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GreenSTEM@VCU Academy Offers Middle School Teachers Lessons in Service-Learning, Efficient Energy Use and the Environment

Middle school teachers from Virginia and Maryland received training in service-learning methods and were introduced to new ideas for promoting efficient energy use and environmental awareness in their schools during the first GreenSTEM@VCU Academy.

The professional development summer academy took place the week of July 11 at the School of Engineering East Hall and at the Rice Center, VCU’s 343-acre living laboratory on the James River southeast of Richmond in Charles City County.

“The 16 teachers are very energized and excited,” said Sue Kirk, project coordinator for GreenSTEM@VCU. “And we want them to take that energy back to their schools and incorporate what they’ve learned here into their lesson plans.”

The teachers represented 11 middle schools from across Virginia; two of them came from Maryland.

Teachers learned how to integrate science, technology, engineering and mathematics into their classrooms to help students research and solve environmental problems in their communities.

“This is really giving them some good ideas for projects in their schools,” Kirk said. “One teacher in a school where the windows don’t open plans to add some greenery to her classroom to improve the air quality.”

The academy focused on using service-learning techniques in the classroom to engage at-risk students, explore green jobs, encourage student reflection and evaluate program opportunities and weaknesses.

“I’m having fun experimenting with the circumference of trees,” said Lois Invernizzi, a math teacher at Henrico County’s L. Douglas Wilder Middle School during a session on forests and global climate change at the Rice Center.

The academy is funded through a two-year $400,000 Learn and Serve America grant from The Corporation for National and Community Service. A second GreenSTEM@VCU Academy will take place next summer.

The academy is coordinated by VCU’s Division of Community Engagement.

VCU Life Sciences Outreach Educational Program Coordinator Anne B. Wright (left) and Lois Invernizzi, a math teacher at Henrico County’s L. Douglas Wilder Middle School, discuss methods for measuring the circumference of trees, during the session on forests and global climate change. Photo by Mike Porter, VCU Office of Communications and Public Relations
VCU Life Sciences Outreach Educational Program Coordinator Anne B. Wright (left) and Lois Invernizzi, a math teacher at Henrico County’s L. Douglas Wilder Middle School, discuss methods for measuring the circumference of trees, during the session on forests and global climate change. Photo by Mike Porter, VCU Office of Communications and Public Relations