Leader of the Pack

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Education professor’s enthusiam is contagious

Loomis, a professor of middle grades science education at the Bagwell College of Education frequently works with the International Wolf Center in Minnesota.

Kennesaw State professor Kimberly Loomis is a teacher of teachers. But a stereotypical academician she is not.

Whether surfing in Costa Rica or working as a wolf pup nanny, Loomis is always looking for ways to take science out of the classroom and inspire the next generation of teachers.

"I teach future science teachers," she said with pride. "I want to not only motivate them, but teach them science outside of the classroom."

The recipient of the KSU Foundation 2011 Distinguished Teaching Award, Loomis' research focuses on the effective integration of informal science education centers (ISEC) - zoos, aquariums, nature centers and museums - and field trips into science teaching and learning.

"Too often students end up seeing a field trip as a day out of the classroom, and teachers make only minimal efforts to link activities and resources at the ISEC to classroom activities," she said. "My students and I take field trips to the Georgia Aquarium, Tellus Northwest Science Museum, and/or Zoo Atlanta each semester. They are enthusiastic not only about visiting the facilities, but are also excited about the possibility of taking their future students on such trips."

One of Loomis' favorite informal science education centers is the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minn. For 15 years, Loomis has been involved with the center, helping the organization develop an online curriculum and aligning other wolf education curricula with the National Science Education Standards. In addition to her scholarly work, Loomis has served as a "nanny" to two wolf pups, Aidan and Denali, as well as collecting and analyzing ethnographic data generated from observation of the pups after they were released into the International Wolf Center exhibit with the adults. This summer, Loomis returned to the center as a pup nanny team leader and a behavioral observation team leader for two new pups.

"Most of my professional presentations involve sharing wolf education information and activities; encouraging teachers to use wolves and the environment as a context for their science teaching," she said.

Trouble at home initially led Loomis to discover the International Wolf Center. Two of her three four-legged children, Denali and Murray, were constantly fighting for the role of alpha male dog.

"I got interested in the wolves because of the dogs, then as a science educator I saw the potential of the information at the International Wolf Center for teachers," she said. "There are so many cool things you can do in your classrooms to help students appreciate science."

And, it's not just future teachers Loomis inspires. Last summer, she led a group of in-service teachers on a trip to Yellowstone National Park, to develop innovative approaches that teachers can use to help students become thoughtful, informed and engaged citizens.

"The passion she has for teaching others how to become teachers, or even to become better teachers, is contagious," Dacula Elementary School fifth grade teacher Hope Smith said. "Excellent teachers are those who instill the desire to be lifelong learners in students. These teachers are ones who shape the future of the world we live in. Dr. Loomis is just that, an excellent teacher."

Fortunately for Smith and untold numbers of middle school science students, Loomis abandoned her original career goal of molecular biologist, forgoing the isolation of a lab for the chaos of a classroom.

"I didn't like being isolated in a lab with bacteria, but I discovered I liked telling people how cool bacteria was," she said. "I'm just a teacher and I can't imagine doing anything else."

 

-- Jennifer Hafer