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Center for Environmental Education

About the Center

The Center for Environmental Education, a branch of the MTSU Biology Department, is dedicated to improving environmental education in Middle Tennessee.

Our mission is to raise awareness, impart knowledge, teach skills, and to inspire commitment about our environment and its inhabitants, in order that Tennessee citizens will make responsible decisions to conserve and sustain our unique heritage.

Education – Classroom Teacher Resources

In 2008, Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Environmental Education created an activity guide and video on invasive species. Noxious Neighbors: Invasive Species in Our Backyards features 11 classroom activities variously suitable for grades K-12 and includes correlations to Tennessee’s science curriculum standards and a glossary. The video “If It’s Green, It’s Good?” may be used in conjunction with the activity guide. These resources were funded in part by the National Park Service’s Challenge Cost Share Program.

For more information and a view about Invasive Plants, visit
  Resource Lending Library

The Center for Environmental Education maintains an extensive collection of materials that are available for instructional use.

Scopes for Schools
Recycled compound light microscopes, dissecting microscopes, micro-viewers, hand magnifiers, and related materials are available year-round on a checkout basis to educational groups in Middle Tennessee. For details, or to request equipment, send us an email.

Bat Box
A collection of materials designed to make teaching about bats less frightening! This trunk contains bat books and videos, instructional materials, real bat skulls and more. A complete list of contents is available here (28KB doc). To find out how you can check out this resource for your lessons, send us an email.

Tree Trunk
The Tree Trunk is designed for use by youth leaders, teachers, home school groups, and others. Each trunk contains a classroom set of materials, including field guides, hand magnifiers, tree cross-sections, forestry-related videos, activity guides, and more to engage students in learning about trees. The Tree Trunk is an excellent educational tool for teaching about trees in a classroom or small group setting, and the lessons can be reinforced in the field using Backpack Biology (see below). The Tree Trunk will be available for check-out at the Center for Environmental Education and at the Wilderness Station at Barfield Park in Murfreesboro.

Backpack Biology
The Backpack Biology program allows participants to check out a backpack containing tools and activities to use in tree identification and learning more about trees. Designed as a standalone or a complement to the educational materials contained in the Tree Trunk, the Backpacks are intended to be used in the field. Each Backpack includes a tree key, field guides, magnifying glass, tree height gauge, DBH tape, binoculars, and a ruler, in addition to instructions and educational activities. The Backpacks are available for check-out at the Wilderness Station at Barfield Park in Murfreesboro.

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Biology Coursework

The Center for Environmental Education is a branch of the MTSU Biology Department, and each of the CEE’s professors teaches for-credit biology courses.

Dr. Cindi Smith-Walters
Biology 3000 ~ Life Science for Elementary Majors
Biology 1030 ~ Exploring Life
Biology 3070 ~ Environmental Problems
Biology 3840 ~ Internship in Biology Teaching  
Biology 4540 ~ Inquiry in the Lab and Schoolyard for Middle Grades Math and Science Teachers
Biology 4540 ~ Topics in Environmental Education
MSE 7840 ~ Teaching and Learning in Mathematics and Science

Dr. Kim Sadler
Biology 1030 ~ Exploring Life
Biology 1110/1120 ~ Introduction to Biology
Biology 2010/2020 ~ Anatomy & Physiology
Biology 3000 ~ Life Science for Elementary Majors
Biology 3230 ~ Biological Literature
Biology 3890 ~ Biology Instruction Internship
Biology 4280 ~ Undergraduate Research in Biology
Biology 4540 ~ Topics in Environmental Education
Biology 4331 ~ Biome Analysis – Cedar Glades

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Grantwriting Assistance

The Center for Environmental Education has a long history of forging partnerships with area groups and institutions that help achieve common goals. Do you have a project that requires funding? Check out our Grant Corner to find open grant opportunities. Not sure how to get started? It might be possible for the CEE to partner with you on this project and provide guidance in the grant writing process. Contact Dr. Cindi Smith-Walters for more information.

