More than 50 teachers gathered on the banks of the
Mississippi River to participate in the Hamline School of Education’s
Center for Global Environmental Education’s River Institute program.
The three-day retreat brought teachers from across Minnesota
and a few from Texas, New Orleans, and Jamaica to learn about river ecology and
incorporating it into what they already teach in the classroom.
“This program gets teachers outside, and it ties literacy to
science,” Rivers Institute director Cara Rieckenberg said. “The Minnesota basic
standards focus heavily on literacy and mathematics. Our program helps teachers
incorporate these into environmental education.”
The program is designed to empower teachers with new ways to
help students read, write, and understand science; even if those students don’t
become scientists, they will become informed global citizens.
Rieckenberg, the new director of the program is hardly new
to science education. She worked with the previous director of the Rivers
Institute. During the school year, Rieckenberg is also the environmental
education coordinator for Prior Lake-Savage school district.
The Rivers Institute was originally created to increase
science studies in 3-8 classrooms, but it has evolved as science teachers’
needs have shifted.
“The program has changed over the past ten years to keep up
with the Minnesota basic standards,” Rieckenberg said. “For example, we
recently added an engineering component.”
While the Rivers Institute allows teachers to get continuing
education credits required for maintaining their licenses, the program has
plenty of other appeal, as well.
“The Rivers Institute program teaches you different ways you
can incorporate the basic standards into the classroom,” says Thomas Borrell, a
science teacher at Prior Lake High School and a graduate student in the School
Tatiana Stoll, a teacher at Stadium View—a non-traditional
school in Minneapolis, said, “I am always interested in how programs like the
Rivers Institute can be adapted for students who can’t go outdoors like those I
In addition to the Mississippi River institute, Rivers
Institute programs also take place on the St. Croix River and Trinity River in
Texas. Teachers interested in attending the Rivers Institutes should visit the
Rivers Institute web page