CSU Welcomes New Class of STEM Teachers for High-Need Schools

ATLANTA, Ga. — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, honored Georgia’s ongoing commitment to close the achievement gap and provide all students with high-quality teachers on Thursday, June 29, recognizing the third class of Woodrow Wilson Georgia Teaching Fellows, 12 of which are coming to Columbus State University.

A total of 63 aspiring educators were picked this year, adding to the 159 teachers who have been prepared through the WW Georgia Teaching Fellowship program to lead STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes in the state’s high-need secondary schools. The program is hosted at Columbus State University, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, Mercer University, and Piedmont College during the 2017–18 academic year. The highly competitive Fellowship recruits both recent graduates and career changers with strong backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math.

“Sandra and I are honored to welcome this third class of Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows into the program,” Gov. Nathan Deal said during the announcement at the Capitol. “Georgia has earned many accolades over the past several years, and none of them would be possible or sustainable without our leaders in the classroom. This program creates a pipeline of dedicated math and science teachers to the schools that need them the most, and we wish the best of luck to this year’s class.”

The Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship focuses on preparing top-quality educators for many of Georgia’s most underserved public schools. Each Fellow receives $30,000 to complete a specially designed, cutting-edge master’s degree program based on a yearlong classroom experience. In return, Fellows commit to teach for three years in the urban and rural Georgia schools that most need strong STEM teachers. Throughout the three-year commitment, Fellows receive ongoing support and mentoring.

“As Georgia re-emphasizes its commitment to turning around the state’s low-performing schools, it is essential that every Georgia child has access to excellent educators, particularly in subjects like science and math,” Levine said. “With the WW Georgia Teaching Fellowship program, Georgia colleges are ensuring Georgia classrooms have a pipeline of needed teachers both committed to teaching in high-need schools and with the skills and abilities to boost student learning. Teachers like our Georgia Teaching Fellows are key to future success.”

Through the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship program, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation will contribute to the University System of Georgia’s initiative to produce 20,000 new teachers by 2020. Woodrow Wilson is administering the program, with in-state coordination by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (GPEE) and support from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation. Current project funding is $13.7 million.

The university partners, selected in a statewide review by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, have spent years tailoring their teacher preparation programs to meet the Fellowship’s standards for intensive clinical work and rigorous related coursework. All five participating universities received $400,000 matching grants to develop their teacher preparation programs based on standards set by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. For each of the program’s past three years, the participating Georgia colleges and universities have each enrolled approximately 12 Fellows annually, totaling 180 Fellows over the three-year period.

“This program has helped us become nationally recognized for our STEM teacher preparation efforts,” said Chris Markwood, president of Columbus State University. “I’m excited to welcome our 12 future teachers to Columbus State University, and I am confident they will add to our legacy of training top-notch teachers and meeting our community’s needs.”

Columbus State University’s 2017-2018 class of Georgia Teaching Fellows includes:

— Tonie Curry
— Carlos Del Orbe
— Justin Fairchild
— Craig Henning
— Jayla Johnson
— Molly Lichtner
— Samuelle Mangibin
— Bethany Manning
— Antonio Rainey
— Jose Ruiz
— Bridget Smith
— Michael Steinagel

“One of the most important elements to increasing student achievement is the effectiveness of the teacher,” GPEE President Steve Dolinger said. “The Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship has an exceptional record of helping improve teacher training, especially for STEM teachers, which ultimately benefits students. We continue to be proud to help coordinate these efforts.”

The Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship is also offered in Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio. The Georgia program brings the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s total commitment to the Fellowship to more than $90 million nationally. More information on the national program can be found at woodrow.org/fellowships/ww-teaching-fellowships.

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About the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
Founded in 1945, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (www.woodrow.org) identifies and develops the nation’s best minds to meet its most critical challenges. The Foundation supports its Fellows as the next generation of leaders shaping American society.

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CSU Camp Builds Confidence for Children with Visual Impairments

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University recently offered children who are blind or visually impaired a chance to participate in all of the activities that make up a traditional summer camp.

“Camp Abilities provides campers with the opportunity to build skills while increasing self esteem and independence,” said Dr. Jeanine Fittipaldi-Wert, associate professor of health, physical education and exercise science, who oversees the camp. “We’re able to show the campers and the community everything a blind or visually impaired individual can do, which is everything!”

