Local woman to aid in crafting environmental curriculum for schools
by Laura Johnson
Mar 29, 2012 | 3671 views | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Renee Morrison is seen at a children’s story-telling workshop at Shoal Creek Baptist Church in 2008. (Anniston Star photo by Stephen Gross)
Renee Morrison is seen at a children’s story-telling workshop at Shoal Creek Baptist Church in 2008. (Anniston Star photo by Stephen Gross)
Wildlife biologists know that Alabama is among the richest states when it comes to biodiversity, and if one environmental organization is successful, the next generation of the state’s schoolchildren will know it too.

The Environmental Education Association of Alabama is working with the Alabama Department of Education to develop a plan that would help teachers incorporate information about the state’s biodiversity into math, science, literature and history lessons. Leading the association this year is Choccolocco resident Renee Morrison, who has been selected by its members to serve as the organization’s president.

“We want to be able to teach classroom teachers how to be able to educate their students about the state’s natural resources,” Morrison said.

Morrison’s background in environmental education spans almost two decades. After completing four years of research in the rain forests of Puerto Rico with the U.S. Forest Service, Morrison returned to Anniston, where she served as the education director at the Anniston Museum of Natural History for about a decade.

Today Morrison is the Coordinator for the Field Schools at Jacksonville State University. In that role, Morrison develops and directs community environmental education events.

“She has a lot of experience in this area in terms of number of years in the field,” said Heather Montgomery, an Environmental Education Association member.

The organization began developing a plan for Alabama schools about two years ago. This summer members expect to formalize the plan and begin soliciting public input before seeking approval from the Department of Education, Montgomery said.

“It is a critical time period because there is a lot of interest in the environment right now,” Montgomery said.

When the Environmental Education Association began developing the plan in 2010, it sought input from stakeholders across the state. They include residents, students and representatives from the industrial community.

Currently the organization has developed an outline of the plan.

The group’s overarching objective is to help teachers promote environmental literacy in Alabama public schools by offering guidance to educators.

One section of the plan would address curriculum and the course of study. Another would address facilities at the schools and another component would provide professional development for teachers.

“We’re not trying to make it harder or add anything to teachers’ already very full plates, but we’re trying to give them ways to teach environmental” material alongside other subjects, Morrison said.

Alabama’s web of waterways is brimming with aquatic life, its woodlands are home to a vast array of animals, a wide variety of birds call the state home and more species of plants grow here than in any other state east of the Mississippi, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If the association’s program is implemented, more of the state’s students will be aware of that, members said.

“Alabama is such a beautiful place,” Morrison said. “This will be great for Alabama to be able to implement an actual environmental education curriculum.”

Staff writer Laura Johnson 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.
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