As any classroom teacher knows, theirs is a challenging profession. One does not simply walk into a classroom one day and begin to mold young minds. Thorough knowledge of the subject matter and understanding of the ways students learn are key and CHC education majors now have a new way of gaining such skills through a partnership with the Morris Arboretum.
Last June, Debra Chiaradonna, Ph.D., assistant professor of education and chair of the division of teacher education and leadership, was approached by a representative of the arboretum to find out if she was interested in participating in an outreach program for education majors.
Liza Hawley, assistant director of visitor education and youth programs at the arboretum, and former educator and arboretum volunteer, Bette Perlman, hoped to expose pre-service teachers to the benefits of field trips as a way of incorporating botanical and environmental information to these teachers who will someday share this knowledge with students in their own classrooms.
“For me, it is about the importance of the environment and the principles of how children learn from it,” says Chiaradonna. “The classroom is an environmental relationship that teachers are responsible for developing with their students. This collaboration felt like a perfect fit.”
Throughout the course, the CHC students — pre-K and middle school teachers — learn important information about ecology, the environment and botany, and best teaching practices. They conduct hands-on, child-centered activities and learn the theories of learning and teaching framed around the environment.
“I loved how Dr. Chiaradonna opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about educational psychology through the arboretum,” says Julia Katherine Galantich ’18. “Being outside helped me see first-hand connections between teaching and nature and between children and nature … and how outside methods of teaching can help different children learn and grow.
The final class project required students to create a book for a particular age group using content from the arboretum and incorporating principles of learning, such as student motivation and knowledge of students and creativity, to demonstrate best practices in teaching.
Condensed from the spring 2016 issue of the Chestnut Hill magazine. Read the full story here.