Unique Learning Experience for Two Local Educators

The summer of 2011 proved to be an unusual one for two local educators who typically anticipate the summer as a time to refresh and regroup after a busy school year.

Instead, Rick Barton, AP Environmental Science and Earth Science teacher at Antioch High School, and Lynda Ramos, a 5th grade math, language arts, science and history teacher at Kimball Elementary School, packed their bags and joined a group of similarly dedicated teachers to embark on a unique professional development opportunity at the Colorado-based Keystone Center.

Barton and Ramos were afforded their opportunity thanks to Dow California Operations in Pittsburg, California, and for each it was an experience that they deemed inspiring, and one for which they have nothing but praise.

In the case of Barton, the Keystone Institute was, “The best institute I have attended in my sixteen years of teaching. The program was amazing, the facilitators were awesome and the location was incredible.”

Barton goes on to say that he was able to bring back materials that he will use in his biology, earth science, and environmental science classes this year. In addition, because so many of the concepts taught are transferrable, he has acquired some great math and language arts lessons that he’ll be able to use with his team.

When asked if he had any concerns about his time at Keystone, the depth of his experience is apparent: “My biggest concern on returning was sorting everything out so that I didn’t forget anything. I came back with tons of material but more importantly, I came back motivated and excited for the start of the school year!”

Ramos is similarly enthusiastic about her time at the Institute and notes the caliber of professional educators from around the country who were part of the training: “The institute was very organized and planned out to every detail along with a very intense curriculum. The curriculum covered all areas of my own teaching from language arts, math, and science to social studies.”

Ramos also found it helpful that activities for the teachers were inquiry-based which allowed the teachers to experience what students experience.

“As a fifth grade teacher, I learned a great deal about sustainability in science as well as the larger issues that face our country,” she said. “For example, there was an activity where the teachers were in groups of four. We were given different choices as to what was more important to sustain – like the rain forest versus glaciers or between freedom of speech or museums. Then, we were to place them in different sections like the environment, the economy, or ethics. What a valuable lesson for all students.”

Ramos is excited to get back to school and begin sharing what she has learned and believes the time she spent was extremely valuable to her own professional development. “I now have a wealth of lessons from teachers around the country, in addition to the lessons I received at the Institute,” she said.

And, for Patty Deutsche, Senior Manager of Public Affairs at Dow, there is no better validation of Keystone than that sort of feedback.

“Education is an area where Dow places considerable emphasis, and the Keystone Center is one of our longest-standing educational partnerships and one where we see terrific value,” she said. “By providing local teachers with new approaches, unique educational resources and an innovative learning environment we believe we are helping to improve the quality of science education as well as raising awareness about today’s environmental issues. This is especially critical so that front-line educators, those who are up in front of the class day-in and day-out, can meaningfully convey how the actions of today can have far-reaching effects on the future of tomorrow.”

To learn more about what Dow is doing to further science and science education, please visit Dow at www.dow.com. Key Issues is a national teacher professional development training program within the Keystone Center for Education – a long-term strategic education partner of The Dow Chemical Company.

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