Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ecology in Education -- Makin' it Work

by Sigrid Mueller, Education Director and Alicia Moore, School Programs Manager

Connecting students to the San Francisco Bay and supporting teachers who share this commitment have always been at the core of Save The Bay’s educational vision. We believe that outdoor environmental education – such as our Watershed Education Programs – works best with appropriate preparation and follow-up. And, recent research supports the idea that students learn and retain more when field-trip activities are bookended by classroom lessons.

Since 1999 Save The Bay has hosted a professional development workshop for teachers interested in our Watershed Education Programs. Our regular evaluation has found that teachers desire, and benefit from, methods and strategies to integrate the field trip experience into the classroom lesson plan. Our workshop teaches classroom techniques to prepare for and get the most from our field trips.

This summer our workshop added an additional day to help teachers incorporate the field trip into the classroom. Participants worked with Save The Bay staff and colleagues to design lesson plans derived from our Canoes In Sloughs and Community-based Restoration field trips – to strengthen the impact on students and improve learning outcomes.

From June 30 to July 2, sixteen middle and high school teachers and five environmental educators gathered to explore in canoes and restore wetlands, and learn how to bring it all back to the classroom. Highlights from the two field-based days included seeing California Clapper Rails in their native habitat, identifying invertebrates and native wetland plants, and discussing the importance of service learning. Participants were also excited to have a third day to work on classroom lesson plans with Save The Bay staff and their colleagues. As one teacher remarked: "It was incredibly beneficial to actually conduct some lessons and discuss them with our peers. It makes it much easier to actually integrate field experiences into my teaching if I have done it before."

To learn more about Save The Bay's Watershed Education programs, visit:

Here are a few photos taken during the three-day workshop:

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