Camp Abilities Columbus is a non-profit organization and residential camp for children, ages 8 to 18, who are blind or visually impaired. Campers stay on CSU’s campus to engage in an array of sports and recreational activities in a safe and developmentally appropriate environment. Some of these activities include:

— Beep baseball
— Beep kickball
— Goalball
— Rock climbing
— Swimming
— Soccer
— Tandem biking
— Tennis
— Team building activities

Activities are supervised by volunteer student counselors from CSU’s Health and Physical Education, Health Science and Exercise Science programs and Florida State University’s Vision Program. All activities are taught by a specialist in education for children who are blind or visually impaired.

Campers have attended Camp Abilities over Memorial Day weekend every year for the past six years thanks in part to the generous support of local businesses and organizations, including Ride on Bikes, Country’s Barbeque, Zaxby’s, Georgia Eye Care, the Georgia Society of Ophthalmology, and Run Across Georgia.

For more information about Camp Abilities Columbus, Georgia, visit hpex.columbusstate.edu/camp_abilities.

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CSU Summer Camp to Bring Future Teachers, Kids Together for Ultimate Educational Experience

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University is hosting an innovative educational summer camp this June that will have young students and teacher candidates learning together.

Children ages 4-11 are invited to enroll in Summer Spectacular, offered by CSU’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program in the Department of Teacher Education. Summer Spectacular combines two experiences in one. ECE students will gain valuable teaching experience, while young minds will engage in hands-on, enriched learning activities. Parents can rest assured that their children will receive personal attention from students of a nationally accredited program that was named the 2016-2017 Distinguished Program in Teacher Education by the Georgia Association of Teacher Educators (GATE).

This year’s Summer Spectacular theme is “Exploring Georgia.” Using science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM), teachers and students will team up to learn about three regions of the state: the Coastal Plains, Piedmont and Northern Georgia.

Kmiko Johnson, a CSU ECE major and Summer Spectacular teacher candidate, plans to construct a river with her campers, complete with running water, a canoe, campsite, plants and animals that are representative of Northern Georgia.

“Summer Spectacular is a project-based learning experience,” said Johnson. “It’s really an exploration. By building and creating, it’s amazing how much students can learn, and I’m learning at the same time.”

ECE students receive 12 credit hours for their participation in Summer Spectacular, the equivalent of a semester’s worth of coursework. More importantly, CSU students are gaining confidence.

“Summer Spectacular will give me the confidence to manage a classroom of 25 students,” said Summer Watson, a senior ECE major. “CSU sets you up so that you are learning hands-on. You get to learn your own teaching style.”

“CSU’s Department of Education absolutely has the best professors,” said Ieshia Davis, a senior ECE major, who is planning to teach about the Piedmont region with Watson. “Our professors have all had experience in the classroom, so they have prepared us for this full-on experience.”

Summer Spectacular runs June 5-29, Monday-Thursday, from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Registration is $40 per week per child or $140 for all four weeks and includes a t-shirt, all supplies and snacks. Registration is first-come, first-served. Up to 75 spots are available per week. Camp will take place at Gentian Elementary School. For more information or to register, please visit coehp.columbusstate.edu/summer-spectacular.

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Oxbow Meadows Hosts STEAM Day at Eddy Middle School

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center took over Eddy Middle School’s seventh grade curriculum yesterday, Feb. 22, for STEAM Day.

All seventh graders rotated through five hour-long lessons taught by the staff of Oxbow Meadows, a CSU academic enrichment center. The lessons covered topics in taxonomy, robotics, microscopic inquiries, crime scene investigations and pollinators. Each lesson was designed to stimulate students’ interest in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and art) at an early age.

“Each activity tied into a specific science standard,” said Michael Dentzau, executive director of Oxbow Meadows. “This event offered fun, hands-on work set to get young minds excited to learn.”

Later that day, participants returned to Eddy Middle for “Science Night” with support from multiple CSU departments, including the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, CSU Math Collaborative, CSU Police, School of Nursing, and TSYS School of Computer Science. Free food was provided by Waffle House for all participating students and their families.

This was the second STEAM Day hosted by Oxbow Meadow. The center visited Baker Middle School (pictured above) on Oct. 26. Both STEAM Days were sponsored by Wells Fargo.

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New Building Downtown to be Named for Former CSU President Frank Brown

frank-brownCOLUMBUS, Ga. — The University System of Georgia Board of Regents today approved Columbus State University’s request to name its new building downtown after former CSU President Frank D. Brown.

“This new building will be a ‘front door’ of sorts to CSU’s downtown presence,” said current CSU President Chris Markwood. “It is very fitting that it bear the name of Dr. Brown, who was so instrumental in the development of CSU’s RiverPark campus and in the revitalization of downtown Columbus. We are delighted that Dr. Brown allowed us to add his name to this structure as a tribute to his legacy and the power of partnerships. The proposal had broad support among our supporters and with the Regents.”

