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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.

Registration now open for the 2023 - 2024 Nature-Based STEM Community of Practice!


  • Summer Science Workshop August 1-3 

  • Yearlong PD 

  • 4 Lessons for students at your school

  • MWEE

See below for details and registration link.

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Nature-Based STEM Community of Practice


Our yearlong Nature-Based STEM Community of Practice professional development program offers a unique opportunity for elementary school teachers to develop skills in outdoor teaching, inquiry-based education, and phenomenon-based instruction – all foundational elements of NGSS and PA’s new STEELS science standards. 

*This year, we’ll be using NOAA’s Meaningful Watersheds Education Experience (MWEE) to structure our outdoor science investigations and 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 STEELS (PA’s new science standards) as well as NGSS, and we help teachers shape their instructional practices to support diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The program begins in August with a 3-day Summer Science Workshop focused on inquiry-based science pedagogy and best practices for successful outdoor and nature-based teaching. 

During virtual monthly PDs in the fall, 4 workshops led by local environmental education partners boost teacher content knowledge in four subject areas: watersheds, birds, native plants, and recycling/composting/waste.

Teachers will put these new competencies into practice with their students using NOAA’s Meaningful Watersheds Education Experience (MWEE) during the spring of 2024, which involves outdoor exploration and investigation, practicing phenomenon-based and 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?

Summer Science Workshop: The year kicks off with a 3-day workshop focused on inquiry-based learning, best practices in outdoor teaching and learning, incorporating DEI into nature-based instruction, and an orientation to the MWEE. The workshop will be held this year Tuesday, August 1 through Thursday, August 3, at the Discovery Center in Fairmount Park, with a tentative 9:00am-3:30pm daily schedule. 

Yearlong Community of Practice with 10 virtual workshops (September - June):  Teachers attend virtual workshops one hour per month. Our tentative virtual meeting time is Mondays, 4:00-5:00pm, but we will poll this year’s group to determine the best time for all.

  • September - December: PDs led by partner organizations boost teacher knowledge about topics frequently engaged through MWEEs: watersheds, birds, native plants, and recycling/compost/waste. 

  • January - April: PDs 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 STEELS/NGSS.

  • May - June: PDs feature teacher and student MWEE projects and celebrate accomplishments!

Learn more about the MWEE framework here:

$500 stipend: Upon completion of the Summer Science Workshop and yearlong PD program, including the MWEE, teachers receive a $500 stipend. 

Mileage reimbursement: Upon completion of the Summer Science Workshop, teachers will receive mileage reimbursement for travel to and from the DIscovery Center at the then standard federal rate.

$350 minimum for MWEE materials/supplies: Teachers from Title I schools are eligible for funds for learning materials used in carrying out student science investigations and action projects.

Winter Field Trip to Riverbend: Bring your students to Riverbend for a winter field trip where your class can practice outdoor nature science investigation and study how our ecosystems and watersheds transform in winter. (Trip does not include transportation costs.)

School grounds consultation: An educator from Riverbend will visit your school for a brief campus walk-through 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 a series of four lessons with your students, entitled: “Getting to Know Our Schoolyard Watershed and Ecosystems.” These lessons will focus on the ecosystems and watershed at your school and prepare students for creating a MWEE project. These lessons happen once per week over 4 weeks in March, and take place both outdoors and in the classroom. 

Nature Journals: Each student will receive their own nature journal for use during the lesson series with Riverbend and during the MWEE that follows.

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 1-3 times. Earth action projects can take place indoors or outside, depending on the type of project you and your students select. We are here to support you as you carry out your MWEE!

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 grades K-8 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 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 Educational Center, SLA-MS, and others.

Norristown Area School District: Musselman Learning Center, Whitehall; Upper Darby School District: Aronimink, Highland Park, Walter Senkow; Colonial School District: Colonial Elementary; Hatboro Horsham School District: Hallowell


What is the cost?

While the Summer Science Workshop and Community of Practice costs $2,500 per teacher to implement, through generous funders we are able to provide this program FREE to teachers and students in public schools in the Norristown, Pottstown, Upper Darby, and Philadelphia School Districts.

How do I apply?

Click here to complete an application. We will review applications on a rolling basis through June 2nd or until the program fills. Thank you for your interest! 


For more information please contact


Jill Shashaty

Education Specialist