History and science meld in teacher education field trip

June 17, 2009 | Leave a Comment

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Buies Creek, N.C.-On April 30, a group of middle grade science education students from Campbell University took off on a two-day expedition to coastal North Carolina.

From the Tar/Pamlico River Basin to Ft. Macon State Park, they looked at the ecology of rivers, estuaries and sounds; visited the world's largest phosphate mining operation; identified unusual botanical and animal species; networked with park rangers, limnologists and education specialists; and explored the economic role of this region of North Carolina both past and present.

The field trip was the idea of Dr. Mary Ellen Durham, associate professor of science education at Campbell, involving students majoring in science education. Students Cara Bell, Maketta Foxx, Raketta Foxx, Jamie Jarman and Christi Ritch participated in the trip.

"I got the idea that middle grade education students going into science education needed to know the resources our state has to offer, agencies that can help them in their classrooms," Durham said. "I wanted them to expand on their knowledge of concepts and topics they must teach and establish a professional network with these parks, historical sites and scientific sites that will help them get resources and instructional materials when they teach this topic."

Funded by the Friends of the School of Education, the students traveled to Washington, N.C. to visit the North Carolina Estuarium, where they worked directly with the education specialist and limnologist examining contemporary threats to vital coastal rivers. Leaving the Estuarium, they hiked through the swamps and marshes of Goose Creek State Park, once home to the Secotan and Pamlico Indians. There the group identified unusual botanical species such as dwarf palmettos, crested dwarf irises and seashore mallows. They were also able to learn about the farming and timbering practices of the state's earliest settlers.

From Goose Creek State Park, they pressed on to Bath, a favorite haunt of Blackbeard the pirate. The oldest North Carolina town, American settlements were located in Bath during the Revolutionary War period.

The next stop was Aurora, N.C., where the students discovered fossilized bones, sharks teeth, coral shells, and other remains dating back 50-60,000 years. Some of the finest fossils in North America are on display at the Fossil Museum in Aurora. The museum partners with the Smithsonian Museum to put on a fossil festival each year that draws archaeologists and paleontologists from around the world.

Aurora is also the location of the world's largest phosphate mining operation and chemical processing plant, PCS Mining. Used in everything from baking powder to synthetic rubber, phosphate is mined from the ancient ocean floors near Aurora.

"Our guide took us three quarters of a mile down where the huge machines have moved layers and layers of dirt that have accumulated over thousands of years," Durham said. Thousands of fossils have been exposed by this process."

At journey's end, the students spent the day at Ft. Macon State Park, where they participated in two workshops conducted by Ranger J. Newsom of the park and witnessed the hatching of a newly-discovered species of butterfly found only on the North Carolina barrier islands.

"During each sequence of the trip the students developed lessons and instructional materials that they can use in their classrooms." Durham said. "The entire trip engaged these young teachers in exciting and challenging professional development experiences that far exceed the typical teacher preparatory sequence."

Photo copy: Students from Campbell University's School of Education take a field trip to coastal North Carolina. From left, Maketta Foxx, Jamie Jarmon, Raketta Foxx, Christi Ritch, Cara Bell and Park Ranger J. Newsom.

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