Faculty and staff will begin moving into Frank D. Brown Hall next month, and classes will start in the building in January.

Brown retired June 30, 2008 after two decades as president of Columbus State University. When he left, he was the longest-serving president in the University System of Georgia.

“This is humbling, and I especially welcome the connection to CSU’s RiverPark campus,” Brown said. “When Dr. Markwood approached me about this idea, I accepted on the condition that we create a tangible reminder on the site that the RiverPark campus — like so many other developments in Columbus — is the result of partnerships and the collective work of a large number of people, a team of which I was privileged to be a part.”

Serving as president in one place for 20 years – an inordinately long time for a university president by today’s standards – is a testament to Brown’s legacy as a genuine servant leader who worked hard to establish trust, harmony and collaboration among CSU faculty, students and staff, Markwood said. “He cultivated deep, meaningful, and mutually productive partnerships with the people, businesses and organizations served by Columbus State University.”

Brown guided the university through a capital campaign that raised $100 million by 2005.

Much of the focus of that campaign was on what has become CSU’s RiverPark campus, home to CSU’s Schwob School of Music and the departments of art, theatre, communication and history. Developed entirely with private funds, CSU’s RiverPark campus provides spectacular facilities for the university’s fine arts programs and now houses more than 450 students. The university’s efforts led to more than $112 million being invested into downtown Columbus by, or on behalf of, CSU in the last decade and helped spur a revitalization of the whole area.

The next stage in that revitalization is the university’s new home for many of its education and nursing programs.

“Housing CSU’s nursing and many education programs, this building also is completely funded through private giving,” Markwood said in a letter to the Regents proposing the naming. “Because of its repurposed use, its reliance on private funding, its visibility to the community and its mission to teach and serve, we believe it would be most appropriate for this new complex to be known as the Dr. Frank D. Brown Hall.”

“I am thrilled that Dr. Brown’s name will be associated with our college,” said Deirdre Greer, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions. “Dr. Brown was the president when I started at CSU, so I know about the great work he did here. I think in many ways, the work that the College of Education and Health Professions is doing parallels the work that Dr. Brown did. For example, we are working with our many community partners to support the growth and development of health care and education in the region, which will attract and promote families and businesses to Columbus. Columbus State University has had a significant impact on this city, much of which can be attributed to the work done by Dr. Brown, and the College of Education and Health Professions plans to do our part to continue that work.”

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Oxbow Meadows to Host Harry Potter Day

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center will be cast as the wizarding world of Harry Potter this weekend, but instead of tricks and gimmicks, the boy wizard’s spells will be backed by sound science.

This Saturday, Nov. 5, Oxbow Meadows will host its 2nd annual “Frogwarts,” a Harry Potter-themed event “where science and magic meet,” said Oxbow Meadows Director Michael Dentzau, who will double as Professor Dumbledore during the festivities.

frogworts

“Frogwarts is part science show, part flighted bird show,” said Dentzau. “Doc Atoms, Columbus’ ‘Mad Scientist’ and educator will be there to engage young wizards in science demonstrations throughout the afternoon, with special shows starting at 1:15, 2:45 and 4:15 p.m. The staff of Frogwarts also will make Oobleck and Boo Bubbles.”

“Oobleck is a mixture of cornstarch, water and food coloring,” explained Dentzau. “It exists in many states, from gooey to rock solid. We use it to teach the states of matter.” Attendees also will learn some chemistry while blowing Boo Bubbles using dry ice, liquid soap and knit gloves. “It’s scary how strong the Boo Bubbles are,” he joked.

“This event is about presenting science and wildlife education in a fun, relatable way,” said Dentzau. “It’s a perfect fit for what we’re doing at Oxbow, which is environmental education in the most engaging way possible.”

A flighted bird show presented by EarthQuest will begin at 2 p.m. and again at 3:30 p.m.

The “frog” in Frogwarts is in reference to Oxbow’s many reptile and amphibian displays. Real frogs (not the chocolate ones from the imagination of J.K Rowling) will be on exhibit inside the center.

Frogwarts will begin at 1 p.m. and end at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at the environmental learning center on South Lumpkin Road, across from the National Infantry Museum. Admission is $5 per person. Children under the age of three get in free.

Attendees of all ages are encouraged to come in costume.

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CSU’s Early Childhood Education Program Named Georgia’s Distinguished Program in Teacher Education

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University’s Early Childhood Education Program (ECED) was recently nominated and selected for the Distinguished Program in Teacher Education Award for 2016-2017 by the Georgia Association of Teacher Educators (GATE).

