides educators with tools and techniques to fully understand their local ecosystem,” said Director of Montezuma Audubon Center Frank Moses. “The real-world science curriculum creates fun, thought-provoking experiences that teachers can bring back to their classrooms to engage students in taking an active role in their learning process and be our future environmental stewards.”
“Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education has been extremely exciting,” said Larry Laszlo, sixth-grade science teacher at Chestnut Hill Elementary School in Liverpool. “The quality of presentations and activities are phenomenal and I have learned a great deal of information to pass onto my classroom,” Laszlo continued. “The program brings together a group of teachers with different interests but common goals.”
“It was wonderful working with such energetic, engaged and creative teachers this past week,” said Carol Stokes-Cawley, Education Manager of the Montezuma Audubon Center and Project Lead for the Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education. “I look forward to hearing how they incorporate the workshop activities and presentations in and outside their classrooms this coming year.”
Onondaga County Legislator Kathy Rapp joined the middle school science teachers as they completed their five-day program. Educators reflected on their experiences and created lesson plans to implement in their classrooms this fall.
“Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education is great because Honeywell has been doing so much for the community,” said Rapp. “It is great to be able to share the opportunity with teachers who are so passionate about science and are committed to educating their students.”
Each teacher was honored with a completion certificate. Teachers also have the opportunity to receive 30 hours of professional development credit, classroom resources and support, and apply for a sponsored class field trip.
Each educator 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 and other wildlife and the habitats that support 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, http://www.onondagaaudubon.org/ and http://ny.audubon.org/BirdSci_IBAs.html.
For more information on the Onondaga Lake cleanup, visit www.onondaga-lake-initiatives.com.