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2011 News Releases

Longwood students and science teachers dive into Chesapeake Bay environment in innovative course

August 4, 2011

Summer of Learning: Science Teachers Investigating the Chesapeake Environment
SOLstice participants and faculty seine for aquatic animals at the Living Shoreline at Hull Springs Farm.

Science teachers and Longwood University students escaped the recent 100-degree temperatures by going into the chest-high water of a tidal creek where they captured, identified and released fish, crabs and shrimps. It was no fishing excursion but an innovative Longwood course.

The four-week course - called Summer of Learning: Science Teachers Investigating the Chesapeake Environment (SOLstice) - brought together faculty from ecology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics with practicing school teachers and Longwood students who will soon themselves be science teachers. Scientists and natural resource professionals from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Clean Virginia Waterways, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality provided additional lessons about the Chesapeake Bay, its health, and citizens' roles in its future.


Longwood students Katie Beals and Savannah Ducre conduct water quality tests in the Chichester Science Center.

Summer of Learning: Science Teachers Investigating the Chesapeake Environment

Longwood faculty member Dr. Melissa Rhoten and Katie Beals conduct a test for nutrients in a water sample at Hull Springs Farm.

During a week at Longwood's Hull Springs Farm in Westmoreland County and another week on the Longwood campus, they worked collaboratively as "teacher-researchers" as they explored diverse Chesapeake Bay issues. The course included an additional two weeks of online instruction. Participants in the course, which began July 11 and ended Aug. 5, learned scientific investigation skills as well as the tools, techniques and technology used in field data collection.

"Our goal was to immerse the students in the complexity of authentic scientific investigations and also the challenges of transferring scientific knowledge to civic issues and to the school classroom," said Dr. Patricia Lust, director of Longwood's Liberal Studies program, which serves as the home for K-8 teacher preparation.

"We focused on civic engagement and the resolution of public issues through practical, engaged learning and mathematical and scientific ways of knowing," added Dr. Mark Fink, associate professor and chair of the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

An additional goal for the course was to prepare teachers to offer meaningful watershed educational experiences for students. These experiences consisted of a preparation phase, an outdoor action phase, and a reflection, analysis and reporting phase.

Summer of Learning: Science Teachers Investigating the Chesapeake Environment

Faculty and participants collect aquatic animals in a creek near the Longwood campus.


Participants and faculty examine a sample of biological diversity at the Living Shoreline at Hull Springs Farm.

"It was a wonderful opportunity to work and learn at Hull Springs Farm," said Joyce Zupko, a science teacher from Sterling Middle School in Loudoun County. "The location offers such diverse ecosystems. I will pass this enthusiasm along to the students in my classroom."

The course will help Longwood University and Hull Springs Farm build capacity to expand environment-based learning, field investigation, and science, technology, engineering and math instruction to various audiences. The online part of the course was done the first and last weeks, the Hull Springs Farm portion was the second week, and participants were on the Longwood campus during the third week.

"We were delighted the students spent a week here learning about the complex scientific and civic issues of the Chesapeake Bay and learning how to analyze data and use the findings in a meaningful way," said Bobbie Burton, executive director of Longwood's Hull Springs Farm. "And after a day of learning, they enjoyed canoe trips, group dinners and evening speakers."

Longwood's Information and Instructional Technology Services (IITS) visited Hull Springs Farm to film some of the course. IITS plans to produce a short film, about 20 minutes long, about the course.

Support for this course was provided by grants from the Virginia Resource Use Education Council, Enterprise Rental Cars, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Additional support came from Longwood University and the Cook-Cole College of Arts and Sciences.