“It is an honor to have the Early Childhood Education Program at CSU recognized by GATE,” said Jan Burcham, department chair and program coordinator for CSU’s Teacher Leadership Program. “Our ECE faculty and students continually serve as leaders in the state, region and nation, and this award once again shows that the ECE program is, indeed, first choice!”

early-childhood

The annual award recognizes and honors outstanding teacher education programs which exemplify excellence in program development and administration in the state of Georgia.

The ECED program will be honored on Thursday, October 27 at the GATE annual conference in Young Harris, Georgia.

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CSU Graduates First Cohort of Family Nurse Practitioners

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University’s School of Nursing recently graduated its first cohort of family nurse practitioners.

Ten students completed the 2-year-old program last month and are now prepared for advanced primary care in any setting, from hospitals and family practices to rural care facilities.

nurses

“Our students are ready to provide high quality and cost effective care within their communities,” said Lisa Frander, assistant director of graduate programs for CSU’s School of Nursing. “This is a vital part of our workforce in this area, and our students will contribute to easing the healthcare burden in primary care. We couldn’t be more proud of their hard work and accomplishments.”

The family nurse practitioner track is part of CSU’s Master of Science in Nursing program. It is a fully accredited online degree offered at CSU in collaboration with Georgia Southwestern University. For more information, visit gradschool.columbusstate.edu/coehp/nursing.

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Columbus State University Starting New STEM Program In Hopes of Addressing Local Poverty Issues

COLUMBUS, Ga. — A $133,000 grant from the University System of Georgia (USG) is helping Columbus State University implement improved classroom strategies to better prepare students in their pursuit of STEM careers.

This is the fourth STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) grant awarded to CSU since 2011, bringing total funding to more than $3.1 million for STEM education.

The overarching goal of the latest grant — CSU’s STEM Education Improvement Plan — is to raise the region’s standard of living through education. This goal aligns closely with the goals of the Columbus Regional Prosperity Initiative, a holistic community and economic development strategy led by a group of area public, private and non-profit leaders.

According to a competitive assessment sponsored by the Regional Prosperity Initiative, nearly 60 percent of households in Greater Columbus have annual incomes below $50,000, and the region’s median household income was lower than all three comparison regions, the state and the nation. Thirty percent of children live below the poverty line, and the region’s elevated poverty rates pre-date the Great Recession.

STEM Education

“We must raise our children out of poverty,” said Tom Hackett, professor and executive director K-12 partnerships and principal investigator of the grant program. “It starts early, and it starts with education. That is why we are partnering with Muscogee County School District as part of this plan. CSU is committed to STEM as a growth and economic strategy for Columbus.”

“Together with our other established STEM education programs, CSU is providing one unified effort to assist in improving STEM in the Columbus area,” said Hackett. CSU’s Robert Noyce Scholarship program was funded by a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant, UTeach Columbus from a $1.4 million U.S. Department of Education grant, and CSU received a $400,000 matching grant to establish the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship program.

The new three-year plan supports the USG’s STEM Initiative to produce more STEM graduates in the next decade in order for the United States to remain a viable innovative and economic competitor internationally. According to the February 2012 PCAST (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) Report, Engage to Excel, less than 40 percent of all undergraduate students who intend to major in STEM fields actually receive degrees in STEM fields.

By aiding faculty in delivering top classroom strategies, CSU’s plan will prepare students for careers in high-demand STEM fields.

“This grant will help shore up our teaching programs, starting in STEM,” said Hackett.

Funding provided by the grant will be used to award mini-grants to faculty for travel to conferences or workshops to learn about new techniques to bring back to the university. The plan also will fund course releases to faculty for time spent restructuring their courses. In restructured courses, students are often responsible for posing and solving their own questions or real-world scenarios within the context of their lessons, a strategy designed to increase student engagement and improve learning outcomes that are also applicable on the job.

Information on restructuring classrooms and other innovative delivery methods are part of a curriculum that Master Teachers from CSU’s UTeach program plan to share with their counterparts in K-12 through the grant program.

“We intend to apply resources at CSU to support an array of opportunities in K-12 classrooms in our region,” said Hackett.

Master Teachers will guide after-school workshops for local teachers. A database of lesson plans also will be provided to help teachers successfully implement new student-focused approaches in their classrooms well beyond the conclusion of the grant program.

CSU already has seen success in performance and retention among students majoring in STEM by providing free tutoring services for core level STEM courses and installing cohorts of peer education leaders.

Hackett hopes to see this trend continue as CSU implements further course changes based on best practices and innovative teaching practices cultivated through the new plan.

