Thirty teachers from area school districts gathered at University of Houston-Clear Lake in October to learn new ways of bringing the natural world into their classrooms. Educators from Houston and Clear Creek Independent School Districts participated at a hands-on Environmental Institute of Houston habitat curriculum workshop Oct. 29.
The teachers attended lectures, made seed balls, studied and made animal track imprints, and measured and planted in the WaterSmart Habitat Demonstration Lab. Led by EIH Environmental Education Program Coordinator Wendy Reistle and EIH Habitat Curriculum Specialist Sheila Brown, the group also learned about dip netting and aquatic organism identification. Workshops provide teachers with new lesson plan ideas and fresh enthusiasm for environmental science that enhances student learning in their classrooms.
“I believe that outdoor, hands-on learning activities give students the opportunity to explore, discover and question in an engaging, interesting environment that provides for a deeper understanding of many math and science concepts,” says second grade teacher at Wedgewood Elementary Chris Haynes.
Haynes attended the recent workshop and has already shared a seed ball making project with her school’s after school garden club, the Green Team.
Earlier this year, EIH awarded a $1,000 of curriculum materials to Durkee Elementary School for the school’s after-school gardening club. School principal Diane Tanguma and her staff received six hours of professional development at the university’s campus along with materials.
EIH provides ongoing support and resources to area teachers creating or maintaining outdoor habitats at their schools.
“We need to get kids outside to learn, that is why we train the educators,” says Brown.
Workshops are sponsored by LyondellBasell, Reliant Energy, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service/Texas Sea Grant and Hershey Foundation. Lunch was provided by the Association of Bayport Companies Inc.
Local Texas Master Naturalists provide weekly maintenance of the habitat site on the campus, but Brown says they are seeking more involvement from individuals and organizations.
“We welcome any other members of the community to assist us with the pond and songbird, hummingbird and pollinator gardens,” says Brown.