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A local science teacher’s work has reached a national audience.

When St. Maries high school teacher Rusti Kreider started working on a new approach to teaching high school biology, she never imagined it would garner so much attention.

“It is exciting to be this young in my career and be at the forefront of changing science education,” she said.

Rusti Krieder, a science teacher at St. Maries High School, has had an article about her involvement in a new honors biology curriculum and has been invited to speak about the project at the National Science Teachers' Association conference in March.

Rusti Krieder, a science teacher at St. Maries High School, has had an article about her involvement in a new honors biology curriculum and has been invited to speak about the project at the National Science Teachers’ Association conference in March.

Since coming to work in St. Maries three years ago, Ms. Kreider has incorporated hands-on experiences into her biology curriculum. Two years ago she joined other science teachers from northern Idaho and the University of Idaho in the Confluence Project. The project involves building a new curriculum for honors biology using a hands-on approach.

In addition to classroom learning, students participate in four field trips to different water sources in their area and conduct field science work.

The first trip involved working with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s wildlife and fisheries department in creek restoration habitat. The second involved a trip to Young Living Farms to investigate water sustainability and irrigation and the next trip involves traveling to Lookout Pass to conduct snow science and water quantity experiments. The curriculum concludes in a water summit where students from around the region will gather at the university to identify water problems and solutions.

“It is an innovative approach to teaching science for the next generation,” Ms. Kreider said. “We are engaging students and showing them how science applies to their world.”

Ms. Kreider submitted an article in April detailing the group’s project to The Science Teacher, the top publication for the National Science Teacher Association. The article appeared in the January 2015 issue. Ms. Kreider and a few other teachers involved in the project were also invited to the national conference to speak about their project.

She credits the new curriculum for the increasing demand for honors biology among students at each of the schools involved in the project.

“One of our teachers has seen her class numbers double,” Ms. Kreider said. “I have also had to make room for two sections of honors biology in St. Maries. Students want to go outside. It is a tougher curriculum but of more interest.”

Ms. Kreider hopes to join two other teachers involved in the project at the conference March 15 in Chicago. But first she must find money to pay for the trip. The St. Maries Association for Education has pledged $100 toward her registration fees. She will need about $1,400 more.

“I wrote a letter to the state department of education and they said they don’t have professional development funding for individual teachers,” Ms. Kreider said. “I also asked John (Cordell, St. Maries High School principal) about funding through the district and he wasn’t very optimistic, but I haven’t spoken to the board. I know funding is tight.”

Ms. Kreider lives in St. Maries with her children, Foxx (4th grade) and Genica (1st grade).

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