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Education Programming at Jennings Environmental Education Center

Jennings is committed to providing a diverse array of environmental education and interpretive programs. Programming is offered year-round to schools, civic groups, and the community.

Each year over 167,000 visitors, 280 schools, 11 colleges and universities, and a number of civic organizations are served by the Jennings Center. Educational programs are age-specific and generate learning through discovery and a hands-on approach.

A schedule of community programs is available at the center. School programs can be arranged by calling the center at 724-794-6011.

SCHEDULING

Reservations at least one month in advance are required for all programs. Spring programs should be scheduled by January 30.

Contact the center at 724-794-6011 between 8:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M., or email Miranda Crotsley, program coordinator.

Pre-school

These programs combine sensory awareness, discovery learning, storytelling, and nature crafts to help preschoolers learn and experience their environment during each season.

Pricing

$3.00 per student for onsite programs.

$10.00 additional travel fee for offsite.

Needs-based funding may be available -- please inquire.

Elementary (K - 5)

Children are actively involved in the environment around them. Emphasis is placed on the student’s imagination and the power of observation.

Pricing

$3.00 per student for onsite programs.

$10.00 additional travel fee for offsite.

Needs-based funding may be available -- please inquire.

K to 3 (2 to 4 hours)

Bird Adaptations: Students model what makes a bird a bird and analyze how a bird’s structures and behaviors allow it to function and survive.

Fall Preparation: Through gaming, observation, and discussion, students explore how most animals prepare for winter -- hibernation, migration, or adaptation to conditions. Fall only.

Investigating Insects: Students observe different types of insects and gather evidence to explain how their adaptations and interrelationships with living and nonliving things help them to survive.

Trees are Terrific: Students work together to model a tree and investigate plant life cycles and needs.

Science and Senses: Students learn to use their five senses to observe, ask questions, and investigate the natural world (Especially for Kindergarten).

4 to 6 (3 to 4 hours)

Exploring Ecosystems (Option to study Wetlands, Stream, Forest, and Prairie): Students explore up to two different ecosystems, comparing and gathering observational data to illustrate the diverse interactions of living and nonliving things in each ecosystem. Students may also investigate an environmental issue such as pollution or invasive species.

Exploring the Soil: Students determine the soil color, permeability, temperature, pH, and slope of an area. Discussion of collected data centers on soil fertility, plants and animals present, erosion potential, and use by people.

Pennsylvania Coal -- Digging Up the Past: Students discover how coal is formed, role play the life of a young coal miner of the early 20th century, and investigate a major environmental impact of coal extraction, abandoned mine drainage. Students plan and carry out an investigation into the effectiveness of treating abandoned mine drainage using ponds and wetlands and conduct chemical and biological sampling.

Predator/Prey: Students determine the difference between predator and prey animals and their place in the food chain. Through gaming and observation, students discover adaptations and survival techniques for each group and the importance of each to their community.

Winter Ecology: Students examine plant and animal life in the winter. Students determine how plants and animals adapt to cold and snow. Through animal tracking, students learn how to identify which animals are active in the winter. Winter only, snowshoes may be used if weather permits.

Special Program K to 6

Maple Sugaring: A local tradition, and the oldest industry in North America, maple sugaring is a once-a-year treat at Jennings. Students will discover the structure and functions of a tree that make maple sugaring possible each spring, and will go on a walk back in time to experience how the science and technology of maple sugaring has changed through the ages.

All students get a taste of real maple syrup made at Jennings, and have the opportunity to purchase local syrup and other sweets from the Nature Shop. Maple Sugaring takes place Tuesday - Thursday of the third week of March each year. Schools may schedule a program at 10:00 A.M., 11:00 A.M., 1:00 P.M., or 2:00 P.M. Registration begins on the first Monday of January at 8:30 A.M. and fills quickly.

Intermediate (6 - 8)

Programs are centered on exploring the environment using a scientific approach. Students are responsible for collecting and analyzing data.

Secondary (9 - 12)

Programs emphasize critical thinking and problem solving skills while fostering an appreciation for the environment. Jennings offers Watershed Education, and programs on topics like acid mine drainage, problem solving, and biodiversity.

Pricing

$3.00 per student for onsite programs.

$10.00 additional travel fee for offsite.

Needs-based funding may be available -- please inquire.

7 to 12 (3 t0 4 hours)

Coal and Abandoned Mine Drainage Investigations: Students explore the history of an abandoned coal mine site and the passive treatment system designed to lessen the environmental impact of the past practices. Students will design and conduct and investigation, determining the pollution type, and effectiveness of the treatment (using chemical and biological parameters).

