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Education Students Gain Experience at Huntsville Botanical Garden

July 25, 2013

ATHENS, Ala. - In the fall of 2011, Athens State College of Education faculty members Debbie Ferguson, Bonnie Heatherly and Mike Heatherly, along with staff member Nancy Croomes, visited the Huntsville Botanical Garden to discuss the development of a collaborative project in education. The project designed to give education students exposure to hands-on training with students was a welcomed initiative by Harvey Cotton, Vice President and Chief Horticulturist and Soozi Pline, Director of Education from the Botanical Garden.

“The partnership was developed to give our students a wide variety of classroom training from teaching to lesson plan preparation,” explains Croomes who serves as Field Experience Secretary. “Since the Gardens are open to such programs year round, and we have students looking for field experience each semester, our partnership has been a win-win situation.”

The initial program consisted of just three Athens State College of Education students placed at the Botanical Garden. Now the number of students involved usually averages between 20 and 30. The collaboration has been a complete success for both parties involved.

The coursework for the field study programs the Athens State education students receive while placed at the Huntsville Botanical Garden is approved by the Alabama State Standards Program, a division of the Alabama State Education Department. All camps offered by the Huntsville Botanical Garden are overseen by this agency. Education students apply their pre-service teaching strategies as they prepare and help with learning activities provided for children attending the various camps.

“The Field Experience program at Athens State is committed to providing our students with exposure to diverse teaching arenas,” states Field Experience Coordinator Mike Heatherly. “Some students enjoy their experience at the Garden so much they stay on as volunteers after completing their field experience assignments. It really is a wonderful program.”

“Huntsville Botanical Garden is the place to be to make science come alive for students,” states Gardens Education Director Soozi Pline. “By providing learning experiences that are an extension of a classroom environment and in-line with National and Alabama Science Standards, students discover the amazing natural world around them in our action-packed field adventures.”

Pline continues, “Using the 112-acre oasis in the city of Huntsville we provide an array of educational offerings for both children and adults. Pre-service teachers from Athens State have been involved in every aspect of our educational offerings during their field experience days here at the Garden making it possible for us to expand our onsite programs and to include community outreach at local schools.”


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