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Workshops on Demand

Do you have a specific workshop request? The CEE staff can design a workshop to meet the needs and budget of your organization, school, or school system. In-services can be developed and scheduled upon request, correlated to the Tennessee State Science Framework and tailored to specific grade levels. We can provide teachers with specific materials and training opportunities that enable them to meet state mandates in curriculum and instruction. To request a workshop, email Dr. Cindi Smith-Walters.

Examples of sessions we’ve done in the past include:

Pay Dirt! Let the Worms Do the Work
In this vermicomposting workshop, teachers make their own worm bin, discover how worms and other soil organisms convert food waste and other organic materials into rich compost, and learn math, science, and language arts lessons to engage their students in learning with worms.

Skeleton Keys–What a Hoot!
Teachers investigate owl pellets and discover the “key” to bone identification. Participants learn how to use owl pellets to engage students in scientific inquiry as the students become forensic scientists in an ecological mystery.

A Blast From the Past: Layers That Last
Teachers discover how archaeologists use clues from the middens (trash heaps) of past civilizations to understand important details about those societies’ cultures, values, rituals, and lifestyles. In the same way, modern garbage reveals many details about the people who generate it. Teachers learn how to use clean garbage in the classroom to set up a modern archaeological dig and allow students to investigate, record observations, formulate hypotheses, and make inferences.

Blood and Guts
An exploration in anatomy and physiology for elementary/middle school teachers, “Blood and Guts” engages teachers in investigations about the heart, lungs, skeleton, and senses.

Walk on the Wild Side: Exploring the Environment
An inservice for librarians and other interested folks, Walk on the Wild Side leads area librarians and pre-service librarians on a “safari” to explore the resources available at the MTSU Curriculum Library and introduces the learners to hands-on activities that spark teacher interest in their own environmental collections.

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Classroom & Community Presentations

Tennessee Amphibian Monitoring Program

The Tennessee Amphibian Monitoring Program (TAMP) is an all-volunteer effort to assess the abundance of breeding populations of frogs and toads in Tennessee. Volunteers establish listening stations along selected routes and monitor calling activity 4 times each year. With the data gathered from TAMP, we hope to better understand the distribution and relative abundance of each species.

TAMP is a joint venture between the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the MTSU Center for Environmental Education.

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Faculty Collaborators

MTSU’s Center for Environmental Education and the MTSU Biology Department have teamed up to bring classroom teachers and youth leaders, speakers and presenters on varied topics dealing with the life sciences.

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Consulting Services

Need help but not sure where to turn? The CEE Staff have many years of experience in planning, developing, and implementing a wide range of environmental and educational projects. Perhaps as important as our own expertise, however, is our vast network of resources. If we can’t help you ourselves, we can put you in touch with someone who can!

Our areas of expertise include

  • Outdoor Classrooms
  • Curriculum Development
  • Green Schools Program
  • Finding Funds/Grantwriting
  • Solid Waste Education
  • Stormwater Education and Outreach (WaterWorks!)

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Local & Statewide Research 

Tennessee Amphibian Monitoring Project

The Tennessee Amphibian Monitoring Program (TAMP) is an all-volunteer effort to assess the abundance of breeding populations of frogs and toads in Tennessee. Volunteers establish listening stations along selected routes and monitor calling activity 4 times each year. With the data gathered from TAMP, we hope to better understand the distribution and relative abundance of each species.

TAMP is a joint venture between the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the MTSU Center for Environmental Education.

Go to TAMP Page | Return to Top

Center for Cedar Glades Studies

The Center for Cedar Glade Studies (CCGS) was formally established in 2005 at Middle Tennessee State University. The main goals of the CCGS are to

  1. provide research opportunities on the ecology of glades,
  2. increase educator knowledge and skills about glades,
  3. act as a clearinghouse to provide information on glades to the public, and
  4. create a network of organizations to identify research and outreach needs for glades.

Cedar glades are an endangered ecosystem found primarily in Middle Tennessee and a few other localities in the Southeastern United States. Globally unique, cedar glades are extremely fragile habitats that have frequently been destroyed or severely impacted by humans, perhaps due to their sometimes “barren” appearance.

Historically cedar glades have been viewed as wastelands, yet they support a plant community of highly specialized species. The karst topography of the glades also supports an underlying cave network that provides habitat for many extraordinary species.

