Hamline University

Hamline's Rivers Institute Gives Teachers Hands-On Learning on River Ecology

Rivers Institute 2011 full

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 of Education.

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 teach.”

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.