Place-based Ecology Education Coordinator for NH Schools

Place-based Ecology Education Coordinator for NH Schools – 2013-14 School Year

Place-based education fosters students’ connection to place and creates vibrant partnerships between schools and communities. It boosts student achievement and improves environmental, social, and economic vitality.
1 Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative. 2010. The Benefits of Place-based Education: A Report from the Place-based Education Collaborative (Second Edition). Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/PEECBrochure.

New Hampshire Charitable Foundation seeks a consultant to assist school communities in Claremont, Newport and/or Mascoma districts to explore opportunities to implement projects, programs, and professional development in place-based ecology education (PBEE) within those communities.

NHCF’s Wellborn Ecology Fund supports place-based ecology education within its Upper Valley Region (61 towns in west-central NH and east-central VT). Starting in 2013 and continuing over the next several years, the Wellborn Ecology Fund will focus grantmaking and other investments to increase access to high-quality place-based ecology education for K-12 schools and young people in the Upper Valley, with particular emphasis on K-8 schools in underserved NH communities. (The attached summary provides additional details on the Wellborn program.)

To that end, we are seeking an individual who can help teachers, school administrators, parents, community leaders and others learn about the benefits of PBEE, and connect them with resources that could benefit schools, teachers and students. Tasks include the following:

• Reach out to teachers, para-professionals, school administrators and others (e.g. parents, business leaders, farmers, partner organizations/agencies, etc.) who may have an interest in learning more about PBEE.

• Work with teachers and administrators to identify ways in which hands-on, place-based approaches can enhance curriculum, pedagogy and student engagement and learning, particularly related to implementing Common Core and Next Generation Science standards.

• Collect and share information about existing, successful place-based ecology-education programs (many in the UV), with a particular emphasis on professional development for teachers.

• Identify potential community leaders and resources that could be tapped to complement curriculum.

• Organize an evening program for teachers (and others, such as those listed above) to learn about a variety of successful and tested PBEE opportunities from around the Upper Valley and beyond.

• Serve as an internal ‘ombudsman’ or ‘coordinator’ for PBEE within the district.

The successful consultant should have a working knowledge/familiarity/experience with PBEE; credibility within the school community; interest in promoting and supporting hands-on, inquiry-based, community-focused learning; and willingness to collaborate with diverse stakeholders. Successful person must be a self-starter, good communicator, able to work one-on-one and in groups, talented at bringing resources together to advance a series of goals, and skilled with social media and electronic and web-based communications. The work could be focused on one or a combination of Claremont, Mascoma and/or Newport school districts. Strong desire for work to commence as soon as possible in Fall 2013.

For more information, please contact Kevin Peterson, NHCF Senior Program Officer, at 603-653-0387 ext. 1270, or by email at kp@nhcf.org.

Wellborn Ecology Fund
Background, Program Review, and New Program Direction
Introduction – The Wellborn Ecology Fund (WEF) was established in 2000 following an unannounced $9.8 million bequest to New Hampshire Charitable Foundation by the late Marguerite Wellborn, a former Hanover resident and avid naturalist. She believed that teaching people to appreciate our natural systems and to understand their scientific underpinnings were crucial first steps toward developing the attitudes and skills necessary to protect and conserve those systems. WEF is dedicated to increasing environmental and ecological knowledge in the Foundation’s Upper Valley Region (61 towns in west-central New Hampshire and east-central Vermont).
Background – Following establishment of the fund, the Foundation conducted a year-long investigation into best practices in environmental/ecology education and created an advisory committee to guide implementation of a broad array of recommended activities, including application grantmaking, an annual conference, a weekly article series on ecological topics published in local newspapers, retreats for ecology-education leaders, and other activities.

Wellborn application grantmaking is by far the largest element of the overall Wellborn program, with more than $3.4 million in total grant dollars awarded to more than 100 organizations and programs over the past 12 years. During this time, Wellborn ‘cast a wide net’ to see what kind of successful models and partnerships might emerge in the Upper Valley. The intent was to use the knowledge and experience gained from the first several years of grantmaking to make informed decisions about priorities for the Wellborn program in the future. Early goals were very process-oriented: learning about the place-based ecology education landscape in the Upper Valley; making Wellborn a visible and actively engaged participant in the region; helping to seed and nurture successful program models; developing partnerships with ecology and environmental organizations; building a network of ecology educators and institutions in the Upper Valley; and providing an even distribution of fund s across the UV service area. Resources would be distributed to programs aimed at children (50% of funding), adults/communities (30%) and network building (20%).

