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Fulbright fellow develops environmental biology courses in Zimbabwe

BLACKSBURG, Va., Arthur Buikema spent fall semester teaching and developing programs in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, under a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship and cant wait to get back this coming summer to finish the work he started.

Buikema, alumni distinguished professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Virginia Tech, fell in love with the people of the country that is troubled by skyrocketing inflation, political upheaval, starvation, and lack of education in rural areas. The visit to the hot, sub-Saharan plateau where artists produce fascinating stone sculptures, paintings, and masks, was one of the best experiences Buikema has ever had.

Buikema worked at the National University of Science and Technology, which is 10 years old and still developing degree programs. He helped develop two courses, Freshwater Biology and Principles of Environmental Education, second-year courses for the first class in the new degree program in Environmental Science and Health. Originally, the Fulbright proposal was to develop on-line course materials, "but that was optimistic at the moment," Buikema said. The inflation rate is 104 percent per year.

The country lacks the computers and facilities needed for on-line courses. Instead, he was asked to develop a course in environmental education; so he learned about the countrys lakes and river and land systems and put together a course to teach people about sustainable development.

In Zimbabwe, "the students were more often than not used to having their lecture notes read to them," Buikema said. "I had a whole different idea of how to teach." He gave the students handouts because there is "virtually no library or textbooks" there. As a result, the administration asked him to do a workshop on alternative teaching strategies. He also did one for future use on integrating technology into education. Drawing on his broad experience at Virginia Tech, he also presented workshops to new
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Contact: Arthur Buikema
buik@vt.edu
540-231-5180
Virginia Tech
26-Feb-2002


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