Environmental and Cultural Interpretation Courses

The Shaver’s Creek Field Laboratory and Environmental Center is Penn State’s home for courses in sustainability and environmental and cultural interpretation. Shaver’s Creek faculty bring their extensive experience in the fields of natural history and education to bear in these exciting and challenging classes.

To see a list of all Shaver’s Creek classes, visit LionPath’s Search for Classes menu. Select “University Park” as the campus and “SHAVERS” as the Location. Shaver’s Creek classes will also show up if the Location field is blank (but they will NOT appear if the Location field is also set to “UNIVPARK”).

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ENGR 097 — Sustainable State First-Year Engineering Seminar

1 credit; offered spring and fall semester

This First-Year Seminar explores the meaning of the concept of sustainability and its relevance to our lives and to the work of engineers. During the course, students explore Penn State’s efforts to implement sustainable actions and to look at how lifestyles and our technologies affect the larger world. The exploration will use field trips, readings, videos, personal experiences, reflections, and class discussions.

RPTM 140/SCIED 140 — Outdoor School Counselor

2 credits; offered spring and fall semester

This course will give you leadership experience with grade school–aged children in a residential outdoor education program. You will attend one full day and two evening training sessions to prepare for Outdoor School. You will serve as a cabin counselor; manage participants at meals, during cabin time, and in lessons; assist instructors in learning groups by leading activities and portions of lessons; and teach a cultural history lesson. This course sometimes counts toward the Intercollege Minor in Sustainability Leadership.

FOR 203 — Field Dendrology

3 credits; offered fall semester

Field identification of native and introduced trees and shrubs by leaf, fruit, twig, and bark.

RPTM 297 — Interpreting Halloween to Children

1–2 credits; offered fall semester. Learn more on our Festival Courses page.

Learn to interpret the natural origins of Halloween to visitors attending the annual Shaver’s Creek Fall Harvest Festival featuring the Children’s Halloween Trail — an interactive family event.

RPTM 297 — Essentials of Environmental Education

Offered spring semester

Details forthcoming.

RPTM 297 — Outdoor School Instructor

2 credits; offered spring and fall semester

Outdoor School is an environmental education experience for teachers, counselors, and fifth-grade children. The 297E section is for instructors who will lead the counselors and learning groups.

RPTM 297 — Interpreting Maple Sugaring to Families

2 credits; offered spring semester. Learn more on our Festival Courses page.

Learn the process of maple sugaring and how to interpret this natural history process to the general public through an interactive, community-based festival — the Maple Harvest Festival (in late March).

FOR 303 — Herbaceous Forest Plants Identification and Ecology

3 credits; offered spring semester

This course surveys common herbaceous plant taxa occurring within forested habitats in Pennsylvania and the region. Botanical characteristics, ecological interrelations, commercial importance, and field specimen collection methods are covered.  Prerequisite: 3 credits in plant or biological sciences.

RPTM 325 — Principles of Environmental Interpretation

3 credits; offered fall semester. This is a prerequisite for the SEED Semester.

Forge a connection between the interests of an audience and the meaning inherent in our natural resources. Use interpretive techniques and short presentations in such programs as the Children’s Halloween Trail in October. This course counts toward the Intercollege Minor in Sustainability Leadership.

RPTM 326 — Natural History Interpretation

3 credits; offered spring semester. Limited to SEED Semester students only.

Learn the basics of identifying birds, trees, wildflowers, and more. Learn to read the natural landscape and tell the story of the ecology of the Eastern Forest.

RPTM 327 — Cultural History Interpretation

3 credits; offered infrequently. Email Shaver’s Creek at ShaversCreek@psu.edu for details.

Students experience an active semester of learning content and skills, experimenting with methods and materials, exploring the relationships between natural history and cultural history (a holistic base), and developing and delivering quality interpretive experiences in a variety of settings.

FOR 403 — Invasive Forest Plants: Identification, Ecology, and Management

3 credits; offered fall semester

Survey of common nonnative (“exotic”) herbs, forbs, shrubs, trees, and vines that invade forested habitats in Pennsylvania and the region. Field identification, life history traits, ecosystem-related challenges and problems, and management options and considerations are reviewed. Prerequisite: six credits in plant or biological sciences.

RPTM 425 — Creating an Interpretive Exhibit

3 credits; offered spring semester. Limited to SEED Semester students only.

Learn principles, practices, and application of nonpersonal interpretive activities common to natural/cultural history, including exhibits, audiovisual, and illustrative materials. Prerequisite: RPTM 325

RPTM 430 — Environmental Education Method and Materials

3 credits; offered spring semester. Limited to SEED Semester students only.

Discover methods and materials for developing, implementing, and evaluating environmental education programs in formal and nonformal educational settings. This course counts toward the Intercollege Minor in Sustainability Leadership.

SCIED 455 — Field Natural History for Teachers

3 credits; offered fall semester

Ecologically oriented field study course to provide teachers with basic knowledge of natural science resources in school environments.

RPTM 497E — Outdoor and Experiential Education for Youth

1–3 credits; offered by appointment only

Gain hands-on experience dealing with planning, implementation, and evaluation of various types of youth leadership programs. Shaver’s Creek youth programs will serve as the laboratory and include Guided Nature Center Visits and Discovery Walks for preschool to high school classes.

RPTM 497 — National Curricular Workshop

0.5–1 credit; offered spring and fall semester. Email Shaver’s Creek at ShaversCreek@psu.edu for details.

Learn how to use existing EE curricula through active, hands-on workshops designed to familiarize users with the contents, methods, and materials contained in these state and nationally recognized resources. These workshops are one-day sessions with minimal outside follow-up assignments. Participants receive a copy of the resources during the workshop. Groups may contact Shaver’s Creek to set up a workshop and may choose from the following curricula: Project Wild; Pennsylvania Songbirds; Aquatic Project Wild; Pennsylvania Reptiles and Amphibians; Project Learning Tree; Project Food, Land, and People; or Facing the Future.

RPTM 497 — Discovery Trip

3 credits; offered spring semester. Limited to SEED Semester students only.

Take a 10-day experiential journey through the Northeast to visit, explore, and critique exemplary outdoor education centers, natural history museums, adventure education centers, and national parks.

RPTM 498 — National Association for Interpretation Certified Interpretive Guide

1–3 credits; offered spring semester

Provides overview of the environmental interpretation field with special emphasis in understanding and applying principles inherent in effective programs and presentations. Provides information about careers in the interpretive field and complete certification as interpretive guides through NAI.

HDNRE 590 — Human Dimensions in Natural Resources and the Environment

Offered spring and fall semester

Details forthcoming.

HDNRE 597 — Sustainability in Higher Education

Offered spring and fall semester

Details forthcoming.

RPTM 597 — Worldview, Sustainability, and Environmental Education

3 credits; offered fall semester

Teaching the fundamental principles of a sustainable future has become one of the central precepts of environmental education, environmental interpretation, and indeed education in general. Audience worldview is the starting point for virtually all of communication, and that which is involved in environmental education is no different. There are two central questions that need to be addressed in preparation for either EE or EI: First, how does an individual’s worldview (philosophy) have an impact on his or her interpretations of and attitude toward sustainability and his or her subsequent behavior? Second, how can communicative/educational strategies be designed to best accommodate and make use of such worldviews?


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