Glades are characterized by very thin soil that may be completely absent in patches. The shallow bedrock creates a harsh water regime that causes water to pool in the winter and parched, desert-like conditions in the summer. In this extreme environment, special adaptations are required for survival. Because the inhospitable conditions prevent many otherwise abundant species from surviving, cedar glades support unique communities of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world (that is, those species are endemic to cedar glades).

Because Middle Tennessee is the global center of distribution for cedar glades, the choice to locate the CCGS here is a natural one, and MTSU and the MTSU CEE are proud to host the Center for Cedar Glades Studies.

Go to Center for Cedar Glades Studies Page | Return to Top

Rutherford Amphibian Monitoring Project

The Rutherford Amphibian Monitoring Project (RAMP), in conjunction with TAMP, is a group of volunteer “frog-loggers” who monitor selected sites in Rutherford County to index the abundance of breeding populations of frogs and toads in this area. These data can be used establish a baseline reference and may help us understand how growth and development in Rutherford County impact local amphibian populations.

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Program Development

The MTSU CEE has a distinguished history of partnering with various groups to develop quality environmental education programs. Examples include:

  • WaterWorks! ~ Water quality campaign for broadcast and print media, sponsored by TN Department of Agriculture Nonpoint Source Pollution Program and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Used Oil Recycling Program
  • Earth Day On the Plaza, sponsored by Murfreesboro Electric Membership Corporation, Tennessee Valley Authority, and Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation
  • Green Shopping In Tennessee, sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
  • “If It’s Green, It’s Good?” ~ Exotic pest-plant video and curriculum guide, in conjunction with the US Forest Service
  • Stormwater Pollution Prevention Education for Kids City, in conjunction with Rutherford County Engineer and the Rutherford County League of Women Voters

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Teacher Inservices

National Environmental Education Programs

Project WET (Water Education for Teachers)

Founded in 1984, Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) is an international, interdisciplinary water science and education program for students in grades K-12. It is grounded in the following beliefs:

  1. As water is important in our daily lives, wise water management is crucial for providing tomorrow’s children social and economic stability in a healthy environment.
  2. Water is important for all water users (e.g. energy producers, farmers and ranchers, fish and wildlife, manufacturers, recreationists, rural and urban dwellers).
  3. Awareness of and respect for water resources can encourage a personal, lifelong commitment to environmental responsibility and positive community participation.

Trained educators use the Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide, a collection of over 90 interdisciplinary activities that deal with water-related topics, to educate students about water. The Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide is available to teachers and facilitators throughout the country who attend Project WET training workshops.

Request a Project WET Workshop | TN Project WET | National Project WET | Back to Nat’l EE Programs | Top

Population Connection: Population Education

Population Connection’s Education Program is the only national, population education program with a strong emphasis on teacher training for educators of grades pre-K through 12. Since 1975, Population Connection has developed age-appropriate curricula to complement students’ science and social science instruction about human population trends and their impacts on natural resources, environmental quality and human well-being.

It’s all about people — how the human race has grown and shaped the world around us. World population has quadrupled in the past century, changing the way we use natural resources and function as societies. Population education is the ultimate multi-disciplinary field; it’s ecology, human geography, anthropology, economics, biology, public health, sociology, environmental studies, history and civics all rolled into one, with a good bit of mathematics to help us understand where we’ve come from and where we might be headed.

With an emphasis on hands-on learning and balanced discussion of different viewpoints, Population Connection has earned a reputation for educational excellence. All Population Connection curriculum materials are classroom-tested, rigorously evaluated and frequently updated to be leaders in their content and approach. They are interdisciplinary, well-suited for a cooperative learning environment, and classroom-ready.

Request a Population Connection Workshop | Population Education | Nat’l EE Programs | Top

Project Learning Tree

Project Learning Tree® (PLT) is an award-winning, multi-disciplinary environmental education program for educators and students in preK-grade 12. PLT is one of the most widely used environmental education programs in the United States and abroad. PLT continues to set the standard for environmental education excellence.

