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Nature-Based Inquiry (NBI) Professional Development Model

University of South Carolina faculty members have developed a Nature-Based Inquiry (NBI) professional development model which centers around the design and use of outdoor "classrooms" that take advantage of natural educational assets on school campuses (The term classroom represents any number of outdoor learning spaces such as vegetable gardens, nature trails, etc.).

We help design the outdoor classrooms, support their construction and use as educational resources, and facilitate the development of the community partnerships needed to ensure that the outdoor classrooms will be maintained. In addition, we provide participating teachers with standards-based science content instruction, foster the development of professional learning communities, and help participants integrate science instruction into their curricula.

The primary research objective of the NBI is to determine whether the use of outdoor classrooms improves science education (teaching and learning) as well as related student behaviors and achievement.

The NBI program is a partnership among low-performing school districts (currently Clarendon One and Richland One), the Richland County Soil and Water Conservation District, and two University of South Carolina Colleges (Arts and Sciences and Education). 

The NBI Model features Summer Workshops to augment teachers’ content and inquiry-based pedagogical knowledge as well as their knowledge of concepts that promote healthy lifestyle choices. The Summer Workshops also help to build a sense of community that promotes collaboration across partner institutions.

The professional development experience continues with the implementation of the lessons and strategies from the Summer Workshops within participating teachers' classrooms during the academic year. To support participating teachers' instructional implementation and outdoor classroom development efforts, the NBI program provides Peer Mentors who visit each participating school on a weekly basis. Peer Mentors are experienced elementary science educators with a background in nature-based instruction and a history of successful science teaching experiences in high poverty P-6 school settings.

 

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