Kittatinny teachers awarded for ‘Best Practice'

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:59

Kittatinny - Social studies teacher Tom Miller and science teacher Dan Chamberlin were recognized last school year by the N.J. Department of Education “Best Practice” program. Both teach at Kittatinny Regional High School. The “Best Practice” program solicits applications from teachers across the state, asking them to describe portions of their curricula that may serve as educational models for others. The idea behind the program is to identify, reward and replicate “best practices,” thereby upgrading the quality of educational programming statewide. Miller and Chamberlin’s submission, titled “Monkey Business,” gives anthropology students at Kittatinny the opportunity to conduct field research experience in observing and documenting primate behaviors at the Bronx Zoo. Students research their selected primates, pose hypotheses about some aspect of primate behavior, and test these hypotheses against actual behaviors observed in the captive primates. Students are required to document and submit their findings in a research paper and share their research with their fellow classmates using a PowerPoint presentation. The overall experience is one of the highlights of the year in anthropology. Not content to limit research to captive behaviors, the two teachers invite students to consider a second, and more involved, phase of the program. This portion takes place in Costa Rica and immerses students in various aspects of tropical ecology. For many students who resolve to go to Costa Rica, their experience with the captive primates at the zoo serves them well when confronted by one of Costa Rica’s four common primate species. Students have the opportunity to observe and document mantled howling monkeys, Central American spider monkeys, white-faced monkeys, and squirrel monkeys as they forage for food and engage in typical primate activities. These activities sometimes include checking out the human visitors. Students have been able to expose themselves to an incredible array of experiences that field researchers typically encounter, and some have been able to capture these experiences on film. Each year, one student is selected as a videographer and produces a short film capturing many of the extraordinary moments for posterity. Last summer, the two teachers took 10 students to Corcovado National Park on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, home to the largest remaining tract of primary rainforest in Central America.