Everyone who works in programming loves those warm and fuzzy moments where all of your hard work is reinforced by the actualization of what your participants have learned. This year’s High School Urban EcoStewards Presentations of Learning brought nonstop warm and fuzzy feelings for the Parks Conservancy’s education team.
The Presentations of Learning are the fifth and final session of High School Urban EcoStewards, and is a celebration of sorts. We invite parents, friends, siblings, teachers, and school administrators to meet us in the park to hear what the EcoStewards have learned over the course of the year. It’s a great opportunity to meet the people who outfit the rest of our students’ lives and to celebrate the hard work they have put into the program all year.
Parks Conservancy staff and the classroom teachers work with the students to put together a fun, creative, and engaging 5-minute long presentation on something that they learned in the program. We tell the students, “This is your chance to teach us something.” My favorite part of doing outdoor education has been taking advantage of teachable moments like when a hawk flew overhead as we were planting trees and we followed it to discover its nest in Panther Hollow Bridge. We ended up naming the hawk Tuskegee and it became our mascot of sorts. A lot of these moments are captured in the presentations of learning - and more.
We saw presentations that included modeled tool safety, a matching quiz of all the main ideas (with some trick questions that even stumped some of the staff!), illustrated scientific observation skills, a “choose your own adventure” story, a Jeopardy! game, a fun song about installing check dams, and one group even prepared and served sumac tea. Their Presentations of Learning certainly highlighted the many ways in which people learn – and solidified the importance of experiential learning and teachable moments.
As a whole, 107 students participated in High School Urban EcoStewards this year. They planted 212 trees, shrubs, and wildflowers in all four of Pittsburgh’s regional parks. They spent 229 hours removing 5 species of invasive plants and had one successful year!
Bailey Warren works at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy through an apprenticeship with Public Allies Pittsburgh AmeriCorps program. Visit our website to learn more about our High School Urban EcoSteward program and how you can get involved.