Thursday, October 17, 2002

Session out West energizes teacher



By Valerie Christopher
Enquirer contributor

[photo] Jennifer Gerstle teaches about mountain animals at Wilson Elementary.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
ANDERSON TOWNSHIP - Jennifer Gerstle will be one happy teacher if the enthusiasm for science she brought from a two-week summer course at a Wyoming ranch rubs off on her third-grade students.

"This trip made me excited about teaching science," said Mrs. Gerstle, who is in her fourth year teaching at Wilson Elementary in the Forest Hills School District. "It gives a new perspective to the field of teaching that made me feel like more of an expert in teaching biology and geology."

Mrs. Gerstle, 30, was one of three Southwest Ohio teachers and 85 from Ohio who attended a two-week environmental science course in July at Timberline Ranch in Dubois, Wyo.

The course, sponsored by Miami University, provides participants with hands-on experience in geology, botany and zoology, which they apply in the classroom.

HOW TO APPLY
Funding for Environmental Science for Elementary Teachers, a four-semester-hour graduate class, is provided by Miami University and an Eisenhower Grant administered by the Ohio Board of Regents.
The annual program is designed to broaden skills of K-6 teachers.
The sessions last two weeks.
For information, contact the Department of Geology at Miami University, 1 (513) 529-3216.
Mrs. Gerstle visited Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and the Wind River Mountains.

Mrs. Gerstle and her colleagues lived on a ranch at an elevation of 7,700 feet. They took daily hikes in rugged mountains and learned about indigenous trees, rock identification and American Indian folk tales.

"I have always been confident in teaching but not in my in-depth knowledge about science. This trip renewed that confidence," she said.

The experience was an eye-opener for the former certified public accountant.

"Working as an accountant was challenging, yet I felt there were a lot of people out there who could do what I did. With teaching, no two people can do it the same. I took a big pay cut when I gave up accounting, but when my alarm goes off in the morning I'm off to school to make a difference in 22 students' lives," she said.

Mrs. Gerstle said the experience will enable her children to spend a lot of time outside of the classroom to study plants to animal adaptations. They'll even be able to make observations based on her samples, which make up anything from animal fur to moose scat.

Mrs. Gerstle said she is now equipped with enough understanding of science and new material to share with her students."It was like being at camp," she said.



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Session out West energizes teacher