“The culture of innovation at CSU is poised to become even stronger,” he said, pointing to several recent examples:

— Last year, TSYS, a leading global payments provider, contributed $2.5 million to establish the TSYS Cybersecurity Center for Financial Services to be housed in the Turner College of Business’ TSYS School of Computer Science. The TSYS Cybersecurity Center for Financial Services Endowment will supplement salaries to attract nationally recognized faculty, fund new research assistantships and student scholarships, support faculty and student travel, and finance special projects and initiatives.

— Final construction and design plans are being developed for a new laboratory sciences building adjacent to LeNoir Hall. The $11 million project will provide much-needed lab space for science classes and faculty and student research.

The Faculty Institute, CSU’s formalized, faculty-centered approach for promoting lifelong learning amongst faculty, will use a portion of grant funding to bring in outside experts to CSU to facilitate further discussion about innovative teaching practices.

“By encouraging open collaboration and discussion, the Faculty Institute will help engender a culture of excellent and reflective teaching among our faculty in support of student learning,” said Hackett.

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Columbus State University to Offer Doctorate in Henry County

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University’s College of Education and Health Professions will offer its doctoral program in curriculum and leadership to educators in Henry County at the Academy for Advanced Studies High School in McDonough beginning this fall.

The program focuses on developing educators with the research skills to design the best educational practices for a new century. The 63-semester-hour degree can be completed in about three years, including the writing and defense of a doctoral dissertation.

Columbus State University’s Fuller E. Callaway Chair of Educational Leadership and Doctoral Program Director Michael D. Richardson and College of Education and Health Professions Dean Deirdre Greer met with Henry County educators in April at a session attended by Columbus State professors Pamela Lemoine, Marguerite Yates and Tom Hackett. Since that meeting, Richardson has been working with Henry County Schools Superintendent Rodney Bowler to establish a location and times for the program, which is presented in a blended format with on-site classes in McDonough and additional work online.

“It is tremendously exciting to offer the doctoral program in curriculum and leadership in Henry County, particularly given the tremendous vision being shown by the board and district leadership in leading the school district into the 21st Century,” said Columbus State professor Tom Hackett. “We think that Henry County is a tremendously forward-thinking school district with educators engaged in cutting edge instructional practices.”

Typically, instruction will be delivered in two eight-week blocks in a semester with a usual course load of 6-9 semester hours.

Columbus State’s doctoral program is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC).

 

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Brilliant Bus Tour Stops at Columbus State University

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Estella’s Brilliant Bus made a stop at Columbus State University Saturday, July 16, where 100 middle school students from across the nation competed in an engineering activity sponsored by CSU’s UTeach and Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship programs.

Estella’s Brilliant Bus is a Florida-based mobile learning environment founded by Estella Pyfrom, who spent her entire life savings to purchase, equip and operate a bus that delivers technology to underserved children and delivers children to some of the nation’s most innovative centers.

Columbus State University was one of the first stops on Estella’s 2016 tour of top institutions for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. Participants competed to design a container that safely transported an egg passenger to the ground from the top of CSU’s basketball arena.

“The bus tour is an outstanding program that has received national recognition, so we were excited that our students had the opportunity to interact with Mrs. Estella’s passengers and let them know about CSU’s outstanding opportunities for studying STEM related fields,” said Kenneth Jones, master teacher for CSU’s UTeach program. “It is especially exciting that our students had the opportunity to meet a visionary educator like Mrs. Estella Pyfrom.”

Pyfrom was named a 2014 CNN Hero, presented by Sarah Silverman, and a recipient of Toyota’s 2014 Standing O-Vation Award, presented by Oprah. Her Brilliant Bus was featured in Microsoft’s 2015 Super Bowl ad. For more information about Estella’s Brilliant Bus, visit http://estellasbrilliantbus.org/.

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Oxbow Meadows Celebrates 15th Annual Reptile Fest and 20th Birthday Saturday

Reptile Fest 01

COLUMBUS, Ga. — It’s a day of celebration for Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center this Saturday as the center will host hundreds of visitors to help celebrate its 20th birthday and its 15th annual Reptile Fest.

“This will be a fun and exciting event that will help people develop an awareness and appreciation for the environment around us,” said Janet Forrest Kent, assistant director of Oxbow Meadows.

Reptile Fest’s agenda of activities includes:

— Reptile, amphibian, turtle and alligator exhibits
— Australian reptiles presentation with Sandi Laakson of Oxbow Meadows
— Hands-on tortoise feeding*
— “Verde” story time Spencer Garrard, professor of education at CSU
— The “Hiss America” Contest
— Canopy Trail tours*
*activity requires additional, nominal fee

Food vendors, crafts, bounce houses, face painting and crazy hair will also be available at Reptile Fest.

