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Teacher Professional Development

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About Riverbend's Teacher Professional Development Programs

To transform schools and prepare students to address critical environmental issues and succeed in STEM-based careers, there is a growing recognition that strong partnerships between informal and formal education institutions are key. This informs Riverbend’s focus on collaborating with schools to provide tested programs, adapted to individual and district needs.

Riverbend experts will work with you to create a professional development program that supports your teachers in delivering Nature Based STEM programs designed to excite students and improve academic outcomes.

Teachers who participate in Riverbend's professional development program will gain skills in integrating nature and STEM topics across disciplines.  They will walk away with activites that they can implement in their classrooms.

Riverbend can host professional development sessions at your school or at our 30-acre preserve with indoor facilities in Gladwyne, 10 miles from Philadelphia off the Schuylkill Expressway.   Our professional development programs are designed to be cross disciplinary. Major concepts might include life science, environment and ecology, and inquiry and design, depending on school subjects.  We work with teachers from early childhood through high school and will create a customized program that supports your teachers in your school’s curriculum goals and Pennsylvania academic standards.

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Nature Based STEM Professional Development Program

Riverbend is thrilled to offer a NEW Nature Based STEM professional development program, launching in Summer 2021.

This year-long, teacher centered program is designed to support teachers in building authentic, multidisciplinary learning experiences for students. We are building a network of formal teachers and informal educators from regional environmental education centers that will work to align authentic outdoor experiences with STEM and Next Generation Science Standards. We will help teachers align their instructional practices to support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion while exploring environmental justice and local environmental issues using NOAA’s Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE).  

Teachers who register for this program will build professional skills while also directly engaging with their students this year. Students will experience an authentic, Nature Based STEM program in their school that follows NOAA’s MWEE. They will have the opportunity for outdoor exploration and investigation where they can build and practice critical skills in science. Students will receive a virtual video series focused on watersheds, a kit with science tools and resources, and classroom visits. They will work with their teacher to build meaningful action projects where they can help solve problems and contribute to their community.

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The program includes:

3 Day Summer Workshop (August 3, 4, 5):  This 3-day immersive workshop will set the table for a year long Community of Practice designed to help teachers implement a project based, outdoor learning experience using NOAA’s MWEE. Teachers will be introduced to practices that support equitable instructional practices and explore environmental justice issues in their community. Teachers will learn strategies for applying inquiry based science instruction in outdoor settings. 

Community of Practice with 9 virtual workshops (September-June):  Teachers will attend virtual workshops once per month from 4:00-6:00pm (Sept-June with a break in December). These workshops will provide teachers with the experience and resources to build a MWEE in their classroom. This MWEE framework employs pedagogies such as inquiry based learning and project based learning and aligns to the Next Generation Science Standards. The community of practice will be facilitated by experts from Riverbend Environmental Education Center and our partner organizations and will include both teachers and informal science educators.

Video Lesson Series:  Four part series of Watershed-focused videos with accompanying interactive notebook pages. This self-guided unit was developed in collaboration with Riverbend educators and formal science educators. These videos support students in building background knowledge around watersheds.

Classroom Lessons:  Through the community of practice, teachers will pair up with informal educators to implement Nature Based STEM classroom lessons either virtually or in person (depending on your school’s instructional model). Using a model-mentor-coach model, educators will work together as they develop skill in inquiry based science instruction. 

Student Kits:  Students will receive educational kits with all of the supplies necessary to fully participate in classroom lessons. Student kits will include a science journal, writing utensil, hand lens, science tools, and supporting informational materials.

Outdoor Field Experiences: Teachers will build skills and practice implementing outdoor inquiry based lessons. The outdoor field experience is a hallmark of the MWEE. Working with the community of practice, teachers will incorporate outdoor field experiences for students. These outdoor field experiences will be customized to each school and relate directly to the student’s MWEE. This may include a school-yard based exploration or a trip to Riverbend or other local nature preserve.

Partnership:  Teachers will receive immediate access to a robust network of formal and informal educators to help you advance your instructional practices. Riverbend has built a strong cadre of partners who are experts in inquiry based learning and outdoor science instruction. These curated networks will include educators and leaders from John Heinz National Wildlife Center, Mid Atlantic Audubon, and PA State Parks. Informal educators will help to build and implement MWEEs in classrooms.


Through this program, we will build a network of formal and informal educators who can support one another’s practice. 

Educators who teach 3rd-5th grade in a formal school setting 

Informal educators who teach students in grades 3-5 at an outdoor based or environmental education center 

Preference for educators working with students in Southeastern PA, although all are welcome to apply.


The program cost may be broken down into a scaled back program or full program support. Teachers may choose a basic program or full program support.

  • 3 day teacher institute, community of practice and video lessons: $1,200 per teacher

  • Add on 4 classroom lessons and student kits for an additional $800 per teacher

  • Full program package= $2,000 per teacher and classroom (up to 50 students)

Through generous funders, we are able to provide this program at no cost to teachers and students in the Norristown, Pottstown, Upper Darby and Philadelphia School Districts. If your school is financially challenged and unable to pay for your participation, please contact Erin McCool atemccool@riverbendeec.org

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We will be visiting partner locations for two days and one day of virtual learning from your home or work. Partner locations will be announced and one confirmed we can be in person.


  • Learn strategies for facilitating inquiry based science.

  • Access to a professional network and peer support.

  • 3 day workshop which includes 2 outdoor field experiences and one day of virtual instruction.  

  • A community of practice which includes 9 virtual meetings in the 2021-2022 school year.

  • A 3-part video learning series for students which includes an introduction to watershed and accompanying journal pages.

  • 4 environmental education classroom programs for your student, developed and implemented through the community of practice.

  • Individual student kits to support learning experiences.  Includes science tools, a journal and activities.


  • Completed online application

  • A letter of support from your school administrator

  • Collaborative spirit and enthusiasm for learning!

Questions? Contact Erin McCool at emccool@riverbendeec.org


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Our current program registration is closed.

Check back for future opportunities.

Through the assistance of our generous funders, this program is offered at no cost to schools in the Norristown, Pottstown, Upper Darby, and Philadelphia school districts. We appreciate their support of Riverbend.

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For more information please contact

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Erin McCool

Director of Education and Strategic Initiatives