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Friday, September 16, 2011 - OU professor earns national award for environmental work
By Katie Land, news editor

Oakland University’s Tim Larrabee always keeps an eye on the environment. His efforts have now earned national acclaim with the inaugural Chevrolet GREEN Educator Award.

Dr. Larrabee was chosen from among thousands of educators across the nation to be one of only ten awardees for his work with Earth Force and the Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (GREEN).

As an associate professor of education in Oakland’s School of Education and Human Services, Dr. Larrabee teaches a variety of courses in the elementary science education program. He is well known on campus for his social advocacy work as well.

“Tim Larrabee is a recognized leader among the faculty of the SEHS and the entire university,” said Dr. Louis Gallien, dean of the SEHS. “However, many people are unaware of his background and advocacy for the environment, and this award will surprise people who only knew Tim for his tireless efforts on behalf of people on the margins of our society. The school is proud of his continued efforts to both clean up our environment while working for the civil rights of all peoples.”

About a year ago, Dr. Larrabee became involved with Earth Force, an organization dedicated to helping young people make positive changes to the environment at their schools, in their neighborhoods, and in partnership with their communities. He attended a conference offering curriculum planning to incorporate these ideals in his classroom.

Through Earth Force, Dr. Larrabee has introduced this new curriculum to OU students, first through his own Teaching Science at the Elementary-Middle Levels course, and now is taught in every section of the course.

The course was well received by students and faculty alike, and appealed specifically to Dr. Larrabee, for the way it incorporated his personal philosophical beliefs – such as community-based education, social justice, and environmental education.

“Incorporating this curriculum in our elementary science methods course is important because it teaches democratic decision making, it gives students choices and holds them accountable for meeting their obligations; it teaches them how to work with their peers; it teaches them how to be respectful when addressing people in positions of power and authority, and how to ask them for assistance,” Dr. Larrabee continued.

Through this coursework, Dr. Larrabee’s students have been able to connect to local sites near the school they student teach at, in order to gain a better understanding of the community that their students come from. Additional partnerships have been formed with the Detroit Zoo, its City Critters program, and the Moose Tree Nature Preserve in Lake Orion.

The goal of being socially and environmentally responsible is something he hopes to instill in his students.

“It's important because it teaches students they can make their community and world better than it was when they arrived,” he said. “It requires students to be honest about their feelings and beliefs in order to come to consensus on the next steps to take. And students have fun getting out of the classroom and into the "real world" and making a difference.”

All this isn’t just a professional interest: Dr. Larrabee works to live green outside of the classroom as well.

An outdoor enthusiast, he enjoys hiking, biking, kayaking, gardening and taking his dogs for walks. Dr. Larrabee constantly picks up trash and recyclables, hoping to leave each new environment better than he found it.

For more information about Oakland’s SEHS, view the website.