EASTERN PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. – Dr. Beth Krueger, a professor of science at CAC’s Aravaipa Campus since 2007, has written a chapter in a recently-published instructional book titled Exemplary College Science Teaching. The chapter, called Take Your Students Outside: Success With Science Outdoors, was peer-reviewed and included in the book published by the National Science Teachers Association. The section draws on Krueger’s experience with and staunch support for experiential learning.
“I don’t like to lecture,” Krueger says, without hesitation. By taking her students to nature conservancies for bird and plant surveys, for example, she believes that the students are “looking at real-world issues in a real setting and conducting real research that actually benefits not just them and the class but the non-profit in their community that is actually using their numbers.”
Krueger, who was recently named Faculty of the Year by the student body at CAC’s Aravaipa Campus, was invited by the NSTA to write the chapter after giving a conference presentation on the practice of teaching science outside. The chapter itself describes CAC, the Aravaipa Campus, and Eastern Pinal County in great detail and includes testimonials from several of the students who have enjoyed Krueger’s methods.
“Working outside the classroom in the field was a great experience,” Delilah Carbajal says in the book. “I enjoyed the visual aspects of doing fieldwork: Observing endangered fish and actually being in a desert riparian system proved to be most helpful in the field versus the classroom.”
The outdoors model even worked for a student, David Rowlands, who took Krueger’s BIO 182 hybrid course, which meets partly online.
“I enjoyed it,” he says. “I actually thought it was a lot easier to learn outdoors and see the living environment. In a lot of ways, I thought it was easier than the classroom experience.”
In the chapter, Krueger also explains some other, logistical benefits to teaching outdoors.
“One major challenge for teachers,’” she writes, “is that much of the scientific equipment available to schools has…a large learning curve…[is] expensive to buy and maintain; and cannot take the rigors of field use.’” In the next sentence she explains that the training staff from the Arizona Rivers Project, the organization that Krueger took a workshop with when she first arrived in Arizona, emphasized the fact that “quality field work could be done by students with inexpensive, user-friendly, field-friendly equipment.”
Although the chapter is geared toward those who instruct science courses in higher education, Krueger believes that her model can be scaled up or down to fit any level of education and can be used in other subjects, as well.
“I think the book would be very useful to have in any graduate and undergraduate courses in education because it’s a very practical book. It’s very ‘this is how we did it; this is what you have to do.”
A 2010 George Fridell Excellence in Teaching Award recipient, Krueger came to CAC after serving Miles Community College in Montana as its Chief Academic Officer. Before that, she was a 7-12 science teacher at the Westby School, a K-12 school of 49 students located in the town of Westby, which boasted all of 90 residents and sat on the border of Montana and North Dakota.
Krueger earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Tampa (Fla.) before getting her master’s degree from the University of Rochester (N.Y.). She holds a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin.