Teacher lives science

[AUG. 21, 2000]  Keeping up on information in today’s world isn’t easy. Just ask David Schroder. Schroder has been teaching science courses, including chemistry, biology, microbiology, botany and marine biology, for 35 years at Lincoln College. In order to keep up with modern advances in science, he takes courses; the courses take him to places like Hawaii.

The National Science Foundation sponsors a program called Chautauqua. Through the program, college teachers such as Schroder can take courses in almost any science field for a minimal cost. Schroder’s most recent trip, a course in Hawaii on marine biology, and many other previous courses have been through Chautauqua.


Schroder spent a week in Oahu looking at beaches, snorkeling and scuba diving to study the impact of tourists on the environment. For the course, they also examined a deep reef in Maui. The reef, approximately 125 feet below the ocean surface, was at a depth many of the people in the course felt uncomfortable diving to, so the group used a submarine. Schroder explained that while the water there is clear enough that light still comes through to that depth, some colors are filtered out.

Schroder had previously learned this while snorkeling in the Bahamas. "I had a head cold, but I knew I couldn’t come back the next week after I got rid of the cold. So, I was snorkeling down to 35 feet… and back up again, and down, and up… I noticed this metallic green color inside my mask and stared at it as I was going up. It went from green to grey… to red! Blood!"

When the marine biology course ended, Schroder stayed on for yet another week in Hawaii to take a course on volcanoes. He admitted that he knew little about volcanoes, except what he learned from watching documentaries, and that volcanoes have little to do with his teaching, but he couldn’t help but be captivated by the prospect. He spent the next week looking at old volcanoes throughout the Hawaiian Islands. The group also traversed some very hot lava flows. Schroder added that no one in the group had soles left on their hiking boots at the end of the week.


Schroder has been taking about one course per year. Topics of courses he has taken in the past include viruses, protein isolation/identification (electrophoresis), DNA fingerprinting, fossils, dinosaurs, photosynthesis, computers and tropical botany.


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In addition to helping him keep up on the latest information in his fields of science, the courses help Schroder keep excitement in the classroom. "The idea is to bring it back to your students. I took cameras with me underwater and took lots of pictures… It’s one thing to say to a student, ‘Well, I read somewhere that…’ as opposed to, ‘Last summer I did this! Here’s a chunk of fresh lava I got!’"


This fall, Schroder is taking a one-year leave from his teaching to study mainframe computers and programming at ISU. He currently holds a BA and an MS in biology and an MST in science education, yet will continue to involve himself in adult education and graduate studies.

But besides traveling far and wide for courses, Schroder has also been in on conservation projects here in the area. Most notably, he took part in the Funks Grove restoration project. At the Funks Grove location, a national conservancy group purchased an area of farmland. Conservationists planted part of the purchased land with native trees such as hickory, walnut, and a variety of oaks. They also cleared out fallow areas and planted them with prairie grass. The work was done purely for educational purposes. Schroder is able to take his classes there on field trips to give them hands-on experience. Schroder is currently volunteering at a few locations in the area, maintaining small, restored plots.


His love for science spills over into everything. At his rural Lincoln estate, Schroder spends time working in his yard or admiring the wildlife that his vegetation attracts. He is also interested in computers. He and his wife, Barbara, who works as a teacher at Lincoln Department of Corrections, have two children: Jennifer Pasquale, a dietician for Heritage Manor Nursing, and Andy, who is finishing a degree in computer science. They also have five dogs and one cat.


[Trisha Youngquist]

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