||Schofield Hall 218|
||Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
Geography Institute Gets|
Under Way at UW-Eau Claire
MAILED: June 17, 1999|
Providing an opportunity for teachers from around Wisconsin to make geography curriculum in their classrooms more exciting for students, the 11th session of the Summer Geography Institute is under way at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Since 1989, the institute has helped more than 350 Wisconsin K-12 teachers develop new geography curriculum and formulate effective classroom teaching strategies during the two-week session.
Highlights of the program, which is attended by 35 teachers annually and this year runs from June 13-25, includes presentations and field study with nationally recognized professional geographers and instructional strategy sessions led by trained teacher consultants.
Coordinator of the institute, Richard Palm, associate professor of geography at UW-Eau Claire, said participants are in the classroom from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., which makes for a rigorous learning experience.
"It's intense and we obviously can't lecture the whole time, so we do lots of activities, some of which involve them doing things just as their own students would do them," he said. "They learn a lot."
Along with the classroom discussion and instruction, teachers who attend the institute partake in an all-day field trip to Interstate Park near St. Croix Falls and also participate in an outdoor orienteering activity using compasses in Owen Park.
Requirements of the graduates of the program include going back to their respective districts and hosting workshops for other teachers.
"We have them go back and show others that you can do geography and make it exciting," he said, adding that as many as five or six UW-Eau Claire alumni attend the institute each year. "It's not like the old ways of teaching geography with memorizing rivers and capitals. This is completely different and involves a lot of problem-solving."
Teachers involved in the institute come from all over the state and are not limited to being geography instructors.
"We have history teachers, English teachers, foreign language teachers and elementary teachers who simply want more geography in their classroom," Palm said. "It's a very diverse program."
Feedback from participants over the years has been excellent, Palm said.
"Many state that this is the best educational experience they've ever had," he said. "We're proud of this and feel very good about the work we do."
Palm attributes the success of the program to the high quality speakers and instructors, the new ideas the teachers are able to use in the fall and that the teachers participate in something that is social and that leaves them with lifetime friends.
"When you eat three meals a day and live together in a dorm for two weeks, you're bound to develop bonds with people," he said. "This social aspect is one of the best things that comes out of the institute."
The institute is hosted by the Wisconsin Geographic Alliance, a non-profit educational partnership of K-12 teachers, college geographers and educators, school administrators and other concerned citizens dedicated to revitalizing the teaching and learning of geography in Wisconsin.
WIGA is a leader in a nationwide network of state alliances organized and sponsored by the National Geographic Society. A member of this network since 1989, WIGA receives financial support from the National Geographic Society, Department of Public Instruction and private funds. Currently the state legislature is debating whether to give WIGA a $500,000 endowment that the National Geographic Society would match, allowing the institute and all the programs of the alliance to exist indefinitely.
Teachers attend the institute for free and receive three graduate credits at no charge along with $1,000 worth teaching materials, room and board and meals.
Area teachers interested in the program can contact Palm at (715) 836-5161.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: June 17, 1999