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    National organization names Charles Drewes recipient of biology teaching award

  • Over the past 28 years, Charles Drewes, professor of zoology and genetics, frequently pondered the following questions -

      *Can more be done to inspire students in biology?

      *Is biology education too often a "spectator sport"?

      *If so, why, and what can be done?

    "My intuitions and my colleagues seemed to provide affirmative answers to the first two questions, but I felt I was in no position to effect any change," Drewes said.

    Then, in 1993, Drewes says he was able to begin effecting some actual change when he became a co-director of a multi-year project funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to improve undergraduate biology education at Iowa State.

    His vision and specific role in this project involved creation of hands-on summer workshops for biology teachers at the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory.

    What followed from those first workshops in 1993 was a series of personally rewarding and professionally transforming experiences in educational outreach in which Drewes found answers to that third question.

    It also has led Drewes to be recognized this fall by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) as the recipient of their national "Four-Year College Biology Teaching Award" for 2002.

    "This award is testimony to your excellence in teaching as well as your unique abilities that inspire others who teach and are engaged in biological research," wrote Janice Haldeman, professor of biology at Erskine College and chair of the Four-Year Section of the NABT.

    The NABT award recognizes creativity and innovations in undergraduate college biology teaching. These innovations include curriculum design, teaching strategies and laboratory utilization. The award is co-sponsored by the Benjamin Cummings Publishing Company.

    "This is an affirmation that what I'm doing is meaningful and important to a wide group of biology teachers from the middle school to college level," Drewes said.

    Since 1993 every summer for one to two weeks, you will find Drewes at the Iowa Lakeside Lab instructing those middle school and high school biology teachers in a series of workshops in invertebrate biology. Participants in Drewes' Lakeside Lab workshops will be involved in a combination of hands-on classroom investigations and fieldwork, including exploring the abundant aquatic habitats of the region.

    Drewes has also regularly presented new ideas for laboratory investigations to teachers who attend hands-on workshop sessions at conferences of the NABT and the Association for Biology Laboratory Education.

    "Through workshop initiatives, I sought to connect or re-connect participating teachers with the living, natural world of invertebrates in both field and lab settings," he said. "Such efforts gradually led me to believe that meaningful interaction of teachers and their students with a wide range of living, behaving organisms not only enhances their biology education in general, but ultimately is crucial for promoting ecological awareness and preserving biodiversity."

    Drewes' successful teacher workshops feature "low-tech" activities that teachers, regardless of any budgetary constraints, can bring into their classroom. He has refined and shared an array of these teaching tools with students and teachers at all education levels.

    And while Drewes says the Hughes grant was the stimulus to begin his journey into teaching teachers, it is those same teachers that keep him motivated.

    "Working with these teachers has taught me a lot and stimulated my creativity," he said. "It's clear to me that the methods and techniques that I have to offer are of interest to a lot of people, and the more I see the teachers interested, the more I get energized."

Charles Drewes in office

Around LAS
October 7-20, 2002