Teachers from the School District of Philadelphia and nearby districts are better-equipped for a successful school year thanks to a series of professional development workshops hosted by the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center. The four workshops were linked to our award-winning Understanding the Urban Watershed Curriculum, and were held in partnership with GreenFutures, the School District of Philadelphia’s sustainability program.
On average, 30 middle-school teachers attended the virtual trainings, held Wednesdays in July. In addition to interactive presentations led by content experts, participatory and provocative discussions, educators could also earn Act 48 credit for pre- and post-session assignments.
The series consisted of the following topics and subject experts:
- WEEK 1 (July 8): Climate Change and Youth Activism (Abby Sullivan, Environmental Scientist, Philadelphia Water Department, Climate Adaptation Program)
- WEEK 2 (July 15): City Water Systems: See How They Work (Robin Sanchez, Director of Education, NYC Environmental Protection; Ellen Olson, Youth Education Program, Denver Water; and Nicole Horvath, Environmental Outreach Coordinator, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission)
- WEEK 3 (July 22): Freshwater Mussels: Nature’s Water Quality Engineers (Angela Padeletti, Aquatic Research Scientist, Operations Director, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary)
- WEEK 4 (July 29): From Backyard to Schoolyard (Stephanie Chiorean, AICP, Philadelphia Water Department, Environmental Staff Scientist and Planner; Dan Mullin, RLA, ASLA, School District of Philadelphia, Office of Capital Programs, Site Improvement Coordinator; and Emma Melvin, School District of Philadelphia, Office of Capital Programs, Green Infrastructure Program Manager)
Ellen Freedman Schultz, workshop facilitator and Director of Education Partnerships at the Fairmount Water Works, reflects: “Our sessions met our goal to grow and sustain a strong network of teachers. They enjoyed learning from science, research, green infrastructure and utility content experts but also to brainstorm new and creative virtual instruction ideas for their students.”
One inspired teacher, Ami Patel Hopkins, teaches fifth- and sixth-grade science at Science Leadership Academy Middle School in Philadelphia, wrote: “I appreciated connecting with other educators from Philadelphia and nearby districts. The breakout sessions were especially helpful to brainstorm implementation ideas with my peers. I especially was grateful for the dialogue with colleagues about applying a social justice lens to the concepts we learned in our sessions. The speakers were very accessible, and I am excited to connect with them as I start thinking about implementation in my classroom and at my school. I cannot wait to share what I have learned with my students in the 2020-2021 school year. My favorite part is when students share in the excitement and see that they are part of the solution!”
Here are a few additional quotes from participating teachers:
“Today’s meeting was great! Having a green space at Kirkbride is one of my very big goals, but the mystery was always how to start. I look forward to the guidance that was mentioned on how to get started and I’ll reach out to Emma to try and get the process going at my school.”
“I think these one-hour sessions were perfect, and you did a great job of moving everything (and everybody) along. I really looked forward to your sessions because they were tight, focused and to the point.”
At the beginning of the training, 86% of teachers responded “yes” when polled with the statement: “I can envision ways to connect students to a green schoolyard.” That number rose to 100% when asked again at the conclusion of the series.
“We hope to continue to bring this dynamic and engaging opportunity to teachers as they face the challenges of virtual education in the fall,” says Freedman Schultz.