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Nature Up North hosts teacher workshop at SLU

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CANTON — Ringing an old maple in the dappled shade near St. Lawrence University’s Owen D. Young Library, local teachers listened Friday to a tree-measuring demonstration given by Nature Up North’s project manager, Jacob D. Malcomb.

The demonstration was part of a voluntary two-day event led by Nature Up North, a project of St. Lawrence University, for north country K-12 teachers, who came from the Massena, Colton-Pierrepont, Canton and Gouverneur school districts. What they learn at the event will help them and their students comply with Common Core standards in the fall.

Project Director Erika Barthelmess said that unlike the typical plan-and-deliver academic formula for teacher education, Nature Up North’s workshop takes a conversational approach in developing curriculum, proposing ideas and asking teachers what works to create “something they can actually use.”

Nature up North wants to promote a concept called “bioregional literacy,” which motivates students to learn Common Core skills and get interested in their local environment and economy through hands-on learning.

“Students are building exactly the same skill set, but they’re actually learning about something that is familiar to them,” Ms. Barthelmess said.

Friday’s tree-measuring activity is part of the organization’s citizen science project “Monitor My Maple,” which meets Common Core requirements for measuring and the metric system, as well as inquiry-based science.

The organization is encouraging teachers to participate in the project by having students measure trees at their schools, according to Mr. Malcomb.

Suzanne K. Creurer, a technology teacher at J.M. McKenney Middle School, came to the workshop to update her knowledge and learn more about place-based education, which teaches students to understand, interact with and improve their local environment.

“It’s great to get students out into the environment and understand where they’re living,” Mrs. Creurer said. “This place-based education gives them an idea of what’s going on in their surroundings.”

The information students and the larger community collect will be important to area maple syrup producers, who end their season when trees begin to bud. Nature Up North hopes to collect a decade or more of data such as tree budding information from the community — including students — to see how climate change is affecting the north country environment.

“It’s important for them to be able to have the experience of collecting real data,” said Mr. Malcomb, who said they would use the same methods and measurements a forester would.

Last week’s workshop was funded by the Alcoa Foundation and the Henry David Thoreau Foundation.

To learn more about Nature Up North’s citizen science activities, visit www.natureupnorth.org.

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