Hiram College

During the summer of 2008, Kristina Schroeder, first grade teacher at Nordonia City Schools, enrolled in the Science in the Schoolyard program at Hiram College for preschool through fifth grade teachers. Science in the Schoolyard was funded for two years by the Ohio Board of Regents (OBR) Improving Teacher Quality Program and was directed by Roxanne and Matt Sorrick.

Along with 24 other local teachers, Schroeder learned the importance of taking students outside often—not just for science, but other subject areas as well. They also learned that the early years are the critical time to connect students to nature in their own backyards and communities. Teachers participated in hands-on investigations in their own schoolyards, taught a week of Nature Camp at the Hiram College Field Station, and continued with Science in the Schoolyard workshops and leadership projects throughout the 2008-2009 school year. Over the two years of OBR grant funding, 50 teachers participated in the program and received $35,000 in funds for science materials to use with their students for nature study. However, Science in the Schoolyard has been offered in various forms at Hiram College through The Center for Science Education for five years. All together, 93 teachers from eight counties have received over $60,000 in supplies for nature-based science investigations.

Last week, Schroeder caught up with Matt and Roxanne to provide an update of where she stands in her efforts to connect children with nature.

“I wanted to give you both some great news on my Leadership project from last year’s Science in the Schoolyard workshop,” she said. “In case you do not remember, my project was to construct an Outdoor Learning Center on our school grounds close to our woods. The PTA has really embraced this project and to date we have raised $10,000 this school year through 3 fundraisers. A local builder in our community has offered to build the pavilion for $17,900, so we are just $8,000 away. We are planning a Spaghetti dinner in April to hopefully meet our final goal. I am so excited and the staff/students are too. When it is built, we hope to have a formal dedication of some sort in the fall. I continue to head outside for Nature-based learning weekly and my students LOVE this day the most. Thanks again for inspiring me to use the natural resources right outside our doors to teach content and get kids moving!”

Science in the Schoolyard continues to impact local teachers and students. During summer 2009, Matt Sorrick taught a course for teachers titled Earth and Space Science in the Schoolyard. This summer he will be teaching Get Moving! Physical Science Explorations to Energize Students, which is based on outdoor investigations. Brad Maguth, assistant professor of education, is also joining the effort to incorporate local learning. His course, Place-Based Education: Using the Community as a Learning Laboratory, will be offered to middle and high school teachers this summer.