GREEN award presented to professor

Tim Larrabee, the head of Oakland University’s elementary science education program for the teacher development and educational studies department, received the Chevrolet GREEN Educator Award for the month of Oct, recognizing his efforts in environmental education.

Green initiatives

Larrabee’s environmental education efforts include incorporating the Earth Force curriculum into his elementary science education classes, which encourages students to engage with their communities on environmental issues, two of the required criteria for consideration for the GREEN award.

His students have worked to develop plans to curb the deer population on campus as well as increasing the awareness of senior citizens on environmental issues.

Larrabee pursued teaching science after seeing teachers take their classes through the Sacramento Zoo, where he worked as a volunteer after graduating from the University of California at Davis with a degree in psychology with an emphasis on biology.

Teaching methods

“I didn’t have any career plans, but I enjoyed talking with the public,” Larrabee said.  “And all the elementary school teachers who came by seemed to be having a lot of fun.”

Larrabee returned to school to get his teaching credential from National University in San Diego and spent 12 years as a middle school science teacher in Sacramento before moving into higher education as a result of a shrinking job market for teachers.

Now in his eighth year at OU, Larrabee shows his elementary education students that science doesn’t have to be that difficult.

“In the classroom, our students learn how to teach science through inquiry by conducting their own inquiries,” he said.  “Once they understand that science is a process and not a bunch of facts to be memorized, they tend to relax a bit and are relieved to know they don’t have to know everything.”

Senior Amanda Navarro, an elementary education major specializing in language arts, said there are many things she will take away from Larrabee’s class and his teaching style.

“He definitely presented his teaching style in an engaging way and always taught and modeled the way that we should for our elementary students,” she said.  “Dr. Larrabee gave us the opportunity to work with the Detroit Zoo, teaching inner city kids through a program called City Critters.”

Classroom diversity

In addition to his work in the sciences, Larrabee teaches a variety of courses on diversity in the classroom.  His goal is to get students to look at issues from a variety of different angles.

“You cannot teach diversity,” he said.  “What you can do is help students see the world from different perspectives in order to gain some insights into how others experience our world.”

Larrabee said that in today’s age of instant global communication, teachers must be ready to help students begin to think about the ideas of people from various backgrounds and viewpoints.  He frequently places students in groups in order to get them used to working with different people.

“It is our job as teacher educators to facilitate difficult discussions so that students learn to think critically about their world views,” he said.  “They must also become reflective practitioners to consider what role they have in perpetuating the status quo in their classrooms.”

In addition to his work in the classroom, Larrabee further promotes diversity by chairing a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning and allied employee resource group, responsible for getting gender and sexual orientation included in OU’s antidiscrimination policy.

LGBTIQA efforts

He also heads a task force on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity sponsored by OU’s School of Education and Human Services, which is working on organizing the first statewide conference on these issues.  Nationally, Larrabee chairs the Queer Studies Special Interest Group for the American Educational Research Association.

Larrabee, who moved here with his husband, said his goal is to facilitate a better educational experience for the LGBTIQA community.

“One reason I pursued higher education was to increase my circle of influence on the field of teaching,” he said. Now, rather than impacting the 160 students I taught each year, I now have influence on how my 125 university students teach their 3,750 students (assuming they teach 30 students each).”

Senior Catherine Pannell, a social work major, said Larrabee opened up her mind on diversity issues.

“I will take so much from the class,” Pannell said.  “The class taught me patience and understanding. As a bisexual student on campus, I came into the class thinking that everything would be confirmation for me, but it was so much more that I did not know.”

Larrabee teaches teaching science at the elementary-middle levels; managing the classroom environment for diverse learning; multicultural education in the schools; sexual orientation, gender identity and education; and science for the elementary teacher.