Outdoor Learning Inspires Teachers and Students to Use Science and Math to Solve the Worlds Most Challenging Environmental Issues

FALLS CHURCH, Va., June 6, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Northrop Grumman Foundation and Conservation International have selected the 16 teachers – four teams, with four participants each – who will participate in this year’s ECO Classroom program. After receiving applications from close to 100 educators this year, teachers were selected based on their motivation, qualifications, and recommendations from colleagues. The teachers selected for the program represent a wide range of backgrounds and experiences – crucial elements of the program’s success.

The teams going to Costa Rica on the 2016 ECO Classroom program are:

1) Highland Hellbenders (Gate City, Virginia) – A team of mid-career teachers from rural Virginia that are eager to bring home new techniques in teaching biodiversity. They will compare biodiversity between Virginia and Costa Rica, looking at both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

2) Tropical Smoothies (Smithtown, New York) – Veteran science teachers from Long Island with history of getting students involved in fieldwork. They will compare biodiversity between different habitats (agriculture vs. forests) and quantify abiotic factors (pH, soil moisture, temperature, etc.) and see how these affect biodiversity.

3) Douglas County (Castle Rock, Colorado) – A mixed team of young and experienced teachers from Colorado with a global mindset and focus on meaningful group inquiry lessons and fieldwork. This team will investigate how carbon sequestration changes across different forest types and ages.

4) The Science Alliance (Los Angeles, California) – A young and ambitious team from California with positive energy that seeks to make their science classes relevant to an urban community with little access to nature. They are comparing the levels of biodiversity between California and Costa Rica.

The potential for project-based learning and real-world examples to generate students’ interests in math and science led the Northrop Grumman Foundation and Conservation International to partner in 2012 to create ECO Classroom – a unique professional development program for middle and high school science teachers in the U.S. The program improves environmental literacy in the classroom and help teachers motivate their students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) so they can develop the skills they need to tackle the world’s most pressing environmental issues and become the next generation of environmental stewards.

The ECO Classroom program offers an intensive two-week experience at an active field site in Costa Rica where teachers can learn first-hand from local researchers how to collect ecological data and work toward completing a group research project. Teachers use this experience when they return to their classrooms, giving students practical, hands-on involvement with environmental sustainability and STEM topics.

“Going to La Selva was such a wonderful experience for me,” says Robin Rumery, a former participant in the program from Ocean Springs High School in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. “I use the information and activities from Costa Rica in my lessons as often as I can and also received a grant for my very own camera traps. The students loved them. We have been doing biodiversity studies on the wet pine savanna behind our school for both species richness and species evenness.”