Office of Public Affairs
July 5, 2001
CONTACT: Dr. Eric Olson, 312-2646
SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHERS
TO LEARN ON ERIE CANAL
OSWEGO -- A packet boat on the Erie Canal will serve as a floating classroom for a group of school science teachers involved in SUNY Oswego's Project SMART program this summer.
Project SMART, currently in its 14th year at SUNY Oswego, is an initiative that seeks to enhance K-9 mathematics, science and technology teaching, working mainly with Oswego County instructors.
"The teachers are working to include more inquiry-based education in their own instruction," said Dr. Eric Olson, assistant professor of science education at SUNY Oswego and part of the team working on Project SMART. "In order to facilitate that, we're taking them on this excursion to help them teach outside their own classroom walls."
This year's theme for Project SMART is "Teaching for Inquiry Outside the Classroom Walls," with an emphasis on "going beyond textbooks and worksheet instruction to promote student investigations in real-world applications, and the canal fits right there," Olson said.
Most of the participating instructors teach in elementary schools, although there are also middle-school and high-school instructors involved, Olson said. In addition to local teachers, there are also ones from New York City on board this year, he added.
The program involves excursions from Oswego to Seneca Falls from July 10 to 12 and July 17 to 19 on the Canadice, a 33-foot packet boat from Mid-Lakes Navigation. Along the way, teachers are studying biological issues, sampling water quality and counting species of mammals, birds and amphibians.
There is also a interdisciplinary element as instructors experience math, technology and "the history, the music, the folklore of the canal," Olson said, which will allow them "to weave that all together into an interesting package for their students."
The project is made possible by a grant from the Sharing Success Dissemination Project, as well as support from Sithe Energies and Mid-Lakes Navigation.
In all, Olson said, around 50 teachers are participating in Project SMART activities this summer, with other projects including studying shoreline ecology, looking at data-acquisition technology to help analyze teaching effectiveness and learning how to better instruct students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Some of the teachers participating in the Erie Canal project will stay on the boat overnight during the excursion while others will return to the boat in the morning. Instructors enrolled in other Project SMART programs will also come aboard for shorter periods, Olson said.
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