Life Science Education in the Informal or Outdoor Setting

Sarah Haines, Instructor

Towson University
College of Science & Mathematics
Department of Biological Sciences
Life Science Education in the Informal or Outdoor Setting

Course: BIOL 304, Section 001

Instructor: Dr. Sarah Haines

Monday 12-3 Smith Hall 340

Office: 315 Smith Hall

Office Hours: TR 10:00-12:00


Phone: 410-704-2926



Required texts: You will receive many texts free of charge as you complete your training in various subject areas of this course.  You are required to purchase the following texts: WOW! The Wonders of Wetlands.  Author: B.E. Slattery, 1991; Turning the Tide: Saving the Chesapeake Bay.  Authors: Tom Horton & William Eichbaum, 2003; and Windows on the Wild: Biodiversity Basics.  Author: World Wildlife Fund, 1999.

Course Description: This course is designed to provide the student with the necessary background and training to effectively teach science lessons to school-age children in a variety of informal settings including zoological parks, aquaria, nature centers, museums, or a simple backyard or schoolyard.  It is geared toward those who are interested in starting a career in the types of institutions mentioned above, those who are training to become classroom teachers, or those interested in environmental science or environmental education.  

Much of the coursework required of you will involve active participation on your part.  We will be simulating many of the informal settings you may be teaching in- these simulations will require that you take an active part in the activities being presented.  In addition, part of your coursework requirements will take place at an off-campus facility, where you will undergo more specific training and will eventually lead school-age students through appropriate activities at the off-campus site.

Additionally, we will be taking field trips to local sites that have been exemplary in their science education efforts.

Course Objectives: Upon completion of this course you will be able to: 

1.  Begin to develop a constructivist view of teaching informal/outdoor science

2.  Recognize that the processes of science are the first priority in science education

3.  Develop interpretive lessons/activities that effectively integrate the National Science Education Standards, and the Maryland Core Learning Goals

4.  Practice and teach the skills necessary to protect, preserve, and restore the environment

5.  Utilize local community resources when planning informal or outdoor educational experiences

6.  Teach ways to approach reducing or solving environmental problems

7.  Comfortably lead school-age children through a variety of outdoor/environmental educational activities

8.  Name some prominent environmental/outdoor education organizations and describe their aims/goals as far as education is concerned

Additionally, you will receive certification and curriculum guides for the following environmental education programs:

1.  Project Wet (water-based activities)

2.  Project Learning Tree (plant-based activities)

3.  Project Wild and Project Aquatic Wild (animal-based activities)

4.  WOW! The Wonders of Wetlands (wetland education)

Assessment & Evaluation: You will be evaluated in five general areas:

1.  Evaluation of informal/outdoor education activities

After you are properly trained, you will lead at least three school groups through an informal science education activity sponsored by Irvine Nature Center.  These activities involve leading a group of students through a nature walk at the center.  Students range in age from PreK to high school.  The first time you lead an activity, you will not be formally evaluated.  The second time you lead an activity, the staff at Irvine will evaluate you and I will receive the report.  The third time, I will evaluate you myself.  Your evaluations account for 20% of your final grade.

2.  Midterm Exam

Covers methodology, terminology, and techniques discussed in the first half of the course, and the contents of "Turning the Tide".  20% of the final grade.

3.  Participation and Attendance

This course is extremely interactive in nature.  It is essential that you actively participate and attend every class.  This accounts for 10% of your grade.  

4.  Paper

You are required to write a 5-10 page paper discussing any current trend or issue in informal science education or outdoor/environmental education.  Your paper should have at least 5 references.  Your paper accounts for 30% of your grade.

5.  Final exam

Cumulative- covers methodology, terminology, and techniques discussed throughout the semester.  Accounts for 20% of your grade.



As part of your preparation for becoming a leader in informal science education, you will be expected to act in a professional manner.  This includes:

Attendance and punctuality: Class time is used to clarify and extend concepts.  Class will be interactive in nature and it will be difficult to make up in the event of an absence.  Be on time and don't leave early.  Students are expected to attend every class.  Genuine emergencies may be excused; otherwise grades will be lowered in proportion to the number of classes missed.  Each absence after three may result in a 20point deduction from the final grade.  If a genuine emrgency occurs which causes an absence, notify the instructor as soon as possible.

Participation: Participation doesn't mean simply attending class.  Participate in the class discussion and activities by making meaningful comments.  Ask questions!!

Respect: Be considerate of others.  Behave in a professional, ethical manner.

Attitude: Be curious, flexible, organized, and patient- all characteristics of good teachers.



Academic dishonesty: Please refer to your student handbook for Towson University's policy regarding cheating.  As a budding professional, you are expected to behave as such.  Instances of academic dishonesty may result in failure of the assignment and possibly of the course.

Late assignments: Unless you are unable to turn in an assignment due to an emergency of which I have been made aware of in advance, late assignments will be reduced by one letter grade.






Intro/Background/History/Maryland Core Learning Goals/Nat'l Science Standards/Env/Outdoor Org.


Aquarium Field Trip 


Zoo Field Trip 


Project Wild/Aquatic Wild



Project Wild/Aquatic Wild


Wetlands Education


Parks/Irvine orientation


Training at Irvine


Training at Irvine  MIDTERM DUE


Project Learning Tree Certification (Maureen Sullivan, MD Science Center)


 Project Learning Tree Certification 


Project Wet  (Cindy Etgen, DNR)  PAPER DUE


Project Wet (Elena Takaki, DNR)


Biodiversity: Windows on the Wild




FINAL EXAM DUE EXAM WEEK (12 Noon Monday, May 17th)