Teaching the Environment Program




July 30 - August 3, 2018

Teaching the Environment is a week-long intensive environmental studies program for educators working with children in early childhood and elementary, middle, and high school settings. Set on the banks of the Hudson River in downtown Yonkers at the Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak and Sarah Lawrence College campus, this collaborative program will have an interdisciplinary curriculum including hands-on workshops and field trips to Hudson River community-based organizations. Under the theme of Discovering Urban Landscapes, the program will feature experiential workshops ranging from the arts to physical and social sciences.

In collaboration with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, this professional development program fulfills the requirements of their Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve's Teacher on the Estuary Program. The Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) program is a research and field-based teacher training initiative to improve teachers' and students' understanding of the environment using local examples and to provide resources and experience that support the incorporation of estuary and watershed topics into classroom teaching.

The program will include:

  • Small working groups meeting throughout the week to discuss readings and share their reflections and practices
  • Dialogue with experts in the field including Sarah Lawrence College faculty, Center for the Urban River at Beczak staff, and guest presenters
  • A series of experiential workshops that are both stimulating and fun
  • Field trips to environmental-focused and Hudson River organizations
  • Interdisciplinary curriculum centered around urban environments
  • A chance to reflect, experience, and collaborate in beautiful relaxed environments
  • Compilation of environmental education teaching resources
  • An opportunity to become part of an informal network of fellow educators

Sarah Lawrence College is an Approved CTLE Sponsor and offers CTLE hours for this program.

Scholarships are available for New York City Public School Teachers through a grant from the Seth Sprague Education and Charitable Foundation. For more information, call the Child Development Institute at 914.395.2630 or e-mail cdi@sarahlawrence.edu.


Learning Outdoors: Early Foundations of Environmental Education

Nature plays a critical role in children’s development and well-being. The ways in which environmental education fosters children’s learning is inherently progressive. This workshop will provide an overview of environmental education in an early childhood classroom. Participants will view the Child Development Institute’s film, When Learning Comes Naturally, and discuss ways to provide children with opportunities to meaningfully interact with their environment inside and outside the classroom.

The Nature of Nurture: Teaching the Environment and Child Development & Learning

Environmental educators naturally understand the value of environmental education for children and adolescents: they see the children that they work with playing in more complex ways outdoors than they do indoors, they listen to children as they learn more about their natural world and begin to change the ways that they think about the environment and their place in it. But, with the growing focus on standards-based learning and assessment, environmental education is often cut from school programming, and children are given less and less time to play outside. How can we push back against this trend? In this workshop, we will discuss the mounting evidence supporting the positive impacts of engagement in the natural environment generally, and environmental education programming specifically, on children’s development and well-being. We will also discuss the evidence for significant transformations in children’s scientific knowledge, as well as changes in their environmental attitudes and behaviors, when they engage in effective environmental education programs. Finally, we will discuss the evidence based on interviews with and observations of children themselves: when asked, children and adolescents across the globe prefer natural areas and engage in more complex levels of play in such settings.

One School’s Experience in Engaging Students, Educators, and Community

This session will provide an overview on the importance of self-sustainability and being an environmentally responsible person, educator, and school. Participants will learn about the multidisciplinary initiatives (outdoor learning classroom, healthy lifestyle activities, fruit and vegetable garden, etc.) developed at the William. E. Cottle School in Tuckahoe, NY.

Exploring the Biodiversity of the Hudson River

Teachers will observe a group of children from San Andres Center as they participate in the “Catch of the Day” seining program at CURB. Children will discover the biodiversity of life lurking along the shorelines of Yonkers by dragging a seine net through the water while wearing chest waders to keep dry. They will also embark on a beach scavenger hunt to explore the treasures washed up with the tides. The observations of the children will be followed by a group discussion regarding the children’s interactions and overall experience.

