home current issue editorial board reader survey submissions archive

Ecology, Environment and Education: Teaching and Learning in
National and International
Professional Development Experiences

Harriett S. Stubbs, Christiane de Gioppo, Arlita McNamee

Page 3

print this article email this article save this article

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Two teachers from Parana, Brazil attended the Grandfather Mountain International Workshop. Eliane stated:

I have almost 30 years of teaching experience but this workshop was THE MOST IMPORTANT professional development activity that I have ever been involved with.

And Rosa Lúcia said,

I was so excited with the program that I want to come back to Brazil and start writing a grant right away to put my own students in contact with the U.S. students, via videoconference. It will be a dream come t rue if this really happens.

We expect these Brazilian teachers to be part of the 2009 experience in Brazil!

Cooperators for this project in 2008 included: Grandfather Mountain, Appalachian State University, Lees-McRae College, NC State University, University of Tennessee, and Wake County Schools. We are grateful for their support and help in many different arenas.

The U.S. Brazillian Experience

Brazilian Christiane Gioppo arrived in Raleigh NC as a doctoral student in 2000, invited by Dr. John Penick, Chair, Department of Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education in the College of Education. She writes:

When I started my Ph.D. in Science Education at North Carolina State University, I was introduced to GIS (geographic mapping systems) in SCI-LINK workshops. While designing my research project, I introduced a portion of GIS to discuss the potential of this tool connected to non-formal experiences as a transformational experience for teacher candidates. During this time, the North Carolina University System signed a cooperative agreement with The Paraná State Research Foundation called Fundação Araucária. The Foundation offers small grants to Universities in Brazil throughout Parana state to develop many types of research. The arrangement allowed me to work closely with North Carolina State University and SCI-LINK workshops as part of my dissertation research project (Gioppo, 2004).

Gioppo added,

Since I was the first one from Brazil to participate in the workshops, I felt so very excited and involved, that I planned my dissertation and teaching (back in Brazil) to include experiences learned in the workshops. I started my research project in the methods course I offer to the undergraduate biology education program at the Federal University of Paraná in Curitiba, Brazil.

Gioppo's project had three major steps:

•  Step 1: In the science education methods course in Brazil, Gioppo (2004) discussed the need for teachers to teach science, and to have out-of classroom/ off-campus/ field experiences with middle and high school students. Teacher candidates had to learn how to design and plan a science lesson.
•  Step 2: In the SCI-LINK workshop in the U.S., teacher candidates (in the biology education program), science teachers and faculty members (all from Brazil) worked together, exchanging roles and experiences, having in-depth contact with GIS, field experiences and lesson plan design.
•  Step 3: Back in Brazil, in the education research methods course, teacher candidates were required to design, test and pilot their lesson plan.

In June 2003, nine Brazilian science educators (five college undergraduates (teacher candidates), and four faculty members, 5 men, 4 women all from The Federal University of Paraná came to North Carolina for 15 days to participate in existing SCI-LINK professional development workshops. Christiane Gioppo, a graduate student at NCSU at the time, led the Brazilian participants in the program. An educator from Instituto Sangari also attended. Brazilians came from many different locations including Sao Paulo, Curitiba, and other cities. They paid their airfare and personal expenses. Workshop attendance and U.S. travel expenses were covered by SCI-LINK. During the workshops, NCSU scientists and North Carolina experts presented new information and current research on science education, technology use, and the environment. Utilizing on-site GIS the Brazilian educators were introduced to mapping and monitoring a 10x10 meter plot. The second week, the Brazilians attended the Grandfather Mountain Workshop. One Brazilian participant declared the Grandfather Mountain Workshop a "transformational experience." Still, to this day, participants communicate how valuable it was for designing classroom instruction rich in personal experience and challenging to their students.

One surprising result of these two weeks was the depth of the candidates' engagement with the schools, teacher candidates, and their partner teachers. We were also surprised by the depth of Brazilian faculty involvement which we had underestimated! Faculty members helped with candidates' projects throughout the year; they attended all field trips with the teacher candidates and the middle school/high school students, keeping an eye on project development. One of the teacher candidates said of the trip to the U.S.:

"This was the most important and relevant experience that I had during the (university) program".

