Associate Teaching Professor
Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center
Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management Department
Penn State College of Health and Human Development
Science Education Program (Curriculum and Instruction)
Penn State College of Education
B.S., Archaeological Science, Penn State (2007)
M.Ed., Curriculum and Instruction (Science Education), Penn State (2010)
Ph.D., Learning, Design, and Technology, Penn State (2016)
Areas of Expertise
- Family science learning
- Learning with mobile technologies
- Outdoor learning
- Environmental education
- Video-based ethnography
- Discourse analysis
Courses that I Teach at Penn State
- SUST 200 Foundations of Sustainability and Leadership
- SCIED 118 Field Natural History for Teachers
- SUST 200 Foundations of Sustainability and Leadership
- RPTM 430 Environmental Education Methods and Materials
Transforming Outdoor Places into Learning Spaces. NSF AISL four-year grant project award with Dr. Heather Toomey Zimmerman (PI) and Dr. Susan Land (co-PI).
Co-principal investigator (co-PI):
STEM Pillars: Supporting Rural Communities with Science Stories, Experts, and Inquiry Activities. IMLS two-year grant project award with Dr. Heather Toomey Zimmerman (PI) and Dr. Michele Crowl (co-PI).
Peer reviewed articles: refereed journals
McClain, L. R. (2022) Shaping families’ local biodiversity awareness while using a place-based mobile device during a nature walk. Applied Environmental Education & Communication, DOI: 10.1080/1533015X.2022.2064007
McClain, L. R., Chiu, Y., & Zimmerman, H. T. (2022). Place-based learning processes in a family science workshop: Discussion prompts supporting families sensemaking and rural science connections using a community water model. Science Education, 1–29. DOI: 10.1002/sce.21706
Nichols, B. H., Caplow, S., Franzen R. L., McClain L. R., Pennisi L. & Tarlton, J. L. (2021) Pandemic shift: Meeting the challenges of moving post-secondary environmental education online. Environmental Education Research, 28(1), 1–17. DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2021.2007220
McClain, L. R. & Zimmerman, H. T. (2019). Family connections to local science issues: How scientists use questions to engage families in personally-relevant learning during science-themed workshops. International Journal of Science Education 9(2), 154–170. DOI: 10.1080/21548455.2019.1584419
McClain, L. R. (2018). Parent roles and facilitation strategies during a mobile-based educational experience on a family nature hike. Visitor Studies 21(2), 260–286. DOI: 10.1080/10645578.2018.1548844
McClain, L. R. & Zimmerman, H. T. (2016). Memories on the trail: Families connecting their prior informal learning experiences to the natural world during nature walks. Journal of Interpretation Research 21(2), 21–42.
Zimmerman, H. T., & McClain, L. R. (2016). Family learning outdoors: Guided participation on a nature walk. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 53(6), 919–942. DOI: 10.1002/tea.21254
McClain, L. R. & Zimmerman, H. T. (2016). Technology-mediated engagement with nature: Sensory and social engagement outdoors supported through an e-Trailguide. International Journal of Science Education, Part B (6)4, 385–399. DOI: 10.1080/21548455.2016.1148827
Zimmerman, H. T., Land, S. M., McClain, L. R., Mohney, M. R., Choi, G. W., & Salman, F. H. (2015). Tree Investigators: Supporting families and youth to coordinate observations with scientific knowledge. International Journal of Science Education 5(1), 44–673. DOI: 10.1080/21548455.2013.832437
McClain, L. R. & Zimmerman, H. T. (2014). Families’ science conversations at a nature center: How prior learning experiences shape understandings of the local environment. Science Education 98(6), 1009–1032. DOI: 10.1002/sce.21134
Zimmerman, H. T. & McClain, L. R. (2014). Exploring the outdoors together: Assessing family learning in environmental education. Studies in Educational Evaluation (Special Issue on Evaluating Environmental Education) 41, 38–47. DOI: 10.1016/j.stueduc.2013.09.007
Zimmerman, H. T. & McClain, L. R. (2014). Intergenerational learning at a nature center: Families using prior experiences and participation frameworks to understand raptors. Environmental Education Research 20(2), 177–201. DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2013.775219
Zimmerman, H. T., McClain, L. R., & Crowl, M. (2013). Understanding how families use magnifiers during nature center walks. Research in Science Education 43(5), 1917–1938. DOI: 10.1007/s11165-012-9334-x
Book chapters and non-peer reviewed publications
Zimmerman, H. T., McClain, L. R., & Crowl, M. (2019). Leveraging families’ shared experiences to connect to disciplinary content in ecology: preliminary results from the STEM Pillars museum-library-university partnership. In Katz, P. & Avraamidou, L. (Eds.). Stability and change in science education: Meeting basic learning needs; Homeostasis and Novelty in Teaching and Learning (pp. 41–60). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill/Sense Publishers.
McClain, L. R. (2018). Research, policy, & practice supplement: Bridging natural and digital domains: Attitudes, confidence, and interest in using technology to learn outdoors. A summary of Hougham, R. J., Nutter, M., & Graham, C. (2018). Bridging natural and digital domains: Attitudes, confidence, and interest in using technology to learn outdoors. Journal of Experiential Education 41(2), 154–169.
McClain, L. R. & Zimmerman, H. T. (2016). Integrating mobile technologies into outdoor education to mediate learners’ engagement with nature. In L. Avraamidou & W.-M. Roth (Eds.) Intersections between formal and informal science (pp. 122–137). New York, NY: Routledge.
How Shaver’s Creek replicated authentic outdoor learning experiences online. Penn State News, February 2022.
Research project brings STEM education to rural families. Penn State College of Education, October 2016.
Sustainability Defined podcast. Episode 40: University Sustainability. March 2019.
STEM Pillars: Bringing science to rural libraries & museums. 2019 STEM For All Video Showcase, May 2019.