Millersville University (MU) is one of two institutes of higher education to have an opportunity that no other university in the region will have. The University’s Watershed Education Training Institute (WETi) was selected to be part of the Outdoor Learning Network Initiative (OLNI), a partnership of the Chesapeake Bay Trust Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Chesapeake Bay Office. Funding will be through the Pisces Foundation.
OLNI has a goal of establishing and developing model local environmental literacy networks for K-12 programs, which include Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) programs.
“Being selected as an OLNI Backbone Partner is an honor for MU,” says Dr. Nanette Dietrich, Educational Foundations professor. “The program will benefit our students and the health of our local watershed. WETi is excited to continue our partnership with the Conestoga Valley School District and the Stroud Water Research Center with a shared mission of protecting our local watershed through education and civic action.”
It is important for Millersville to be a part of OLNI because MWEE is a learner-centered experience that focuses on investigations into local environmental issues that will lead to action and civil engagement,” says Dietrich. “By implementing this new program, MU will have the opportunity for students to participate in hands-on activities and research in the local environment and raise awareness about certain issues.”
MU’s Watershed Education Training Institute (WETi) will serve as a Pennsylvania backbone partner along with Conestoga Valley School District and the Stroud Water Research Center, meaning that across the next few months, the Chesapeake Bay Trust will convene a series of meetings to establish the priorities for the initiative, share expectations, develop a charter with each group, explore where MWEE fits into the curriculum and coordinate a local network to support MWEE’s implementation.
The effort will focus in more detail on the following:
- Increasing communication, coordination and collaboration among key partners advancing environmental literacy plans within priority school districts,
- Increasing the capacity of backbone partners and local implementation networks to advance systemic environmental literacy for all students, and
- Increasing the number of teacher-supported systemic environmental literacy programs occurring in priority school districts.
Lancaster County and the West Virginia Panhandle have been selected to serve as models for this initiative. If proven successful, the goal is to influence other schools in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to be a part of this new experience as well. Getting students involved with the environment and engaging in hands-on research is a new and innovative way of learning which also teaches them to be more aware of the world around them.