Recently three UC Santa Barbara graduates competed nationally for 16 spots on an ECO Classroom trip to Costa Rica this summer and were selected from the close to 160 highly qualified secondary biology teachers who applied for the highly competitive program. Jennifer Boyd (’04), Debby West (’91), and Katie Cohen (’02) formed a Ventura area team along with Denise Powell to study the lowland rainforest at La Selva, Costa Rica. This is the maiden voyage for the ECO Classroom professional development (PD) opportunity headed by biologists from Conservation International and generously funded by the Northrup Grumman Foundation. Although ECO Classroom is a new endeavor for the Northrup Grumman Foundation, they are ambitious pioneers in supporting multiple programs that inspire teachers.
Both Ms. West and Mrs. Boyd are graduates of the UCSB Teacher Education Program (’95 & ’06, respectively) and clearly recognize the power of collaboration to enhance their teaching. All four educators teach various levels of secondary biology in the greater Ventura area. They formed an alliance when they heard of the ECO Classroom offering. Their group, The SOL Sisters, a play on the Spanish word for sun, focused on a team project to expand their students’ understanding of ecosystems through the collection and analysis of real data. Their proposal dovetailed nicely with the goals of the ECO Classroom PD.
The SOL Sisters will join 3 other teacher groups from Long Island, Chicago, and Maryland to explore land use issues, carbon sequestration and global climate change in a tropical setting. Teacher participants will travel to Conservation International’s Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network sites at La Selva, where teachers will experience first-hand field collection of biodiversity and climate data using TEAM scientific protocols. They will transfer those skills and lessons learned to their own classrooms and then disseminate their great ideas on the national stage.