Highlighted topics during the event were patterns of West Virginia forests, astronomy, the plant kingdoms, habitat comparisons, stream assessment, salamanders, insects, and creating online lessons. Teachers in attendance were provided with background materials on each topic and lessons to use in the classroom. Each day, the teachers participated in a wide variety of scientific field research activities that are designed to meet the needs of WV students and teachers.
The event began with a session that examined the patterns and trends of these upland forests. It was a look at this ecosystem as a whole and its relationship to all factors, biotic and abiotic, natural and manmade, that occur in the area. Following a fantastic dinner on the deck, Joe the Star Guy provided a tour of the Back Ridge Observatory. A heavy cloud cover that evening was incondusive to star gazing, but the participants all enjoyed learning about the facility.
Day two of the event hosted a packed schedule of activities. It began with an investigation of the Plant Kingdom, taking a closer look at each division and identifying what it is and why it grows there. This was followed by a Habitat Comparison activity, where two different habitats were examined, species of flora were identified and counted, and the two plots were compared for diversity. The next activity was the assessment of Big Run, looking at the biological, chemical, and physical characteristics of the stream. The after dinner geology lesson kept teachers out until dark and the day’s final event showcased some new, fun activities for the classroom.
The final day of the workshop involved learning about and searching for woodland salamanders and the sampling to two different plots for insect life. The final activity took the outdoor experiences to the internet, where teachers learned to create online lessons for their students.
The workshop was fun, full of hands-on, field based science, and very successful. As one teacher said upon leaving, “I’ve been to a lot of these workshops and this was by far the best one. I’ve learned so much!” Another teacher, when asked what was most enjoyable about the experience wrote, “The relaxed atmosphere was so conducive to learning. (It was) a very positive experience that combined academics with professional development. I will recommend this workshop to everyone that is interested in good, beneficial, and useful professional development.”
Due to the overwhelming positive response to the workshop, The Mountain Institute has already scheduled the Reading the Landscape Professional Development Workshop for August 9 – 11 (12), 2010.