Reptile Fest 02

“This year we will feature some animals that are not native to Georgia,” said Kent. Blazer Educational Animals will bring an African baboon, an African porcupine and other reptiles and birds to showcase.”

Reptile Fest is Saturday, April 23 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Oxbow Meadows, 3535 South Lumpkin Rd. Admission is $5 per adult and $3 for children three and under. At noon, Oxbow Meadows will accept a donation from Patagonia that was made possible through Outside World of Columbus.

Programming at Oxbow Meadows, an educational outreach center of Columbus State University, is an extension of CSU’s dedication to sustainability, one of its six core values.

For more information about Reptile Fest, visit https://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/ or call 706-507-8550.

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Oxbow Meadows Recognized Statewide for STEM Education

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center was recently named a finalist for the 2015 Georgia STEM Education Award in Post Secondary Outreach, a statewide honor presented by the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) and the TAG Education Collaborative.

Oxbow Meadows and five other organizations from Columbus, Augusta and Atlanta competing in the Post Secondary Outreach category will hear the winner announced Friday, August 28 at the Carlos Community Center in Atlanta during a special awards gala featuring keynote speaker Governor Nathan Deal.

The Georgia STEM Education Awards recognize schools, programs and companies for outstanding efforts and achievements in supporting and promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education in Georgia.

“Georgia will need to fill some 211,000 STEM-related jobs by 2018, so we are pleased to showcase so many great schools, programs and organizations that are helping to develop a strong future workforce for our state,” said Michael Robertson, director of TAG Education Collaborative, in a press release announcing the award finalists.

“The education programs at Oxbow Meadows are designed to provide students with experiential learning opportunities while engaging in ecosystem-based activities,” said Jan Kent, assistant director of Oxbow Meadows. “Using the local environment as a framework for learning, students use cross-cutting concepts in forestry management, wildlife tracking and marine ecology to understand how our environment changes over time.”

This is Oxbow’s first attempt at securing the four-year-old award, but educators have been developing the center’s STEM offerings since its expansion in 2011.

“We applaud each of this year’s finalists for their extraordinary efforts to bolster awareness about the importance of STEM and for their hard work to increase student participation in science, technology, engineering and math programs,” Robertson said.

Oxbow Meadows is an outreach program of Columbus State University, operated in collaboration with Columbus Water Works and the City of Columbus since 1995 at 3535 S. Lumpkin Road. It features indoor and outdoor exhibits of living reptiles and fish, nature trails, a stream habitat and more. For more information about Oxbow Meadows, visit https://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/.

For more information about TAG and the Georgia STEM Education Awards, visit http://www.tagonline.org/events/stem-education-awards/.

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Reptile Fest Returns to Oxbow Meadows this Saturday

ReptileFestCOLUMBUS, Ga. — Reptile Fest, one of the most popular events at Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, returns this Saturday, April 25, with a full slate of educational and entertaining activities planned.

The day’s lineup begins at 10 a.m. and will include an alligator feeding, crafts, rock climbing, face painting and hands-on encounters with tortoises, docile snakes and other reptiles.

Visitors are asked to come dressed as a reptile to compete in the Hiss America Costume Contest, which begins at 1 p.m. Following the contest, Kerstin Motsch, an environmental educator and park technician for Oxbow Meadows, will host a live reptile show from 2-3 p.m. The show for early arrivers begins at 10:30 a.m.

Reptile Fest will be held rain or shine at the learning center located on 3535 South Lumpkin Road. Admission is $5 (cash only) and free for children age 3 and under. For more information, call 706-507-8550 or visit http://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/.

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Wildlife Legend Jim Fowler Takes Center Stage at Oxbow Meadows

Jim Fowler, wildlife conservationist, former host of “The Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and animal correspondent for NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” will take center stage this weekend at Columbus State’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center.

The Emmy Award-winning TV personality will help host two “Birds of Prey” shows at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28 at the environmental learning center on South Lumpkin Road. Visitors will have an opportunity to meet Fowler after each program.

“Jim will bring generations of environmental enthusiasts together for one awesome show that we hope will generate enthusiasm for wildlife conservation in our community,” said Jan Kent, assistant director for Oxbow Meadows.

Kent said all ages are sure to enjoy the show, which will be led by handlers from EarthQuest, a nonprofit environmental education organization located in Pine Mountain Valley, Georgia that specializes in live animal presentations.

For more information about the show, visit http://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/ or contact Kent at 706-507-8550 or forrestkent_janet@columbusstate.edu.

