By Mandy Nix
“Head, thorax, abdomen-abdomen! Head, thorax, abdomen-abdomen!” The playful parody of the children’s song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” rings out from a Brady Bunch grid of 70 grown-ups on Zoom.
The mosaic of faces belonging to college students, classroom teachers, non-formal environmental educators, school administrators, homeschooling caregivers, and other adult professionals from across Pennsylvania and seven additional states is neither the story of a lovely lady nor the story of a man named Brady.
The adults wriggling like insects — a truly Buggy Bunch — make up Stroud™ Water Research Center’s second fully virtual training this past November in the national Growing Up WILD early childhood education curriculum.
“This important training time not only keeps educators updated on the latest trends and inspires them with new ideas,” says Carissa Longo, Pennsylvania’s Project WILD state coordinator and the environmental education program coordinator with Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of State Parks. “It also provides rare peer-to-peer networking time for educators who are stretched thin and have no time to share ideas, obtain feedback, and interweave environmental education into their curricula.”
“Without our partnership with the Stroud Center education department, our virtual professional development would not be at the level that it is today,” says Longo, who has collaborated closely with Stroud Center educators to navigate and master online teaching innovations like the WikiWatershed Toolkit™, Kahoot, Padlet, Jamboard, and more. “The workshops that Pennsylvania state park educators co-led with Stroud Center educators were some of our most successful workshops of 2020 and 2021.”
The Stroud Center’s comprehensive ongoing support of adult educators happens on and off the screen. In addition to growing their geographic impacts through virtual programming, the education department offers open enrollment professional development workshops and partners closely with local school districts to create district-level educational change.
Paul Joyce, Ed.D., curriculum supervisor for West Chester Area School District, is an integral vehicle for professional development between the Stroud Center and the school district’s teachers and administrators each year.
“Our partnership with the Stroud Center is extremely significant because it has wide-ranging implications for student engagement in freshwater, environmental, and civic responsibilities,” reflects Joyce. “Our curricula have been enriched and expanded from elementary through middle level and high school education.”
Cindy Murdough, a sixth-grade teacher at Conrad Weiser Middle School, a Berks County Master Watershed Steward, and a veteran participant of Stroud Center professional development events agrees. “I appreciate the Stroud Center because of all the various programs they offer,” praises Murdough. “The Stroud Center has helped me strengthen my instructional techniques as a classroom teacher because of hands-on workshops, including citizen science water quality monitoring, aquatic macroinvertebrate identification, and the suite of teaching tools available in the award-winning WikiWatershed Toolkit.”
As the journey in this new normal continues, the Stroud Center will continue to offer professional development in multiple formats in collaboration with partners and make more virtual learning resources available.
“We look forward to seeing you virtually in Zoom webinars, in person at the Stroud Center (outside only for now) or at your site, and on the water in canoe-based watershed professional development,” says Director of Education Steve Kerlin, Ph.D.