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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.

Now Enrolling for January 2023! 

*Only three spots left. Enroll by January 16th.*

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Nature Based STEM Community of Practice


Our yearlong Nature-Based STEM professional development program offers a special opportunity for elementary school teachers to join mid-year as we guide teachers and their students through an outdoor science investigation culminating in an earth action project.* 

*This year we’ll be using NOAA’s Meaningful Watersheds Education Experience (MWEE) to structure our outdoor science investigations and earth action projects.

What is the Nature-Based STEM Community of Practice? 

This yearlong, teacher-centered program supports teachers in developing and implementing authentic inquiry-based and nature-based learning experiences for students. We prioritize aligning outdoor learning experiences with Next Generation Science Standards, and we help teachers shape their instructional practices to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. This year, teachers will put these approaches into practice using NOAA’s Meaningful Watersheds Education Experience (MWEE) during the spring of 2023, which involves outdoor exploration and investigation, practicing 3D science learning, and building meaningful earth action projects that contribute to the local community and ecosystem.

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What does this opportunity include?

Orientation Session: A virtual meeton Monday, January 23rd, from 4-5pm will provide orientation and allow teachers to gain familiarity with the topics, skills, and resources covered during the 2022 Summer Institute and the first three workshops of the Community of Practice in the fall of 2023. In the case of conflicts, alternate meeting times for thid orientation are a possibility.

Community of Practice with 6 virtual workshops (January - June):  Teachers attend virtual workshops one hour per month. Our tentative virtual meeting time is Mondays, 4:00-5:00pm.  

Training in implementing an outdoor science investigation culminating in an earth action project with your students: Our six virtual workshops will provide teachers with the experience and resources to build and lead an outdoor science investigation and earth action project with students. The framework we use for this experience – NOAA’s Meaningful Watersheds Education Experience (MWEE) – employs pedagogies such as inquiry-based learning and project-based learning and aligns to the Next Generation Science Standards.

Learn more about the MWEE framework here:

School grounds consultation: An educator from Riverbend will visit your school for a campus walkthrough to plan for outdoor lessons and identify ecosystem and watershed learning opportunities on your school grounds. All schools, regardless of how much or how little “green space” they contain, offer ample opportunities for nature-based outdoor learning. 

4 lessons at your school:  A Riverbend educator will come out to your school for four lessons with your students. The first will be a school grounds nature audit where students will investigate and map their outdoor space in preparation for the 3-part lesson series to follow, entitled: “Getting to Know Our Watershed and Ecosystems.” All of these lessons involve outdoor, inquiry-based lessons.

Student kits:  Each school will  receive free materials appropriate for the site specific action plan you develop as part of the program. 

Support for your next steps – building your investigation and earth action project: Outdoor investigation and data collection focusing on a specific question and leading to an earth action project are essential components of the student experience in this project. Typically, teachers will bring students outside for investigation and data collection 1-2 times, whereas earth action projects can take place indoors or outside, depending on the topic you and your students select.

Belonging to a network of dedicated elementary science educators: Connecting with colleagues around the region for support, ideas, and inspiration is one of the best elements of our Nature-Based STEM Community of Practice!

Who is eligible?

We welcome any educators who teach elementary grades in a formal school setting, as well as informal educators who teach students in elementary grades at an environmental education center. 

In past years, we’ve worked with teachers from dozens of schools around the region, including:

School District of Philadelphia: Lewis Elkin, John Moffet, FS Edmonds, Cook-Wissahickon, Fanny Jackson Coppin, James Rhoads, Keystone Charter, Stanton, Farrell, Anne Frank, Cramp, Henry Houston, Overbrook, and others.

Norristown Area School District: Whitehall; Upper Darby School District: Aronimink, Walter Senkow; Colonial School District: Colonial Elementary; Hatboro Horsham School District: Hallowell


What is the cost?

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 Jill Shashaty atjshashaty@riverbendeec.org

How do I apply?

To apply, fill out the application form by clicking below:


For more information please contact


Jill Shashaty

Education Specialist