PLT helps students learn how to think, not what to think, about the environment. The curriculum materials provide the tools educators need to bring the environment into the classroom and their students into the environment. Topics range from forests, wildlife, and water, to community planning, waste management and energy. Through PLT, students learn environmental content that correlates to national and state standards in science, social studies, language arts, math, and other subjects – and strengthen their critical thinking, team building, and problem solving skills.

PLT works for teachers and other educators because:

  • PLT materials are aligned with state and national education standards.
  • PLT is broad based: topics cover the total environment and are local, national, and global in scope.
  • PLT provides the one great lesson a week you wish you had time to plan.
  • PLT is adaptable to many contexts: classroom, playground, nature center, home.
  • PLT can be easily adapted to various audiences: PreK-12 students, scout groups, nature center and museum visitors, 4-H clubs, and other community groups.
  • PLT is cross-curricular, making it easy to infuse its environmental lessons into science, language arts, special education, and other classes.

Request a PLT Workshop | National PLT | Back to National EE Programs | Top

Flying WILD

Flying WILD, a new program of the Council for Environmental Education, introduces students to bird conservation through standards-based classroom activities and environmental stewardship projects. Flying WILD encourages schools to work closely with conservation organizations, community groups, and businesses involved with birds to implement school bird festivals and bird conservation projects.

Request a Flying WILD Workshop | National Flying WILD Back to National EE Programs | Top

Project Archaeology

Using an innovative, hands-on approach to history, Project Archaeology teaches scientific inquiry, citizenship, personal ethics and character, and cultural understanding through archaeological inquiry. Project Archaeology fosters understanding of past and present cultures and enhances social studies and science education.

Project Archaeology is a comprehensive archaeology and heritage education program for everyone interested in learning or teaching about our nation’s rich cultural legacy and protecting it for future generations to learn from and enjoy. Project Archaeology lessons have been designed for use with learners of all ages, both in formal classroom situations as well as nonformal settings (e.g., museums, parks, youth groups).

Project Archaeology is sponsored by Montana State University and the US Department of the Interior/Bureau of Land Management.

Request a Project Archaeology Workshop | National Project Archaeology | Back to Nat’l EE Programs | Top

Project WILD/WILD Aquatic

Project WILD is a wildlife-focused conservation education program for K-12 teachers and their students. Project WILD is one of the most widely-used conservation and environmental education programs among educators of students in kindergarten through high school. It is based on the premise that young people and educators have a vital interest in learning about our natural world. A national network of State Wildlife Agency Sponsors ensures that Project WILD is available nationwide –training educators in the many facets of the program. Emphasizing wildlife because of its intrinsic value, Project WILD addresses the need for human beings to develop as responsible citizens of our planet.

Project WILD Aquatic emphasizes aquatic wildlife and aquatic ecosystems. It is organized in topic units and is based on the Project WILD conceptual framework. Because these activities are designed for integration into existing courses of study, instructors may use one or many Project WILD Aquatic activities, or the entire set of activities may serve quite effectively as the basis for a course of study.

Request a WILD Workshop | National Project WILD | Back to National EE Programs | Top

GLOBE (Global Learning & Observations to Benefit the Environment)

GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) is a worldwide hands-on, school-based education and science program for primary and secondary teachers and students.

GLOBE engages students in scientific discovery through

  • taking scientifically valid measurements in the fields of atmosphere, hydrology, soils, and land cover/phenology – depending upon their local curricula
  • reporting their data through the Internet
  • publishing their research projects based on GLOBE data and protocols
  • creating maps and graphs on the free interactive Web site to analyze data sets
  • collaborating with scientists and other GLOBE students around the world

Request a GLOBE Workshop | National GLOBE Program | Back to National EE Programs | Top

Clean Water Education

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Contact Us

MTSU Center for Environmental Education 
MTSU Box 60
Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Phone: 615-904-8283 

Shipping Address:  MTSU CEE  2672 Greenland Drive,
 Murfreesboro, TN 37132

The CEE Office is located in the Davis Science Building on Campus 
mtsu campus map

Dr. Cindi Smith-Walters, retired but still uses MTSU email:
Dr. Kim Sadler, 615.904.8283,
Bob English, 615.210.8774 ,