South Dakota teachers attend Life Science Workshop at BHSU

Author: BHSU Communications/Monday, June 29, 2015/Categories: 2015








           Teachers from throughout the state of South Dakota visit Cement Ridge while attending a Life Science Concepts for Teachers workshop at Black Hills State University.






            L to R: Kyle Dietz, Sioux Falls Chris Ernster, Sioux Falls and Tyler Olson, Rapid City, attended a Life Science Concepts for Teachers workshop at Black Hills State University to help the state&rsquos teachers develop a deep understanding of key biology concepts through field observations and experiments, data collection and analysis.  






           L to R: Nikki Milledge, Bennett County, and Teresa Olson, Rapid City, studied ecosystems across the Black Hills during last week&rsquos Life Science Concepts for Teachers workshop at BHSU, an experience the teachers will take back to their students and classrooms this fall.



Twenty-two teachers from across the state of South Dakota attended a Life Science Concepts for Teachers workshop last week at Black Hills State University facilitated by BHSU faculty Dr. Justin Ramsey, assistant professor of plant biology, Dr. Tara Ramsey, research associate, and Dr. Janet Briggs, science education specialist at the Center for the Advancement of Math and Science Education (CAMSE) at BHSU.

South Dakota teachers in the workshop developed a deep understanding of key biology concepts through field observations and experiments, data collection and analysis. Topics included biodiversity, interdependent relationships among organisms in an ecosystem, and adaptation to change.

Participants studied ecosystems in locations across the northern Black Hills and adjoining Great Plains, such as prairie habitat along the Belle Fourche Reservoir where they studied effects of flooding and cattle grazing on prairie habitats. At the Big Hill cross-country ski area, the educators compared plant communities between a cattle exclosure (areas fenced since 1949) and open meadows that are grazed regularly. Participants examined ecosystems found at contrasting elevations and related community composition in Higgins Gulch, at Iron Creek Lake, and the summit of Cement Ridge to historical climate change. On campus at BHSU, workshop participants toured the BHSU Herbarium and mounted pressed plant specimens collected from the Spearfish area.

The teachers also discussed the needs of their students in learning science.

Nikki Milledge, a high school teacher from Bennett County, said students don&rsquot think of a plant as a living thing because plants change so slowly.

"Typical science coursework focuses on animals," said Milledge. "Because of my experiences in this class, I&rsquom going to take my students to a grassland area near my school to study botany."

Kristina Schlapkohl, a high school teacher from Rapid City added that she plans to incorporate the elements of botany she learned in the workshop through field work along Rapid Creek.

When asked about the most valuable aspects of the workshop, Heather Brown, high school teacher from Newell, said the workshop&rsquos mix of classroom discussion and practical applications was just right.

"The activities made connections to other science disciplines," said Brown.

Kyle Dietz, a biology teacher from Sioux Falls said, "The interaction with the botanists, learning field work techniques, observing the unique flora of the grasslands and Black Hills made for an extremely valuable experience that I will be able to bring to the classroom and not soon forget."

Drs. Justin Ramsey and Tara Ramsey were enthusiastic about the week they spent with the teachers.

"The devotion of the workshop participants to science education and design of effective curriculum is remarkable and we think an excellent sign for the future of K-12 education in South Dakota. We are similarly impressed by the teachers' knowledge of the natural world and quick learning of flora and fauna, reflecting years of time they've spent in South Dakota's wonderful outdoor environments."

The workshop was offered as part of the Science Specialist Endorsement through BHSU, an 18-hour program that serves as a content area within the Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction degree, or as a stand-alone endorsement on the teaching certificate of teachers with an existing master&rsquos degree.

The workshop was funded through a No Child Left Behind Title II Part A grant written by Briggs and Justin Ramsey and funded through the South Dakota Board of Regents. For more information contact Briggs at 605-642-6875 or or Justin Ramsey at

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