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Tuesday October 30, 2012

PITTSFIELD

The Berkshire Environmental Educators Network is looking to help teachers get a jump start on new standards in science education.

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, BEEN will host its ninth annual Conference for Environmental Educators, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at Berkshire Community College.

The free day-long program is offered to all area educators who are looking to integrate and expand opportunities for students to learn about their local environment through hands-on, place-based scientific investigations.

"One of the focus points this year is to integrate math and English language arts into the science curriculum, which is part of the next generation science standards," said Cynthia Grippaldi, an environmental educator for the Center for EcoTechnology.

Right now, the state is in the process of reviewing its science and technology/engineering framework, which is slated to be revised for a new adoption in spring 2013.

During the conference, participants will be able to choose and attend three of the 21 different workshops offered, led by experienced teachers and environmental educators from Berkshire Co-op, Berkshire Museum, Berkshire Botanical Garden, Center for EcoTechnology, Flying Cloud Institute, Housatonic Valley Association, Massachusetts Audubon and Tamarack Hollow.

Topics will include weather, forest pests, botany, tree identification, recycling, renewable energy, map making, lime kilns, river investigations, the story of clay in the Berkshires and more.

Karen Lyness LeBlanc, education and outreach coordinator for Project Native in Housatonic, will present a workshop geared toward middle school teachers on designing and implementing a butterfly garden.

"It incorporates a lot of the STEM curriculum at those grade levels, from area and ratios, graphing and scale drawings," LeBlanc said.

She said the workshop is a continuation of the work Project Native is already doing with local butterfly habitats. Currently, Project Native is making plans and seeking grants for creating a butterfly vivarium, an enclosure that will house native butterflies, so that various stages of butterfly development and activities can be observed.

LeBlanc said the Environmental Educators Conference "seems to be a unique conference in the Berkshires, really connecting teachers with the environmental community in the area, which is a nice fit."

Grippaldi said the conference can also help to bring environmental science to the forefront of curriculum.

"There are larger national conferences teachers can attend, but there is real value in having specific presenters who are so knowledgeable on the local environment. We even invite teachers, who were past participants and who have had successful experiences, to be presenters and to help inspire their peers," Grippaldi said.