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Jim Fowler

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University Forges Rare Partnership to Ignite Interest in STEM

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State University and the Muscogee County School District are serious about getting students interested in STEM and proving it in a big way — with a district-wide contract that will give every elementary student in every school a chance to interact annually with the university’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center.

The center already hosts all district sixth-graders every year. Adding students from kindergarten through fifth grade will mean that more than 17,000 district children a year will learn from a staff that figuratively and literally screams, “I love science!”

National experts say serving that many school children with the single goal of igniting kids’ interest in math and science may become a national model in STEM education.

“This is a very impressive partnership you have formed with the local school district,” said Jonah Cohen, chair of the National Education Outreach Network. “In fact, it may be one of the most extensive science center-school partnerships for outreach in the country.”

Student on Controls

The Coca-Cola Space Science Center, a CSU academic enrichment center and space museum located on CSU’s downtown RiverPark campus, signed the contract with the Muscogee County School District as a cost-effective means of expanding STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning, an educational priority set by the Obama administration in 2010.

“The Muscogee County School District is thrilled to be partnering with CSU and the Coca-Cola Space Science Center to provide education in STEM that is critical to the success of our community and the country,” said David Lewis, superintendent of education for the Muscogee County School District. “The resources available at the science center are unlike any in the region, and we are confident that they will reignite a curiosity about science that students are losing at an early age.”

U.S. News & World Report says that by the eighth grade, almost 50 percent of students have lost interest in science.

“We hope to turn this trend around in our local school district by immersing students in the gateway sciences of astronomy and space exploration,” said Shawn Cruzen, director for CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center. “We believe that making a difference in these early years will lead to more students pursuing science in college, a larger and better-trained technological workforce, and a community with a better understanding and appreciation of science.”

The center already has been demonstrating its impact in the district for 18 years through its sixth-grade curriculum and teacher exchange program.

“This contract has given us the rare privilege to work with students for seven straight years,” Cruzen said. “We have a unique opportunity to build on experiences year after year, reinforcing lessons but never repeating them.”

Mission Control Center

With a program that engages students over multiple years, the center can reinforce learning connections that frequently disintegrate when students leave the classroom.

“Science learning for youth is often separate and disconnected,” said Kelly Riedinger, director of research and evaluation for David Heil & Associates, Inc., an Oregon firm that specializes in the development of science-based educational programs, products and services. “What students learn in school is rarely connected to everyday life. The collaboration between the Coca-Cola Space Science Center and local schools likely will result in long-term outcomes for participating students, including gains in science understanding, improved attitudes and beliefs toward STEM content, and increased interest in pursuing STEM careers.”

The field of science education is lacking longitudinal studies on outcomes for youth interested in STEM, she said. The center plans to employ experts from CSU’s College of Education and Health Professions to narrow this research gap and measure the effects of its new partnership.

“It is evident that this partnership is well-positioned to make an impact, both with students and in the science education research community,” Riedinger said.

“I am personally excited to see a community taking this step to ignite kids’ interest in math and science,” Cohen said. “I can assure you that this arrangement will be tracked by centers around the country, because you have a golden opportunity for long-term evaluation and assessment that few centers will ever have.”

In addition to addressing research needs, the center will work to modify lessons based on feedback from teachers and principals.

Mary Johnson, assistant director for CSU’s space science center, said her staff’s ability to adapt to diverse needs is a strength. Lessons will not only satisfy state standards but also will address areas identified by schools.

Rovers

Despite growth in its programs, the space science center continues to offer something different for every grade. Educators visit students in their own schools in kindergarten through the third grade. Students in fourth through sixth grades visit the center, where they find lessons customized just for them.

Growth for CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center is only limited by the space between its brick walls. Johnson said the center is hoping to raise money for a physical expansion of the building to display NASA artifacts and handle even more students with interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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Falcons to Visit Columbus State (The Birds, Not the Team)

BirdOfPreyCOLUMBUS, Ga – The falcons are not playing football this weekend; they are taking flight at Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center on Saturday, Jan. 24 at the “Birds of Prey” program, a show that promises real-world interactions with falcons, hawks, and other avian beasts native to the region.

Attendees of the show will watch a falcon dive at a speed of more than 150 miles per hour and observe a hawk soar high above their heads. A more reserved, but no less entertaining bird – the owl – also will be a part of the performance.

Oxbow Meadows is partnering with EarthQuest to put on the show. EarthQuest is a nonprofit environmental education organization located in Pine Mountain Valley, Georgia that specializes in live wildlife presentations.

“Being able to offer a birds of prey show at Oxbow is an amazing opportunity,” said Jan Kent, assistant director for Oxbow Meadows. “EarthQuest always puts on an entertaining and educational program that is sure to delight anyone from ages 2 to 102.”

