Teaching Philosophy

Obviously, I love to teach.  But I enjoy teaching for it's own sake, whatever the subject matter.  I enjoy communicating knowledge and trying new ways of thinking.

I enjoy communicating knowledge almost as much as creating knowledge.  Nothing can be known except by some form of the scientific method, nothing is known unless it can be communicated.  

Learning must be accompanied by doing, but beyond that, 'explaining to another what has just been done'is also a critical part of any educational program.

Biology is a subject matter with many varied topics.  The study of living things is best practiced by observing living things themselves in the setting of the living things themselves.  

When I teach natural history lessons I encourage the experiential exploration of the subjects.  Children approach learning from this perspective naturally, but I believe we can foster this attitude in instruction at all levels (especially in higher levels!).  The world is varied and distinguished, and a large part of the work in learning about the world lies in making keen observations in place.

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There is more to biological education than vocabulary and terminology, it is not just mumbo-jumbo and big words.  For example, it's quite difficult to provide a useful abstract explanation of just what leaves really do, for example, if one has never felt the prickly trichomes on a plant, or munched a wild flower, or stood over vigorously photosynthesizing patch of greenery on a hot summer day.  Simple biological concepts can be explored in areas very accessible and familiar to students. 

Knowledge is earned, wrung from the universe by force.  I challenge all of my students with the question "How do you know?", which is an exercise in the narrative form of hypothesis testing.  "How do you know" generates an endless series of increasingly refined explanations.  This is, in my view, the essence of the scientific method.

Teaching Experiences

I have taught the following subjects in laboratory courses or hands on field courses:  Introductory Biology for majors and non-majors; Animal Diversity; General Ecology, Aquatic Ecology, Ichthyology; Fisheries Methods, Techniques and Data Analysis; Identification of Aquatic Insects; Field Mycology; Edible Plants and Foraging.  Although I have not yet taught a Dendrology course, I would look forward to an opportunity to do so.  Identifying trees was my first introduction to field biology and the vehicle through which I learned to love taxonomy and systematics.

In addition to specialized or specific academic instruction on these topics, I also enjoy giving more informal lectures or seminars on the natural history and conservation of things and places of which I am familiar.  Interested and interactive audiences change the landscape of the teaching interaction, from a didactic exposition to a dialectic or dialogue, such that all participants benefit.  I have spoken to groups of retired persons, fly fishermen, citizen scientists, and rural community centers.

I have some experience in giving music lessons and instruction.  For several years I assisted as a volunteer with music workshops at both the Old Time Music Week and the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival at Mars Hill College, including performing impromptu with bands on stage.  I can teach beginner and intermediate bluegrass and old time music instruments and lead and harmony singing in that good old fashioned Southern Baptist style in which I was raised.