To accommodate construction, Shaver's Creek Environmental Center will be closed Tuesday, May 28, through Thursday, May 30.

Dr. Lucy R. McClain

Lucy McClain

Associate Teaching Professor
Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center

Graduate Faculty
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

View Lucy’s ORCID profile

Phone: 814-865-3999


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

Fall Semester

  • SUST 200 Foundations of Sustainability and Leadership
  • SCIED 118 Field Natural History for Teachers

Spring Semester

  • SUST 200 Foundations of Sustainability and Leadership
  • RPTM 430 Environmental Education Methods and Materials

Grant Work


Research associate:

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 walksResearch 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.