Additionally, the Brazilian high school teacher from the beach working with the teacher candidates mentioned that the students were very focused and determined to make the fieldtrip data collection work. Thus even when it was necessary to have three field trips because of storms, teacher candidates came to all three with the same excitement. They were not simply willing to teach; they were also willing to learn from the high school students, who had lived their entire lives in this (the beach) environment. Sometimes the candidates were in a teacher position, sometimes in a student position. Consequently, the high school students felt much more comfortable than if the teacher candidates had only come to provide knowledge.

Gioppo's plan was carried out during 2003, and included the two summer workshops (GIS and Water Workshop and the Grandfather Mountain International Workshop) in North Carolina . Despite many difficulties and roadblocks, we were still able to accomplish the following:

All undergraduate majors (teacher candidates of biology education), almost 40, from the methods course completed Step 1 in Brazil. Only five biology education teacher candidates and three faculty (including Gioppo) could travel to the U.S., due to lack of funding support. Faculty members included: one ecologist, one geologist, and one science educator. These same individuals tested and piloted their lesson plans with high school students (Step 3). Faculty members supported these field activities, attending the classes together with the teacher candidates (a unique experience for the two science faculty members in Brazil).

Please see this link for activities and photos in Brazil:

Ongoing Communication

During the last six years, (2003-2008), Gioppo and Stubbs have continued to communicate and visit each other. Gioppo has presented at several NSTA and NAAEE national conferences in the U.S. Her students from Brazil participated in a Raleigh based GIS-Live video-conference. Stubbs has presented at teacher professional development meetings in Brazil and met with the State Board of Education. When people are able to interact and converse, the outcomes can be amazing and notable for other projects. The Brazilians initiated different research projects based on the experiences and technologies they learned in the U.S., which they expanded and adapted to meet their needs and objectives. Each year, the Brazilian students have progressed in their individual degree programs, expanding their knowledge of GIS, monitoring, and the environment. They have developed their teaching skills in K-12 schools and non-profit organizations.

In 2008, five years later, it is important to follow the impacts of this two-week U.S. 2003 experience on the Brazilians. Gioppo continues to be in contact with four of the five students. All five students graduated with undergraduate degrees from the University in 2004 and all had two majors: one in biology education and one in the biological sciences. To accomplish this, the students were required to graduate in biology education; then each student was allowed an additional semester to finish a graduation project in the biological sciences. It is interesting to note that two of the candidates designed lesson plans for beach environs in the U.S. and then used the same topic with their Brazilian high school students for their graduation (Master) projects.

One student completed his Masters at Sao Paulo University (the most important university in Brazil) studying bats and caves with a GIS component. Another studied dengue mosquitoes distribution using GIS as an important part of his project. This graduate is also very interested in education. He wrote a lesson plan about macro-invertebrates as indicators for water quality with GIS that he tested with middle school students. He also contributed a chapter in a book on assessment in science education, using the dengue fever/ GIS lesson plan as background to discuss alternative evaluation (Gioppo, Silva and Barra, 2006). A third student completed the master's degree with a project related to the beach environ and the use of GIS. The fourth candidate completed his master's degree in Ecology with the faculty member who traveled with the group to the U.S. He is working for a non-governmental organization (NGO) in the Atlantic Rain Forest, and uses GIS in his work. Interestingly, he has designed a 2009 one-week program for U.S. college students in and near Curitiba, following the program design that he had shown Stubbs on one of her visits. One of the faculty members who traveled to the U.S. will be part of this program.

Setuko, an ecology professor, was amazed at the oaks and the salamanders at Grandfather Mountain. She said,

I have been a faculty member for many years and only knew an oak tree from a photograph. Now I can tell my students what it is like to smell the oak tree, and to feel of the texture of the bark and the leaves. I can teach from my own experience. I had only seen a salamander in a jar filled with alcohol. There is only one species of salamander in Brazil. Now I can experience this on another level and share my knowledge with my students!

Group Picture


Salamander Picture


Figure 1: Outdoor field trip. Salamander Hunt.

A: Group of workshop participants at Grandfather Mountain International Workshop off-site (

B: Salamander observed during the field trip (


Page 3


1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5


Current Issue | Editorial Board | Reader Survey | Special Honors
Submissions | Resources | Archive | Text Version | Email
NC State Homepage

Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal
a service of NC State University, Raleigh, NC
Volume 12, Issue 2, 2009
ISSN 1097-9778
Contact Meridian
All rights reserved by the authors.

Meridian is a member of the GEM Consortium