Maps, Compass and Orienteering: This active program teaches the skills of map reading, including topographic maps, and compass use in an engaging format, with the sport of orienteering as the culminating activity.

Prairie Ecosystem Investigation: Students receive an overview of the formation of this unique ecosystem, then develop and/or take part in an investigation of management methods in the prairie (e.g. conduct a vegetation survey in areas managed by winter cutting vs. late spring cutting). Other management includes prescribed fire, which can be an additional focus of the program.

Watershed and Water Quality Investigations: Students model a watershed and develop an investigation to study the water quality of the stream using both biotic and abiotic indicators, including physical properties of the stream, chemical parameters, and biological organisms.

Winter Ecology: Students examine plant and animal life in the winter. Students determine how plants and animals adapt to cold and snow. Through animal tracking, students learn how to identify which animals are active in the winter. Winter only, snowshoes may be used if weather permits.

Special Programs 7 to 12

Watershed Education: This long-term education program encourages students to explore all aspects of their watershed, including history, culture, economics, ecology, and human impact. Through research, stream investigation, mapping, data collection, and networking with other school groups, students gain a greater awareness of the scope and value of watersheds. Teachers wishing to participate must attend a Watershed Education Teacher Workshop.

Inquiry-Based Investigations: Jennings staff can work with teachers and curriculum directors to design inquiry-based ecological field investigations and research on a variety of topics. Generally, these investigations involve two pre-visits to the classroom, working with students on developing an interest in the ecosystem/problem, writing questions, designing an investigation, and learning methods of study.

Time at Jennings is spent conducting the investigations. Investigations are based on real-world issues at Jennings and beyond. Students also analyze their data, visually represent it, communicate their results with others, and write results in the form of a scientific publication.

College

Jennings provides a number of programs for students with a wide range of backgrounds. Internship opportunities are available for students seeking degrees in environmental education, resource management, biology, and other related fields.

Ecology and Resource Management

Coal and Abandoned Mine Drainage Investigation (2 hours): Students investigate an abandoned coal mine site and its passive treatment system, determining the pollution type, effectiveness of the treatment (using chemical and biological parameters), and explore the history of the source.

Coal: Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future (1 hour): This classroom presentation focuses on the history of coal mining in western PA, the human and environmental issues that resulted from that history, and the efforts Jennings and others take to remedy the associated pollution through passive treatment.

Stream Study (2 hours): Students examine the chemical and biological parameters of the stream to determine water quality. This program is often combined with the Coal and Abandoned Mine Drainage Investigation, above.

Prairie Ecosystem Investigaton (2 - 4 hours): Students receive an overview of the formation of this unique ecosystem, then develop and/or take part in an investigation of management methods in the prairie (e.g. conduct a vegetation survey in areas managed by winter cutting vs. late spring cutting). Other management includes prescribed fire, which can be an additional focus of the program.

Prairie Management and Controlled Burn (1 hour): This classroom presentation focuses on the natural history of the prairie ecosystem, and how it is managed, including through the use of prescribed fire.

Massasauga Rattlesnake (1 hour): This classroom presentation focuses on the natural history and management of endangered massasauga rattlesnake at Jennings.

Massasauga Rattlesnake Management and Research Investigation (2 - 4 hours): Students receive an overview of the prairie ecosystem (the massasauga’s habitat), then take part in one of two experiences:

  • An interactive demonstration of massasauga research techniques using snake models
  • Conducting an investigation of massasauga habitat under various management

State Park Resource Management -- This classroom presentation is an overview of park resource management planning and techniques.

Interpretation and Environmental Education

Environmental Education Curriculum Workshops (3 - 6 hours, in class or on Saturdays): Project Wild, Project Learning Tree, Growing Up Wild, Project WET, Pennsylvania Songbirds, Watershed Education (see below), GO Teach Snowshoeing.

Environmental Education Centers and State Parks (1 hour): An overview of the center’s programs and operations, and state parks management.

Interpretive Trail Walks and Talks (1 hour): How to write and conduct interpretive walks and talks.

Maple Sugaring (1-MANY hours): A comprehensive interpretive walk training program. An overview is presented, and then students attend interpretive training and conduct walks. Training is conducted in January, programs conducted in March.

Teacher Training

A variety of natural history and curricula workshops are available to teachers. These workshops are designed to provide information and ideas that can easily be integrated into the classroom.

Special Events

Jennings provides special programming on a variety of topics, including maple sugaring, environmental scout day, and earth week.

Special Populations

Students with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities participate in programs adapted to meet their special needs.

Public Interpretive Programs

Community programs present various environmental topics in an informative and entertaining way through slide presentations, trail walks, and public workshops.