Michael L. Bentley, EdD   MB 

  Still inspiring educators.

John Dewey 

My professional journey

I retired in 2006 as associate professor of science and environmental education in the Theory and Practice in Teacher Education Department at UT, Knoxville. Since, I've continued resarch in science and environmental education, participation in professional conferences, writing for presentations and publication, and periodic teaching, both as adjunct faculty conducting science teacher education courses, and in professional development through Delta Education, INc. related to the Lawrence Hall of Science program, FOSS.

Here is a link to my current curriculum vitae.


I earned a BS in biology from King's College (which included studying abroad at the University of Leeds, England), an MS in education from the Graduate School of Education (GSE), University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. My Penn studies in science education emphasized inquiry learning and I acquired a life-long zeal for inspiring kids to learn more broadly and more deeply. I became a Life Member of the National Education Association and, with my colleague George Ambrose, published my first book, Project New School (PSEA, 1972). During that time, the early '70s, many new science programs were being developed based upon educational theorizing emerging from the work of the likes of Piaget and Vygotsky. I began teaching in an urban district not far from Penn in 1969 and soon became a pilot teacher for two levels of one of the most radical of all the new NSF-funded programs, the Intermediate Science Curriculum Study (ISCS).  I learned a lot about teaching and learning in implementing ISCS; doing the work required to provide an all hands-on, student-centered/differentiated program was very challenging, a grist-mill for educational theorizing.

I taught 10th grade biology at Yeadon High, but also was assigned classes in 8th grade physical science, which I taught for 4 years. As the youngest of my colleagues in the science department, I was appointed faculty sponsor of the 1970 Earth Day celebration, the first Earth Day. This was a major event for this 7-12 school, with regular classes suspended for a day-long teach-in, the ceremonial burial of a car, and so forth. Besides Earth Day, I also served as the sponsor for the chess club and tennis coach. During summers I worked on my M.S. and after that participated in a National Science Foundation-sponsored institute in field geology and observational astronomy at West Chester State University, a powerfully educative experience from which I learned the value of field studies in science education.

Disruption of the school-community relationship following a failed 3 week strike by the Yeadon Education Association, for which I served as secretary, newsletter editor, and member of the contract negotiating team, led to discouragement and the decision to move on. Because we were first in the state to strike under the new law allowing it, our School Board was uncompromising, set on union busting so as to be an example for the other districts. The workplace atmosphere deteriorated, factionalism emerged, and a lot of blaming. I was a founder of the WPFT, which challenged the YEA. So, I sought and accepted a position in my home town of Roanoke, Virginia. From 1973-1976 I taught at Wasena Elementary School and at Garden City Elementary (Roanoke City Schools). Fortunately, I had supportive principals who allowed me to explore pedagogy and offer my students many opportunities for hands on science and outdoor learning experiences.

In Roanoke, I taught science for both the 5th and 6th grades in my school, and every year took each class on fall camping trips to North Creek in the Jefferson National Forest. Other outdoor activities included fossil hunts, salamander walks, pond studies (one was near the school), night sky watches, spelunking, and backpacking. Besides starting a chess club, I oversaw an after school science club and a bicycling club that made exploration opportunities a reglar part of schooling. It was during this period that I became involved with the birthing of what would become the Science Museum of Western Virginia. I took charge of the Museum's "Science Explorers," which provided pre-K-8 youth activities. During that time the fledging museum was operating out of the garage of the art museum. I went on to serve on the board of the science museum association and in 1980 as assistant director in charge of programs and exhibit planning for a new site being planned in Roanoke's Center-in-the-Square. Since that time I've appreciated the role of museums and informal education in science and environmental education.

In the autumn of 1976 I began full-time doctoral studies in science and environmental education at the University of Virginia. My dissertation was a longitudinal study of children's wilderness experiences during backpack hiking and camping. Before receiving the doctorate in 1985, I directed two off-grounds master's programs for the Curry School of Education, worked as state science supervisor for the Virginia Department of Education, and served as assistant director and exhibits researcher for the new Science Museum of Western Virginia.

My undergraduate experience abroad led to a life long interest in international and multicultural education that included comparative education studies at Penn and a n extended sabbatical in Melbourne, Australia in the 90s. My sabbatical project culminated in the publication by Rigby of the Science Timelines series of four "big books" with Teacher Guides.

In 1987 my wife Susan and I moved to Evanston, Illinois where she enrolled at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary to study for the Episcopal Church priesthood. I joined the faculty of what was then National College of Education and later became National-Louis University. NCE/NLU had several campuses in the Chicago area. During my eight years there I directed several urban teacher education initiatives in associated with Chicago science museums and Malcolm X Community College. Another such project was in Waukegan, IL. These projects were variously funded by state, federal, and Annenberg Foundation grants and were characterized by learning through inquiry, cooperative and project-based learning, curriculum integration, appropriate use of technology, using the local community as a curriculum resource, and building school-parent-community relationships.

For eight years (1985-87, 1996-2001), I was a science teacher educator at Virginia Tech. While there, my colleague George Glasson and I directed the Geological and Biological Change and the Nature of Science Institute, a professional development program for secondary teachers focusing on evolution and earth history, sponsored by the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV) through the Dwight D. Eisenhower Program.