Program Review – A 2004 review of grantmaking results recommended modest adjustments that were implemented in 2005, including greater focus on nature/ecology camps and camp programs; NH schools and communities; professional development for educators; evaluation of program impacts; dissemination of successful practices; and enhancing the network of ecology educators in the region.

In 2012 and 2013, the Foundation conducted a wide-ranging review of the impact of the Wellborn program in its first decade. This review included information gleaned from:
 The previous external program review conducted in 2004;
 End-of-grant reports from organizations receiving Wellborn grant funding;
 Extensive data and statistics about Wellborn grantmaking (by state, program type, target audience, etc.);
 Focus groups of school administrators and providers of professional development in ecology education for educators in the region; and,
 Findings and recommendations from contracted, external, third-party evaluations of two Wellborn program elements (week-long leadership retreats for ecology educators, and grants awarded between 2005 and 2012).

Key findings from this review include the following:

 Meaningful but diffuse impact: The Foundation achieved many meaningful outcomes toward the Wellborn program goals. Given the broad nature of those goals, this impact was spread broadly over a range of programs and communities.

 Increased PBEE capacity: Place-based ecology education opportunities in the Upper Valley have increased by an estimated 40% since 2005, with the Wellborn program was cited as the “the most significant entity that has increased or improved environmental and place-based education.”

 Network hub: The Foundation’s Wellborn program has become “the hub of a UV network of diverse place-based ecology education practitioners”.

 Professional development a core element: Several professional development programs for educators are highly aligned with research showing the positive impact of place-based ecology learning.

 Best practices: A Forest for Every Classroom—a teacher professional-development program nurtured by Wellborn in the Upper Valley—has become a national model used in national parks, up and down the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and across the entire 171-millon-acre National Forest System.

 Uneven distribution of funds: Most grantees are currently from Vermont, and the majority of Wellborn-supported programs are delivered in Vermont schools and communities. Wellborn needs to ‘tip the scale’ and develop investments in the New Hampshire portion of the Upper Valley.

Future Direction – Starting in 2013, and continuing for the next five to seven years, the Foundation will focus grants and other resources to increase access to high-quality place-based ecology education in schools, with particular emphasis on K-8 education in underserved NH school districts, such as Claremont, Mascoma and Newport.

In the second half of 2013, the Foundation will explore various tactics to reach this goal, starting with outreach to several underserved school districts in NH. Initial target districts are Mascoma Valley, Newport and Claremont, through face-to-face meetings with school administrators (SAU Superintendent, school principals, curriculum coordinators, etc.), individual teachers and community members in each of the three districts. Goals for this targeted outreach are to:

 Introduce the Wellborn Ecology Fund;
 Describe the benefits of place-based ecology education;
 Uncover/discuss/catalogue current place-based ecology-education (PBEE) programs or projects within the school/district/community;
 Share information about successful, Wellborn-supported initiatives and programs that have been implemented in other parts of the Upper Valley; and
 Explore opportunities for creating more PBEE opportunities in NH schools—particularly the three districts identified above—that are tied to Common Core and Next Generation Science standards, meet community needs, and supported by the Wellborn Ecology Fund.

Grant Program – The Foundation also will be inviting applications for small grants (up to $5,000) to advance the following strategies in schools (again, with a focus on schools in underserved communities in NH):

1. Starting or enhancing place-based, experientially-oriented, ecology-education programs in schools by supporting teachers, schools, school districts, and the nonprofit organizations that work with them.

2. Supporting teachers to participate in professional-development programs that specialize in place-based ecology education.

3. Enhancing hands-on, nature-based, outdoor learning approaches that are tied to Common Core and Next Generation Science standards.

4. Improving, enhancing or creating access to natural areas within walking distance of schools, and helping to integrate learning opportunities in those natural areas with school curriculum.

5. Providing opportunities for youth to have immersion experiences in nature at environmental learning centers, after-school programs, etc.

Details on the grant program are available at www.nhcf.org/wellborn.

For more information on the Wellborn Ecology Fund and the program chances described herein, please contact Senior Program Officer Kevin Peterson at 603-653-0387, ext. 1270, or email kp@nhcf.org.

Claremont, Newport and/or Mascoma, New Hampshire
2013-10-31
New Hampshire Charitable Foundation
Kevin Peterson
kp@nhcf.org
603-653-0387 ext. 1270

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