Hudson River Watershed and Water Quality

Teachers will participate in hands-on demonstrations to understand the dynamics and functions of the Hudson River watershed including. Teachers will analyze the water quality of the Hudson and Saw Mill River to compare physical and chemical parameters of each. The data will be compared to real-time data from other Hudson River water monitoring locations.

Startling Perspectives: Art, Nature, and a Child's Sense of Wonder, Humor, and What If

This workshop will explore the ways an experience in the natural world inspires creative work. Teachers, children and artists all grapple with the challenge of observing and describing natural phenomena. Looking at the Botanical Gardens through the eyes of artists--poets, painters, and gardeners--provides a way for teachers to reflect upon how to respect and support the development of a child's sense of wonder, humor and "what if." Even as we discover exciting similarities between the work of teachers children and artists we will also strive to notice how fundamental differences may and must enrich our efforts and experience.

Ways of Knowing: Learning to See and Tell through the Camera’s Eye—Using Photographic Documentation and Reflection in the Classroom

In the classroom or in the field, observation, documentation, and reflection can be supported and enhanced by students and teachers alike when photographic tools are utilized alongside mainstream forms of literacy. By seeing photographically, learners can engage with the environment and/or the scientific method through image-capture technologies that help make thinking visible with an immediacy that is not easily achieved when relying on fine motor skills and language alone to record observations and subsequent knowledge. Participants should have a digital device with which to engage in a hands-on activity to demonstrate how photography can be used to augment learning.

Visit to Greyston Community Gardens

In this session, participants will visit one of Greyston's community gardens and learn about its history, programs, and ways in which Greyston Community Garden Project engages students and the community. Similar to activities children and residents experience at the gardens, participants will also have an opportunity to engage in a hands-on activity.

Visit to Science Barge and Saw Mill Daylighting

Participants will venture by foot to the Science Barge, a floating prototype sustainable urban farm. The Science Barge is an educational site that hosts nearly 5,000 student visitors annually, giving them an opportunity to see urban agriculture, composting techniques, solar and wind power, and rainwater catchment in action. Having tangible examples of these "off the grid," sustainable living techniques is invaluable for students, and the Science Barge "on-board activities" emphasize the learning experiences in subjects such as Botany, Alternative Energy, Carbon Footprints, The Nitrogen Cycle, and the Tragedy of the Commons. In addition to touring the facility, educators will be able to view some of the Science Barge activity materials and curriculum.

Bringing the Outside World In

A nature or “field” journal can be much more than a record of scientific facts. The nature journals of Ernest Thompson Seton, John Muir, and Beatrix Potter are examples of the tradition of using narrative and art in combination to communicate careful observations of nature. This workshop explores a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and unknown and the act of expression through a visual and written record of experience.


Chris Bowser is the Science Education Specialist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYSDEC) Hudson River Estuary Program and National Estuarine Research Reserve, in partnership with the Water Resource Institute of Cornell University. Chris’s current work with the NYSDEC focuses on environmental education and citizen science in the Hudson River Valley. He helps coordinate an annual estuary-wide monitoring day involving 2500 students at 60 shoreline sites, and leads teacher training workshops on incorporating Hudson River topics into existing curriculum. He also designs education programs for the Norrie Point Environmental Center, and implements a citizen-science project to monitor juvenile American eel migrations in several Hudson River tributaries. He earned a Masters degree in Environmental Science and Policy from Clark University, and a Bachelors degree in Biology from Rutgers University.

Sarah Curtis teaches 2nd Grade at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn, NY. She attended the Sarah Lawrence Early Childhood Center as a preschool student and returned to Sarah Lawrence as a graduate student in Child Development. Her MA thesis concerned children’s questions within a Kindergarten classroom. Children’s questions, art, and literature (particularly poetry) lie at the heart of her interests and teaching practice. She has explored Emily Dickinson’s poetry at the New York Botanical Gardens with a class of 1st graders and strives to develop ways to support young children’s sense of wonder, which is most clearly expressed in their connection with the natural world.