Activities will begin, rain or shine, at 11 a.m. and end at 2 p.m. at the learning center located on South Lumpkin Road. Admission is $5 per person and open to the public. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Josh Baldwin Fund. Baldwin was a devoted team member for Oxbow and an animal curator for EarthQuest.

For more information about the Josh Baldwin Fund, visit http://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/joshua_baldwin_fund.php. For more information about the Birds
of Prey show, visit http://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/.

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Oxbow to Celebrate Season with Residents and Reptiles

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Residents and reptiles alike are invited to celebrate the holiday season at Oxbow’s Holiday Open House, an annual event scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 6 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center. The event helps raise money to feed and house animals at the center.

“We are a non-profit nature center and remain admission-free for the public to tour,” said Jan Kent, assistant director for Oxbow Meadows. “Events, such as our upcoming Holiday Open House, help us raise money to care for our animals.”

Activities on this year’s Holiday Open House agenda include:

  • Tours on the TreeTop Canopy Trail
  • An ornament crafting station
  • Holiday story time
  • A wreath-making class
  • A visit from Santa
  • A live reptile program

A small fee or donation is required for some activities.

Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center is an academic enrichment center of Columbus State University operated in association with Columbus Water Works. Located at 3535 South Lumpkin Road in South Columbus, the center provides exhibits, displays and nature trails, and offers formal and informal educational programs about the ecology and natural history of the region.

For more information about Oxbow’s Holiday Open House or to view the day’s full agenda, please visit http://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/ or call 706-507-8550.

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Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center to Host Smithsonian Curator

Earlier this year, Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center was awarded a one-of-a-kind artifact from America’s Space Shuttle Program. The Quarter-Scale Space Shuttle Engineering Prototype was the largest high fidelity test article constructed in preparation for the first manned flight of the four-bodied space transport system. Valued at $9.3 million, Columbus, Georgia is now home to this remarkable piece of history.

Hailed by Robert Sherouse (iTransition Manager, Office of Infrastructure, NASA HQ) as one of the five “most extraordinary components of the Space Shuttle Program,” the Quarter-Scale Shuttle offers unique insight into the engineering challenges and testing processes involved in human space travel.

To talk more about future possibilities with this artifact, CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center is hosting Dr. Valerie Neal, curator of the Space History Division at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.  Neal has extensive knowledge of the human spaceflight program and is one of a handful of experts versed in the role that the Coca-Cola Space Science Center’s newest artifact acquisition played in NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

Neal joined the Smithsonian as a curator in 1989 and is responsible for artifact collections from the Space Shuttle era and International Space Station, most prominently the orbiter, Discovery. She led the museum’s effort to prepare the shuttle test vehicle Enterprise for public display and to acquire Spacelab, SpaceShipOne, and the Manned Maneuvering Unit for the national collection.

Neal will be presenting at the center’s VIP reception Thursday evening when the center announces plans to house the Quarter-Scale Shuttle. Additionally, she will meet with Columbus State students and area young professionals Friday morning to share her career experiences and lead an open dialogue on the museum industry, human spaceflight, and what it means to have a space shuttle in Georgia. This addition is transformative not only for the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, but also for Columbus State University STEM programming, and enrichment, education, and tourism for the Columbus region and

For more information, please contact Mary Johnson, assistant director of  CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center, at 706-649-1486 or mary@ccssc.org.

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Online Business and Nursing Programs Ranked Among Country’s Best Values

Two of Columbus State University degree programs have been ranked among the nation’s top 20 best values in online degrees. Nursing was ranked No. 18, and Business was ranked No. 20.

The rankings were put together by SR Education Group, an education publishing company focused on creating authoritative online education and career-related resources. Columbus State University is now featured on OnlineU.org as offering one of the best value online degrees in the nation.

“We are so very proud of our accredited programs in business and nursing,” said CSU President Tim Mescon, noting that both programs – and many others at the university – offer undergraduate and graduate degrees. “Our faculty work hard to develop and deliver best of class affordable and accessible programs and courses.”

OnlineU’s mission is to refocus the higher education conversation around affordability and quality and make access to online college information more transparent, said Kimberly Wetter from SR Education Group

“We completed extensive research into the cost of attending different online colleges and then analyzed the outcome-based statistics to find the best value online colleges,” said said. “With the average price of college skyrocketing forcing many students to rely on student loans to fund their education, we were impressed with Columbus State University and their ability to continue to offer quality degrees at a reasonable price.”

Columbus State’s Online MBA Program is the recipient of other high rankings, including:

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