Earth Force is a non-profit organization that partners with businesses, schools, and community-based organizations nationwide to engage young people as active citizens who improve the environment and their communities. Through Earth Force, young people get hands-on, real-world opportunities to practice civic skills, acquire and understand environmental knowledge, and develop the skills and motivation to become life-long leaders in addressing environmental issues.
Earth Force involves Community Action Problem Solving or CAPS, a six step process that enables youth to take action in their community. In the spring of 2018, both graduate and undergraduate students worked with local 4th graders to investigate a variety of issues, including water pollution, soil quality, waste management, and gardening as a resolution to the problem of their community’s food desert.
Elementary school teachers in Chester and Trinidad learned to use inquiry based teaching practices in environmental education using new technologies (electronic field trips) to teach children ecological concepts as they explore, respectively, local marshes and mountainsides, and interactively share their learning about those environments and the differences between them.
In the Saturday Ecology Academy girls enjoyed being outdoors and learned about their environment. Widener graduate students practiced their teaching skills as they led educational programs for the girls at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.
The girls learned about the importance of wetlands and watersheds throughout the Academy.
Widener's Science Teaching Center is in the process of creating unique professional development for in-service teachers. Contact Dr. Nadine McHenry for more information.
Teachers at WPCS have been trained in Inquiry based Learning by the Science Teaching Center. Inquiry, as contrasted with more traditional forms of teaching and learning, emphasizes the process of learning in order to develop deep understanding in students in addition to the intended acquisition of content knowledge and skills. Inquiry based learning draws upon constructivist learning theories, where understanding is built through the active development of conceptual frameworks and schemas by the learner.
In the fall of 2013, Widener University Faculty began working with SE Delco Middle School Science Teachers focusing on the implementation of inquiry-based teaching and learning practices. The Teachers learned the theoretic bases of inquiry as well as developed familiarity with the 5E model of inquiry. The purpose of the professional development was to increase the effectiveness of their planning and pedagogical skills in the implementation of inquiry based learning experiences.
Once Teachers understood the 5E framework, they created units that they could use in their science classrooms. SE Delco Teachers and WU faculty collaborated on the development of these units during the PD sessions. Teachers then submitted their final units for review by the WU Faculty.
When planning was complete, the Teachers were videotapes via Adobe Connect and WU faculty provided feedback regarding the fidelity of their implementation with the 5E model. WU Faculty conducted qualitative research on their observations and used this research to develop a second iteration of PD for these same teachers.
In the 2014/15 academic years, SE Delco teachers continued to work with WU Faculty as they improved on their planning and implementation practices. Teachers revised their 2013/14 units and created another unit plan using the same 5E model. Videotaping and review continued through the spring semester while the WU Faculty continue their qualitative research.
Dr. McHenry has provided professional development opportunities for the teaching staff at WPCS since 2009. The entire staff was trained in inquiry based teaching and learning practices over the 2009/2010 academic year when Dr. McHenry spent her sabbatical there as the "Science Educator in Residence." The result of her sabbatical research was the development of an observation/evaluation instrument for monitoring the use of inquiry based teaching practices. This instrument has become the basis of her research with another cohort of teachers from Southeast Delco School District.