Kim Ferguson BA, Knox College. MA, PhD, Cornell University. Psychology (2007-present) & the Art of Teaching (2010-present) faculty is a developmental and cultural psychologist with special interests in sustainable, community based participatory action research, cultural-ecological approaches to infant and child development, children at risk (children in poverty, HIV/AIDS orphans, children in institutionalized care), health and cognitive development, development in African contexts, and the impact of the physical environment on child development. Author of articles and book chapters on African and American infants' language learning, categorization and face processing, the built environment and physical and mental health, and relationships between the quality of southern African orphan care contexts and child development and health.

Victoria Garufi, BS, Psychobiology, Long Island University's Southampton College. Victoria, a native of Yonkers, joined Beczak Environmental Education Center in 2005 as an educator responsible for designing and implementing interactive educational programs as well as maintaining exhibits and aquaria. Currently, as Director of Education for CURB, she is responsible for the oversight and direction of the education department. She continues to conduct programs to children of all ages and is passionate about teaching and connecting children to the natural environment. Over the years she has developed partnership and relationships with schools, community groups and other non-profit organizations. Now a graduate student of Sarah Lawrence College’s Art of Teaching program, she will continue to strengthen her education.

Peter Kilgallen is Assistant Principal at the William E. Cottle Elementary School. Before coming to Tuckahoe, he was an 8th grade Middle School Teacher and Dean of Students in the Bronx. As Assistant Principal he has helped create an outdoor classroom, recycling program, and an organic vegetable garden. He is committed to helping children learn how to take care of and protect their valuable environments.

Lucy Moreno-Casanova, recipient of this year’s Bernie Glassman PathMaking Award, is the Coordinator of the Greyston Community Garden Project. For the past 14 years, Moreno-Casanova has expanded the Community Gardens Program to include seven growing sites, a robust educational enrichment offering at the Yonkers Public Schools, an environmental club for local youth, and numerous events and activities which have reached over 2,000 people.

Ryan Palmer, Director, Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak (CURB). Ryan joined the Yonkers community in August 2013 when he was appointed the first Director of CURB. A Hudson Valley native, Ryan previously was Director of Clearwater’s Green Cities Initiative. His specialties include Hudson River and urban watershed issues, including green infrastructure, mitigation projects, and water quality monitoring, community organizing, and environmental justice issues. Ryan has training in land use law, stream monitoring, biodiversity assessment, watershed management, and planning, and over 10 years’ experience the environmental non-profit field. BS Environmental Science, University of Rhode Island, 2002.

Louise Parms is a photographer, painter, poet and novice naturalist who teaches fifth grade science at The Horace Mann Lower School in the Bronx. Parms feels science is the perfect collaboration of poetry, art, and inquiry, as all rely on keen observation and the distillation of “ordinary meaning” into “amazing sense."

Marilyn Power has been a professor of economics at Sarah Lawrence since 1990. She teaches courses on environmental economics and sustainable development, among other subjects. Her research field is primarily feminist economics, with a focus on issues of economic justice and well-being.

Susan Schwimmer has been teaching at Sarah Lawrence College's Early Childhood Center (ECC) since 1989 and is also the ECC art archivist. She has spent many summers leading hiking and paddling trips with children throughout the Hudson Valley. She holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MS from Bank Street College.

Jennifer Sloan is the Director of Education at The Science Barge. She has worked in the environmental field since her AmeriCorps experience in 2004 as a member of the Catskill Outdoor Education Corps. After completing her degree, she was the Intern Coordinator/Environmental Educator at the Greenburgh Nature Center in Scarsdale, NY until 2010. She has also worked for Sheldrake Environmental Center as an educator and the White Plains Youth Bureau as their summer Greening Project supervisor and after-school programmer. Her passion for farming began in 2009 while she interned at an organic CSA style farm on Long Island, known as Restoration Farm. The Science Barge became her new, happy home in March 2012 and it allows her to combine her passions of science education, sustainable agriculture, and environmentalism.