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NOAA Workshops Deliver Teaching Tools to Educators

March 10, 2023

This winter’s workshops run by the NOAA Environmental Science Training Center in Maryland highlighted using real-world science concepts in K-12 education.

A man standing at a podium, with a large video screen as a backdrop, speaks to a room of people seated at round tables ESTC workshops bring educators together to hear from environmental education experts. The winter workshops provide educators with innovative teaching ideas and up-to-date science. Photo: NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office/NOAA Fisheries.

Winter may mean a pause in outdoor learning experiences for students in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. But building the region’s capability to graduate environmentally literate students from high school doesn’t slow down.

The NOAA Environmental Science Training Center teams up with experts to offer workshops and webinars in the mid-Atlantic region. These programs train educators to use hands-on science in the classroom and in the field. This helps educators deliver meaningful watershed educational experiences

A Phenomenal Workshop

At the February “Environmental Education is PHENOMENAL” workshop, educators learned how environmental phenomena can be used to increase student engagement. In this process, students learn by focusing on a locally relevant issue. Examples include fish kills, sunny-day flooding, extreme heat, early springs, and low pollinator diversity. Students can observe these phenomena in their schoolyard or their community or at their local nature center.

Educators learned about the qualities that make a phenomena engaging. They also learned techniques for integrating phenomena into existing environmental literacy programs. Local researchers also shared some emerging science that is uncovering regionally relevant phenomena. The workshop ended with a lively discussion on how phenomena-based learning can help integrate more outdoor investigations. The group also talked about how students can help guide the content they focus on, making it more meaningful to them.

A whiteboard covered with brown craft paper with handwritten questions and lots of sticky notes
The “Environmental Education is PHENOMENAL” provided opportunities for interactive learning by educators. Photo: NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office/NOAA Fisheries.

Pennsylvania STEELS Is Strong

Pennsylvania recently established new Science, Technology, Engineering, Environmental Literacy, and Sustainability standards for grades K-12. They replace the previous science standards, which had been in place since 2002. They are a big step forward in science education, with a strong focus on engaging students in science and engineering practices. This approach is in line with the Next Generation Science Standards, which does a better job preparing students for their future and developing a STEM-ready workforce. 

The Environmental Science Training Center ran a multi-day workshop to help Pennsylvania educators implement the standards. Participants also learned how they could use hands-on learning to implement them. The new standards include investigating local environmental issues and developing actions one can take on those issues. Those are also essential elements of a meaningful watershed educational experience!

The first session was a webinar held for participants across Pennsylvania. The following week, in-person sessions were held in three different locations (Pittsburgh, Malvern, and Harrisburg). During the in-person sessions, participants practiced hands-on learning that supports the new standards. They also discussed how they can use this kind of learning with their own students. 

Four women are seated around the table, leaning in to collaborate on a learning exercise
Participants in the “Making Connections” workshop focused on learning about the Pennsylvania STEELS standards—and how to implement them. Photo: NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office/NOAA Fisheries.

Learn more about upcoming workshops and webinars, including summer workshops for educators!

Last updated by NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office on March 10, 2023