During my years at UTK, I collaborated extensively the UT Institute of Agriculture, and specifically with Dr. Susan Hamilton, Director of the UT Gardens These projects focused upon environmental education and earned me adjunct status with the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, which is active to this day. Dr. Hamilton was co-director for a project I directed in 2005 funded by an Improving Teacher Quality grant - a summer institute for teachers on gardens and environmental education. We presented a paper on this work at Oxford University. In 2007 I co-directed another ITQ grant for a professional development project for high school teacher on teaching genetics. I received other grants at UT to conduct research on the science education being provided for ELL students in local schools. The results of that work with colleague Dr Clara Brown was published in 2004 in the Academic Exchange Quarterly.

For seven years after UT I was adjunct faculty, and the PI and director of the Elementary Science Institute for Teachers at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, funded by a grant from the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV) through the federal Improving Teacher Quality Program. Over 200 elementary teachers from 14 school divisions (districts) in southwestern Virgina benefitted from participating in this professional development project. Post-Ut, I also taught courses as adjunct for Mary Baldwin University, Radford University, and the University of Virginia.

Over my career I have enjoyed directed  masters theses and serving on doctoral committees. I delight in knowing that some of my students have gone on to become prominent scholars in the field. I continue to enjoy sharing my work at state, national and international conferences - Beijing (1987), Kingston, Ontario (1992), Gwinganna, Australia (1993), University of Sydney (1997), Como, Italy (1999), Mexico City (2003), Taiz University, Republic of Yemen (2005), Oxford University (2006), Ankara University (2015), Cambridge University (2016), and University of East London (2018).

I have been fortunate to have had a career that included teaching at all levels, from elementary to post-graduate, and have served as an educational consultant and program evaluator to school districts, higher education institutions, museums and other agencies. I have also evaluated programs for agencies that include the Virginia Department of Education, Loyola University of Chicago, Sweet Briar College, the Virginia Tech Institute for Connecting Science Research to the Classroom (ICSRC), and the University of Tennessee's Institute for Assessment and Evaluation (IAE). For the latter I conducted an evaluation of the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden's Challenger Program.

I've also been fortunate in my career to have had many colleagues who were also friends who helped me process my learnings through dialog. They are numerous. Most prominent is Prof. Jim Alouf, Sweet Briar College, my best friend since junior high. Jim has a realistic take on classroom life, a tremendous empathy with students and classroom teachers, and a keen understanding of the complexity of changing things as they are.

While teacher education has been my main occupation, I have also worked in science education, including as a museum educator and administrator. Further, I had a major role in the creation of two secondary schools: as the founding director of the Southwest Virginia Governor's School, a magnet high school for science and technology; and Board Co-Chair of Community High School, Roanoke, VA where I served in that role from 2002 to 2010. Both schools still thrive. CHS has been voted the outstanding high school in the Roanoke Valley by the Roanoker Magazine and received the 2009 Perry F. Kendig Award for the Outstanding Arts Education Program by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge.

Dr Hamilton, standing left, with our UT Gardens grant writing team.

From 2008 until 2014, I served as science eduction consultant on their expert panel for Education.com, during that time being the Internet's most extensive source of information on education for parents. I served as guest editor and contributor for a Special Edition focusing on "nature deficit disorder."

Teacher education in science and environmental education have always been my principle scholarly interests. Curiosity about my interests has not waned a bit scince retiring from UT. I relish keeping abreast of current science (my grad school concentration was population biology and evolution), and also follow what others are thinking regarding education in general – work in curriculum studies, international education, and, particularly, in the social studies of science as applied to teaching science.

I continue to write, and currently I am working with Ed Ebert on updating two books into one, both of which we wrote with his wife, Chris Ebert. The first is The Natural Investigator: A Constructivist Approach to Elementary School Science (Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2000). It was translated in 2008 into Chinese (Cengage, 2008). The second is Teaching Constructivist Science (Corwin, 2007). Ed and I also co-authored The Educator's Field Guide (Corwin, 2011).

Regarding the second book in progress, I am working with my long-time friend and collaborator, Prof. Stephen Fleury, LeMoyne College, New York. Steve and I met in 1989 at the First International Conference on the Nature of Science in Science Education, held at Florida State, and have been thinking together about the nexus between social studies and science education ever since. The book we conceive would be an introduction to education textbook.

In 2014, Connecting Children with Nature (Wood 'N' Barnes), was published, which I co-edited with colleagues Michael Mueller of the University of Alaska and Bruce Martin of Ohio University.


In 2010 I was honored to be named the first Education Associate of the Virginia Museum of Natural History which continued for 5-year term. The Museum, located in Martinsville, has a state-wide mission.

I work fro my home office in Salem, Virginia. My wife, the Rev. Susan Emmons Bentley, is Rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Roanoke, Virginia. Our daughter, Sarah (B.A., M.Div) works as a Christian educator. Son Alex (B.A., B.S.) is Director of Research at Sumak nature center and preserve in Ecuador. Matthew (B.S.) is a recent graduate with a degree in enviro-sci, specializing in geology. All three received their elementary and middle school education at Roanoke's Community School. Our family also includes a rescued golden retriever, and, at times, pets and visitors of other species.

Michael L. Bentley, EdD, Assc. Professor (retired)

Covers of a few of my science books for younger readers my publications are listed in my cv.



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