Originally published in the Mason Spirit, Fall 2009, page 29.
by Tara Laskowski, MFA ’05
Every sixth grader in Prince William County is enjoying a meaningful watershed education experience this academic year, thanks to researchers from Mason’s Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center (PEREC) and a three-year grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“As young people explore the watershed beyond their classrooms, their science education becomes more personally relevant and their interest in becoming environmental stewards grows,” says Dann Sklarew, PEREC’s associate director.
Using field trips to such habitats such as Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William Forest Park, and Bull Run Mountain, the program is being integrated into the county’s curriculum to realize Virginia Standards of Learning objectives at middle and high school levels.
Students connect to their local watershed by mapping its characteristics, measuring rainfall and runoff, and calculating economic costs. They also develop a community-based project, such as creating a rain garden or cleaning up trash; estimate the environmental impact of their project; and post the results to a web site.
To prepare teachers for the program, Cynthia Smith, a Mason research professor of environmental science and policy, worked with Joy Greene of the Prince William County Public Schools this summer to conduct a series of three-day teacher-training workshops. At least 50 sixth-grade and high school teachers of earth science and environmental systems participated. The teacher training included building lesson plans, examining computer-based activities, and training in field activities such as sampling, exploration, and analysis.
Sklarew and Chris Jones, PEREC director and senior advisor on the grant, estimate that more than 18,000 Prince William County middle and high school students will take part in this project over three years.
At least a dozen Mason students will serve as outdoor educators. Environmental Science and Policy graduate student Robert Johnson will track the effect of this training on students’ environmental stewardship.
Read the full “No Science Teacher Left Behind” section at the Mason Spirit website.
Originally published in the Washington Post on July 11, 2009.
Classroom lectures and science textbooks will be pushed aside next year at Prince William County middle schools as educators partner with a local university to provide students with a different kind of learning experience.
Thanks to a $330,000 grant over three years from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay B-WET Program and a partnership with George Mason University, Prince William public schools will be able to provide every sixth-grader with field experience in lessons on the Chesapeake Bay and the local watershed. [end of excerpt]
Read the full article on the Washington Post website.
Originally published in George Mason University News on June 8, 2009.
By Tara Laskowski
When rainwater runs off the roof of a school building, how does it end up in the Chesapeake Bay? This is the kind of question middle school students from Prince William County, Va., will be asking this fall when they become part of a new George Mason University program that integrates the local environment into the students’ curriculum.
With a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), researchers from Mason’s Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center (PEREC) will provide a meaningful watershed education experience for every sixth grader in Prince William County.
This three-year grant will provide a field trip to a local park with access to water and aquatic habitats such as Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William Forest Park and Bull Run Mountain.
The program will be integrated indefinitely into the county’s curriculum to realize Virginia Standards of Learning objectives at middle and high school levels.
“As young people explore the watershed beyond their classrooms and practice how to care for its natural wonders, their science education becomes more personally relevant and their interest in becoming environmental stewards grows,” says Dann Sklarew, PEREC associate director and project director for the watershed program.
“These students will be building the knowledge, skills and attitudes of environmentally conscious citizens and protecting their watershed, from local county streams all the way to the Chesapeake Bay.”
Later this summer, Cynthia Smith, Mason research professor of environmental science and policy (ESP), will work with Joy Greene of Prince William County Public Schools to begin a series of three-day teacher training workshops. At least 50 teachers of sixth grade, high school earth science, advanced-level environmental science and advanced-level environmental systems will participate.
The teacher training program will include building lesson plans, examining computer-based activities and training in field activities such as field samples, exploration and analysis.
Students will also connect to their local watershed by mapping its characteristics, measuring rainfall and runoff, and calculating economic costs. They will develop a community-based project such as creating a rain garden or cleaning up trash, estimate the environmental impact of their project and post results to a web site.
Sklarew and Chris Jones, director of PEREC and senior advisor on the grant, estimate that more than 18,000 Prince William County middle and high school students will take part in this project over the three-year period.
At least a dozen Mason students will serve as their outdoor educators. ESP graduate student Robert Johnson will also lead the effort to track the impact of this training on students’ environmental stewardship.
“Given the remarkable growth and diversity at Prince William County Schools and George Mason University, we’re confident the exchange between these students while in natural settings will help both their own education and their care for the bay,” says Sklarew.
The Mason-Prince William County partnership is supported by NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program.
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Originally published in The Mason Gazette, May 28, 2009
Mason was the site of the first International Marine Conservation Congress held May 17-24. Registrants and participants, totaling 1,200 from all over the world, attended.
The event featured up to 15 simultaneous sessions, a three-day marine protected area management training course, more than 20 other events and the Second International Marine Protected Area Congress, the largest marine conservation conference ever held.
The event was sponsored by Mason’s Department of Environmental Science and Policy (ESP) and developed under the auspices of the Society for Conservation Biology. Organizers were Chris Parsons, ESP, Marine Section president of the society; John Cigliano, Cedar Crest College; and Ellen Hines, San Francisco State University.
ESP faculty members Esther Peters and Dann Sklarew organized symposia and events and helped develop the scientific program. ESP chair Bob Jonas gave the welcoming speech and sponsored the event.
The following Mason community members assisted Parsons in organizing the event: Maureen Murphy, Events Management; Laura Van Slyke, Catering; Katheryn Patterson, MS student, ESP; Megan Draheim, PhD student, ESP; Lorelei Crerar, PhD student, ESP; Ashley Sitar-Gonzales, MAIS student, New Century College; and 21 other graduate and undergraduate students from the biology and ESP programs.
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