A Week in the Wilderness of the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont: An Outdoor Science Education Course for Graduate and Undergraduate Students

Monday, 15 December 2014: 5:00 PM
Sarah Radencic, Ryan M. Walker and Kenneth V. Anthony, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, United States
Graduate and undergraduate students with an interest in science education complete an intensive three-week “Maymester” course at Mississippi State University that includes one week of field experience teaching science in outdoor environments. The focus of the course includes the history and rationales for interdisciplinary outdoor education and informal learning environments while promoting successful pedagogical practices to enhance science instruction. Students gain valuable outdoor education field experience through a week of full emersion at a residential environmental learning center at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, TN (www.gsmit.org) that challenges perceptions of what many believe are “good teaching” practices. Tremont offers multiple overnight educational options for K-12 schools, teacher professional development programs, master naturalists trainings, and citizen science opportunities to the public. Being fully immersed in the outdoors teaching and learning about Earth Science interdisciplinary topics creates a paradigm shift in what is considered to be effective teaching by the graduate and undergraduate participants. Prior to the week at Tremont, students select a Tremont created outdoor educational activity to teach their fellow the graduate and undergraduate students while at Tremont. All activities promote inquiry and hands-on exploration utilizing authentic science process skills in outdoor field research settings that can also be adapted for local school environments. At Tremont the students reside in platform tents located at the center to allow complete immersion in the culture of informal learning unique to outdoor education. In addition to gaining personal experiences leading outdoor science activities, the college students get to actively observe experts in the field of outdoor ecological education model exemplary pedagogical practices of guided inquiry and effective questioning strategies. The impact of the full emersion field experience gained by class participants will be one that they can implement into a variety of science education settings to enrich understanding of the Geosciences to diverse audiences.