Middle school teacher studies global change in summer program

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 21, 2014

 Christine Geerer poses for a picture at Porcupine Mountain State Park where the teachers in the Global Change Institute identified old-growth forest.

Christine Geerer poses for a picture at Porcupine Mountain State Park where the teachers in the Global Change Institute identified old-growth forest.

Photo provided by Christine Geerer


GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Parcells Middle School science teacher Christine Geerer spends her summers soaking up knowledge, working on research that translates to activities and information that she can bring back to her students.

This summer, she was one of 12 middle and high school teachers to head up to Michigan Technological University to spend a week at the Global Change Teacher Institute studying the impact of global change on ecosystems.

During the institute, Geerer participated in field trips for firsthand learning, including visiting the Porcupine Mountains, the U.S. Forest Service Research Station and more.

She’s excited to bring some of what she’s learned back to the classroom for her students.

“I learned so much from experiencing real research with the forestry professors at Michigan Tech,” Geerer said in a news release. “Now I can return to my classroom and implement real scientific investigations with my students.”

This isn’t the first summer Geerer has dedicated to one of Michigan Tech’s Teacher Institutes. It’s the fourth.

“I choose them because they allow me to interact with real scientists and researchers, both in the classroom and the field,” she said in an email.  “This year, we learned about climate science from a variety of MTU professors, U.S. Forest Service researchers and educational professionals. 

“For example, we hiked out into the Upper Peninsula woods to see Dr. Andrew Burton’s experiment measuring the impact of increased air temperature on plant growth and nutrient content,” she said.

Geerer learned to measure tree diameter, identify old-growth forests, analyze climate data, and calculate height and carbon content, among many other things.

“The Michigan Tech programs for teachers are high-quality, demanding, and best of all, subsidized with grant money to make them affordable,” she said. “When you pay for your own summer professional development, after multiple pay cuts, that makes a difference.”

She is working on finishing up a science unit for graduate credit, and she is very excited about all the new lessons she will be able to teach this upcoming school year.

She plans to incorporate technology into her lessons and include an activity in which the students work with the program Excel to create graphs and trend lines. Then, they can discuss things they observe in their scientific investigations.

“We’re also going to measure trees on school grounds and calculate their carbon content, and engage in engineering by designing wind turbines for greatest efficiency using paper and straws.  I have set a personal goal to integrate (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as often as possible, and attending this institute gave me great inspiration,” Geerer said.