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Winter workshop

Educators learn about the environment

U.S. Forest Service educator Melissa O’Donnell demonstrates a hands-on lesson about water to area science teachers. Educators recently took part in a winter workshop to learn more about environmental education. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)

GLADSTONE — Formal and non-formal educators in the Upper Peninsula recently received training on how to integrate interdisciplinary lessons into the indoor and outdoor classroom.

The U.S. Forest Service said the educators attended a workshop that focused on teaching environmental science to area students in fun and creative ways.

The Hiawatha National Forest partnered with Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Michigan State University-Extension to offer a March 7 winter workshop for educators using the Project Learning Tree curricula.

According to Melissa O’Donnell, environmental educator with the HNF and Pictured Rocks, educators participating in the workshop learned to implement hands-on projects with their students, including:

investigating tree cross-sections to determine age and growth patterns;

identifying winter trees by needles;

examining winter tree symptoms for signs of health;

practicing forestry measurements; and

conducting winter experiments with snow and ice.

“We estimate 2,000 youth will benefit each year from the Project Learning Tree activities and lessons educators gained during this workshop,” O’Donnell said in a news release.

Carol Horne, president of the Hiawatha Interpretive Association and STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — educator with MSU-Extension, also participated in the workshop.

“What the educators learned was required classroom curriculum, but they learned how to meet those requirements using hands-on, interactive ways that will spark the imagination of students,” Horne said in a news release.

The USFS noted that the National Science Association agrees with that concept, quoting the NSA as saying, “Research consistently shows that children who have opportunities to actively investigate natural settings and engage in problem-based learning greatly benefit from the experiences. They gain skills, interests, knowledge, aspirations and motivation to learn more.”

For more information about Project Learning Tree, including free resources and activities, visit plt.org. To learn more about outdoor education, visit fs.usda.gov/Hiawatha or call a local USFS office.

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