Coweeta LTER partners with local teachers

This summer, three local teachers got the unique opportunity to participate in and document research being conducted at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, thanks to a Research Experience for Teachers (RET) grant from the National Science Foundation and support from the Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program. Dwight Long and Jim McNabb from Macon Middle School, along with Brian Phillips from Rabun Gap- Nacoochee School, spent five weeks working with a wide variety of researchers, learning about the studies being conducted at Coweeta, and looking for ways to bring this research back into their classrooms. To help accomplish this task, the teachers took a digital camera along with them and recorded videos of the graduate students and scientists at work. These videos will be made available on the new Coweeta Listening Project web site for students and the general public.

In this column, we want to share the teachers’ thoughts about their experience with the Coweeta LTER program.

“As a teacher, I have found that most students are in a routine of regurgitating facts versus communicating critical thinking skills. The more I can engage my students in field and lab experiences, the more the students will learn to problem-solve and gain hands-on connections to topics… Students coming into my class can now look forward to learning about the importance of maintaining vegetated buffer zones around streams, impacts of sedimentation and forest canopy on salamander populations, and how external factors affect the natural environment. Most importantly, I’m hoping to take my students out in the field so that they themselves can start asking questions, forming hypotheses, and coming up with their own research projects.” – Dwight Long, Science Teacher, Macon Middle School

“As a teacher in the North Georgia mountains, it is not always easy to find productive ways to spend your summer… unless you are a science teacher. This summer, I had the privilege of working at Coweeta through a Research Experience for Teachers (RET) grant. This grant allowed me to work alongside researchers and technicians from the USDA Forest Service as well as the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program at the University of Georgia. These researchers are studying a wide variety of topics in the Coweeta basin as well as the surrounding counties, which is made possible through cooperation with local landowners. Getting to spend time with the diverse group of researchers at Coweeta has greatly increased my knowledge of local issues and has given me many ideas of ways to get my students involved in more relevant studies in the classroom.” – Brian Phillips, Science Teacher, Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School

“During my five week stint as an RET, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many fascinating LTER researchers who are conducting research in many ecological areas. Although some of the research was technical, for example the movement of phosphorous and nitrogen through soil, it was always explained in terms that I was able to understand. I’ve learned more about the ecology of this area during this five-week project than in the 16 years I’ve lived here! Apart from the myriad ideas and subject matter that I plan to weave into my upcoming language arts curriculum, I have taken away a renewed sense of connection to this beautiful yet fragile place in which we live. Our impact, whether beneficial or detrimental, is undeniable. Perhaps my students can awaken that same connection to place that must surely exist in all who live in these verdant mountains.” – James McNab, Language Arts Teacher, Macon Middle School

The opportunity to work alongside Coweeta researchers was invaluable. It will help these teachers show their students that science is real and relevant, and that exciting science is happening not only in the rainforest or on Mars, but right here in our own backyard. As we move into the future, the resources that we have at Coweeta could help us maintain the health and beauty of this area that has drawn us all to these mountains.


This column is produced by members of the Coweeta Listening Project (CLP), a branch of the Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research Program. Views expressed here are not representative of the USDA Forest Service or the Coweeta Hydrologic Lab. Please share questions, comments, or suggestions for future topics at or Coweeta Listening Project, UGA, 210 Field St., Room 204, Athens, Georgia 30602.


Original Citation: The Coweeta Listening Project. Franklin Press. Column on "Science, Public Policy, Community." Page B4. Aug 24, 2012.