I am very interested in teaching college-level biology, and through several years of participation in Iowa State University's Project LEA/RN I developed a teaching style that focuses on active learning, individual/group participation, and student-based assessment. I am especially interested in education that takes place outside of the classroom. I developed two classes from the ground up that use these concepts to create a learning environment that is both engaging and educational. I have also worked to create a science program for 7th grade science students where they learn how to perform their own experiments and interpret their data.
Spring phenology - from snowmelt to finals, is an honors seminar course I co-developed and taught with fellow graduate student John Doudna. We believe in helping students appreciate changes in nature through outdoor observation and learning. Thus, we created a strictly outdoor course where students made weekly phenological observations on the same plants and animals in designated regions. These observations are put in a new context each week as we discuss scientific topics related to phenology such as adaptation vs plasticity, landscape ecology, plant-animal interactions, and climate change. We taught this course for three consecutive years, and the yearly weather variation provided the students with not only drastically different experiences, but also a hands-on learning tool to help them discern between the facts and fictions of climate change. We hope this class will encourage biological observation in every-day life.
Environmental science and sustainability learning community
I was very fortunate to be involved in the Learning Community program at Iowa State. I developed the introductory course for incoming students interested in Environmental Science and Sustainability. This course is part of a three course series required by all members of this Learning Community, and is designed to: 1) introduce students to life at Iowa State University, 2) help students learn to be successful in their college courses through thinking-focused learning and metacognition, 3) introduce students to concepts in Environmental Science and Sustainability, and 4) allow students to develop critical thinking about these scientific topics and to see their inter-relatedness. Students were exposed to many related courses and disciplines across the University, and engaged in topics related to Environmental Science and Sustainability through life-cycle analysis, team-building work, and service learning.
In collaboration with Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, and Anoka Middle School for the Arts 7th grade science, I participated in the 4th-6th year of this fantastic project that brings art and experimental science to the classroom. Through this program, students investigated how different factors (e.g. amount of nutrients added, type of nutrients added) influenced the productivity of geraniums. Over the course of 8 weeks, students developed their hypotheses, set up the experiment, collected data, and interpreted the results. They also had a chance to draw their geraniums throughout their experiment, to help encourage learning through multiple means.