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Orvil White

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"If you're not having fun, then why bother?"


Future teachers often travel in Professor White’s science methods class. Some go back in time to their elementary school days and some head to Thailand, both studying forces of motion through roller coaster models and properties of water through optical illusions. But make no mistake: the fourth and fifth grade science lessons aren’t designed to be easy. They’re meant to make memories.

“Knowledge is memorable,” Professor White says. “In order to make it memorable for students, there has to be a form of active engagement, or hands-on learning.”

He’s one of many professors who takes advantage of the College’s Outdoor Education Center at Raquette Lake because, as he puts it, an authentic three-day experience in nature brings out the best ways to teach unforgettable lessons on the topic.

The same holds true for global education and a teaching partnership Professor White has pioneered with a university in Thailand. Part of the program involves taking promising student teachers from SUNY Cortland to the Southeast Asian country to teach some of the same lessons they learn in his class. Essentially, they’re bringing an active approach to the overseas classroom to combat outdated “chalk and talk” techniques.

He sees firsthand the payoff for his students. Their comfort level in the classroom grows. They discover an inimitable cultural experience. And his students are offered jobs at nearly every Thai school they visit.

“It changes the way teachers approach their classrooms, both in the United States and in Thailand,” Professor White says. “That’s my goal from day one.”