Teacher Feature: Thea Hayes

“Teacher Features”  are a regular feature of the WISE Blog, where we interview an outstanding teacher who has integrated invasive species learning into their class.  We are so pleased to feature Thea Hayes, who has been an inspiration in her passion for raising awareness about invasive species.

Name: Thea Hayes

School: Portland School District

Subject: Earth, life and physical sciences

Grades: Middle school

Photo courtesy Thea Hayes

Photo courtesy Thea Hayes

How did you first hear about the invasive species workshop and why did it interest you?

In 2007, I’d heard about the program through email. I worked with another science teacher who was into the same kinds of things as me, and she and I both decided to go to the first WISE workshop, so we were in the first group of teachers in Newport. I liked the fact that we were going to be working with scientists from Oregon State University. We also did a combination of lecture, hands-on activities and site visits.  It was a good all-around combination of activities that kept my interest and became something useful for me in my classroom.

What did you learn from the workshop?

For one, I learned about a lot of different species that I hadn’t known about before. I’m a kind of “invader” from New York. When I moved to Oregon, I already knew about invasive species on the East Coast (like gypsy moths and kudzu), but I didn’t know about a whole bunch of them here. I found out about aquatic invaders and why it’s so important to learn about them. I also did not realize that while we’re battling invaders that are already here, there’s also a battle to keep them out. Oregon is at the forefront of that.

 How have you used your invasive species knowledge in the classroom?

First of all, I integrated it into the different curricula when I had that leeway. Another thing I did was develop my professional relationships by bringing speakers into the classroom so that the students knew there were people in the community interested in their learning. I was also able to organize field trip opportunities so the kids could do stewardship projects. We did activities in class that got students thinking about the issues, and I also posted all kinds of materials that were given to me as reminders of what the concerns were, so that students would utilize them and be aware of what was going on.

One year, I took my students to Bonneville Dam, and I connected with the public relations person there beforehand to focus on the effect of AIS on the native fish as well as the dam operations. We developed a day-long activity, which included people discussing and talking about invasive species, including how to keep the zebra and quagga mussels out. We talked about invasive fish in the river and how that could affect the salmon.   This program involved several members of the onsite staff, and they also brought in experts in various aspects of the dam operation. I was very impressed with their interest and involvement in that. It’s hard not to be enthusiastic. And for the kids, it’s pretty high interest, especially if you integrate the hands-on aspect of it. It allows for lots of different kinds of Bloom’s intelligences to be utilized in and out of the classroom.

How have your students benefited from learning about invasive species?

 It’s a combination of things. The first thing is that they’re more aware of the world around them – their world has expanded. They get to see that there are issues that surround them that they never would have thought about. They get to become experts at something when they make the effort, and get the opportunity to teach other people, which gives them a feeling of legitimate accomplishment. Another important aspect of growth when you do this kind of work is collaboration– they get to develop the critical job skill of working successfully with others.  And don’t forget: when students have professional visitors that take the time to share expertise and exchange ideas with students, they really do “get” that their learning experiences matter.

 How are you and your students using aquatic invasive species knowledge in the community?

My students developed a survey to distribute to teachers and the Portland public. That survey was the basis for a larger survey that was sent nationally. They got involved in something that turned out to be bigger, and they were able to find out what other people thought. We looked at the results of the survey, and were able to be involved in something that went beyond just a grade in a classroom.  This is just one example of authentic learning that keeps students engaged and motivated.

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