Activities & Resources
Curriculum/Lesson Plans. There are countless ways to teach and learn about the environment, natural resources and civics, but the most meaningful lessons are those that relate directly to our communities, our backyards and our state. Teaching and learning about the perils of polar bears and rainforests is necessary, but so are lessons about threatened and endangered species in Pennsylvania, the state of our forests, the quality of our streams and rivers, and what’s growing in our backyards. Here are some Pennsylvania specific topics that can help with curriculum development and learning.
- Watershed Ed – An educational program for students and teachers in grades 6-12 that promotes classroom and field research, hands-on ecological investigations, networking, partnerships, stewardship and community service in an effort to produce environmentally literate citizens.
- PA Land Choices – Curriculum and a collection of activities that guides learners in understanding the forces and choices that shape a community and region. PA Land Choices promotes civic responsibility through place-based education and service-learning. Through its interactive and thoughtful activities, it challenges the learner to become involved in creating the communities of the future and protecting their natural resources.
- Wildfire prevention – Lessons and information on the role fire plays in our forests – both good and bad.
- Forestry – Penn State-developed educator resources and youth publications on sustainable forestry, natural resources, water, earth sciences, and wildlife.
- Geology – Lesson plans on rich natural history, abundant mineral resources, and varied landscape of Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Geologic Society.
- Bio bullies – An invasive species curriculum for Pennsylvania 4th – 8th graders.
- Pa’s Environmental Heritage – A history of environmental programs, leaders and key events by the PA Department of Environmental Protection.
- WRCP – Publications, documentaries and videos from the Wild Resource Conservation Program.
Resources. Enhancing the classroom with Pennsylvania-specific posters, publications and kits will expand the students’ learning experiences. See what’s available:
- Geology and topography
- Common Trees of PA
- Forestry publications
- Wild Resource Conservation Program
- Keystone Wild Notes
- Rock Hound kits
Earth Day. Each year on April 22, Earth Day is celebrated throughout the country to emphasize the importance of protecting our planet and its limited resources. Many events on that day, week and month bring focus to environmental issues and present opportunities for people to get involved.
Videos. Videos are a great supplemental tool to teaching and learning and are an expected part of the classroom by today’s youth. In the Emmy-award winning Cosmo’s World, important topics like biodiversity, endangered species, climate change, invasive species and water are investigated by Cosmos the flying squirrel and Terra the river otter.
Do you like to watch birds or do you always notice when certain flowers bloom? Become a Citizen Scientist! Anyone (including your students) can be citizen scientists—all you need is a passion for nature and helping your community! Citizen science is where the public volunteers time to assist scientists in their research. They can support professional researchers in a lot of ways – by submitting data, sharing experiences or spreading valuable information. Scientists benefit from having a lot more data to analyze and a pool of volunteers willing to help.
Citizen science programs vary in type and scope. You might prefer to work on a local level – like collecting data on the nutrient levels in an area stream. Some of the more popular citizen science projects are nationwide. Many of the large scale citizen science projects have websites where you study up and learn protocols before heading into the field.
Here are just a few Citizen Science projects:
- Fun with Frogs! – FrogWatch USA is a frog and toad monitoring program where volunteers learn the calls of local frog species, identify them by song in the field and record their findings online. No formal training is required, except a willingness to learn the frog and toad calls in your area.
- The Beauty of Birds – The Cornell Lab of Ornithology manages 12 bird citizen science programs, including Project Feederwatch, NestWatch and eBird. With such a vast diversity of projects, you are sure to find one that fits your classroom.
- Project BudBurst – Every plant tells a story. Whether you have an afternoon or a whole season, you can make an important contribution to a better understanding of changing climates. Project BudBurtst is a national network of people monitoring plants as the seasons change. Data is collected in a consistent manner across the country so that scientists can learn more about the responsiveness of plant species to changes in climate locally, regionally, and nationally.
- Fabulous Firefly Festivities – This summer, Boston's Museum of Science wants you to monitor fireflies. With an occasional visit to your backyard to count fireflies, you could be helping scientists around the country study firefly behavior and population changes.
- Monarch Mayhem! – Each year, the University of Kansas monitors the autumn migration of monarch butterflies. Join them this fall and record data on monarchs that fly through your community on their journey south. Also learn how to build a monarch waystation.
- Birds in Your Backyard – The National Audubon Society hosts a yearly end of winter bird count called the Great Backyard Bird Count. Anyone can participate no matter your skill level or location in the US and Canada.
- Beginner’s Guide to Bird Watching – Bird watching is a great introduction to viewing and appreciating nature. It can easier to get started than you think!
- Be a Star Gazer – During the month of October, join citizen scientists worldwide as they try to observe constellations after sunset. The study gauges the impact of light pollution on your ability to see the stars and constellations at night.