Creek becomes a lab for local educators
Instructors get special training
By Erikah Haavie
FREEDOM PLAINS -- Six high school science teachers pulled on rubber wading boots and shuffled into Sprout Creek.
On Wednesday, they were the students.
Armed with measuring tapes, thermometers, chemicals and some empty bottles, they set out to test the health of the creek across from LaGrange Middle School.
"You can read about it, but it's better to see it," Arlington science teacher Lori Beer said.
The after-school science class is one training opportunity Arlington school administrators are offering teachers throughout this year.
Hundreds of district teachers have already participated in the district's expanded professional development program. Hundreds more will participate in a full day of training Friday on middle school education and using the arts in the classroom.
Christine Lowden, the district's director of professional development, called teacher training "the key to student achievement."
"Having highly skilled and qualified teachers in the classroom is critical," she said.
175 hours required
For new teachers, 175 hours of professional development is mandated by the state Department of Education.
Wednesday's program at Sprout Creek brought together newer and more experienced teachers from Arlington, Roy C. Ketcham and John Jay high schools.
Scientist Martha Cheo taught the program as part of the Fishkill Creek Watershed Education Program.
She walked teachers through the process of taking measurements in the creek, establishing the pH and levels of dissolved oxygen in the water and looking for signs of life in the water.
Mary Jane McFarland, a biology teacher at John Jay, said she's looking to find some better lab experiments for her students, since they all learn in different ways.
She hopes to use the creek lab next year. ''Students love the hands-on (activity),'' said McFarland, who has taught for five years. ''They learn better when they interact.''
Beer, now in her 15th year of teaching, said she, too, wants to offer more hands-on opportunities to her students.
She hopes to pique their interest and keep their attention on ''real world'' applications of science.
''It's more exciting for kids to see things in their neighborhood, things they didn't know about before. I would take my kids here,'' Beer said.
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