Becoming a Good Scientist to Be a Good Teacher
MS in Environmental Science
Crouching among the tall blades of grass sits David Greer, a College at Brockport graduate student, is observing and researching what he loves most, the great outdoors. David is a graduate student in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Biology who has been studying the decline of grassland birds in Northern New York. The College at Brockport, he explains, has left him impressed with its commitment to a “quality education that is research driven.” It is this ability to conduct research, along with the support of faculty and fellow students, which David has attributed to his growth as a student, scientist and researcher.
Originally from Spencerport, NY, David graduated with his undergraduate degree in Biology Education from Roberts Wesleyan College in 2010. Continuing his education at The College at Brockport in the fall of 2010, David discovered the Environmental Science Graduate Program was “small and intimate yet very rigorous and with excellent professors.” David, admittedly, has always been fascinated with nature. It was this interest in the outdoors and passion for children that has formed his goal of becoming a science teacher. Through working with children at summer camps such as Camp Li-Lo-Li and Camp Iroquoina, as well as, trips to the New York State Adirondack Park to study in fall 2009 and Northern Ireland in the summers of 2006 and 2008, David discovered what he wanted to do. He realized that aside from personally enjoying nature’s beauty with hiking, camping, running and rock climbing, he could bring the wonder of the environment to his students either in the United States or overseas. Through it all, it is his faith that keeps him motivated to instill the love of science in children and to take a minute to enjoy nature’s beauty. Working with children as a Sunday school teacher, he has found a way to combine his unwavering faith with his commitment to the earth. In David’s opinion, to take his career to the next level he needs the field experience of a research scientist to really validate what he would be teaching. As he puts it, “I couldn’t be a good science teacher without first being a good scientist.”
A part of becoming that accomplished scientist is completing some research experience. In his first research project, he is focusing on the grassland birds of the Northern New York, or more specifically the Fort Drum area. Approximately 30 miles away from Canada, the area around Fort Drum is seeing a significant decline in its native grassland birds. Out in the field David uses point counts, which is a process of traveling to a predetermined location and listening for as many bird species as he can hear. This determines the abundance of species in the area. Returning to those locations, he then surveys the vegetation thus facilitating the comparison between the species and the resources available. David hopes to gain an understanding of the habitat selection process of the grassland birds, as well as, proposing a management plan for the species. This has become an extensive undertaking for the graduate student who has explained the process as a “whirlwind” but “definitely worth it.” The skills he has gained, whether it is the planning process, the execution of the research, or the development of a thesis, will aid him in his future endeavors both as a teacher and a scientist. He hopes it will help him to connect the material he will one day teach his students with the firsthand knowledge he has accrued.
Though his research is currently playing a large role in his education and graduate experience at Brockport, it is the faculty and students he works with that will leave a lasting impression on his memory. David explains that in 20 years time what he will remember most about The College at Brockport is “the people, the teachers and the students.” He expressed that the support of his fellow graduate students and faculty members such as, Dr. Christopher Norment, his advisor, and Assistant Professor Dr. Mark Norris have become essential to his success at Brockport. Dr. Norment, explains Greer, is very motivated and knowledgeable about his field. With his guidance David has learned how to work through things on his own and how to conduct proper academic research. In conjunction with the program’s faculty, the camaraderie of his fellow graduate students has aided David in his graduate experience. Together the students practice and study together while trying to keep things as upbeat and stress free as possible. Working together, often in groups, David and the other students are able to ask questions in an environment that is both studious and open.
Along with the support of faculty and students, David’s time as a teaching assistant at the College has also attributed to his passion for teaching and the environment. The experience has helped him to discover the teacher he hopes to become for his students. It has also shown him how to learn in a different way and succeed. It has been his experience as both a student and a teaching assistant that has fueled David’s curiosity about the infinite complexities within the earth.
It’s the hands-on experiences, in unison with a supportive and compassionate program, that have given David and so many other students at The College at Brockport the opportunity to expand their knowledge and expertise. David has put a lot of hard work, dedication, and passion into his studies becoming an excellent student that will make for an excellent educator. With abundant opportunities, in addition to supportive faculty and students, The College at Brockport has given David a chance to apply what he has learned in the classroom, while simultaneously gaining skills he can take with him no matter where his career leads him.