Teachers Learn about Environment in Unexpected Place

MITCHELLVILLE, Iowa –Teachers are spending a week exploring the environment this summer, with the goal of passing on the knowledge to their students.

About a dozen math and science teachers from Southeast Polk School District take part in a week long workshop taught by Drake University Associate Professor Keith Summerville. Summerville says, “The theme for this workshop is to take math and science curriculum and try to integrate them using animal and plant based themes.”

The workshop takes place at the Environmental Learning Center on the southeast corner of Metro Waste Authority’s landfill in eastern Polk County. The Environmental Learning Center is a partnership between Metro Waste Authority, Southeast Polk School District and Drake University. It includes a classroom inside an old farmhouse and a restored prairie for outside exploration. Metro Waste Authority Executive Director Reo Menning says, “It’s amazing how this property has developed over time as a perfect laboratory for students to be able to interact with the environment and learn.”

SEP students visit in the fall and spring. The goal of the summer workshop is to help teachers write lesson plans that include the experiences in the field. Summerville says, “This kind of place based, highly experiential learning is the vehicle that we can use to increase student interest in science careers and increase student performance on things like Iowa basic skills.”

Southeast Polk Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jo Ellen Latham says teachers are able to incorporate science and math lessons, along with writing and technology. She says, “This gives us an excellent opportunity to integrate science with problem solving with communication with writing. And, it gives the students an authentic opportunity to put those standards into action.”

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