Credit Courses

Shaver’s Creek partners with many academic colleges across Penn State to offer courses in environmental interpretation, outdoor/adventure education, and leadership. Every spring, students interested in these subjects can also take the Shaver’s Creek SEED Semester, an experiential journey for students.

Learn about the SEED semester

Shaver’s Creek’s undergraduate programs are listed with many departments around the University, including Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management (RPTM), Ecosystem Science and Management (ESM), Science Education (SciEd), Engineering (ENGR), Leisure Studies (LE ST), and more! Some of our courses also count toward the Intercollege Minor in Sustainability Leadership. While some of our classes meet on campus, many are held at the center.

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”).

Screen shot of the LionPath Search for Classes screen

Please note: Some courses have registration controls and may require acceptance by the instructor. If you do not find a course listed in the schedule of courses, please contact us at 814-863-2000.

Festival Courses

Many of Shaver’s Creek’s public programs and festivals are designed to offer Penn State students a hands-on, for-credit experience interpreting natural and/or cultural history topics to families. Our two festival courses dovetail with the two major festivals that Shaver’s Creek hosts every year — the Maple Harvest Festival and the Fall Harvest Festival featuring the Children’s Halloween trail — and allow students to apply their course learning directly to a real-world event that reaches thousands of adults and children.

RPTM 297 — Interpreting Halloween to Children

2 credits 

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 (in late October).

RPTM 297 — Interpreting Maple Sugaring to Families

2 credits 

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).

This experiential course will explore how to identify and tap sugar maple trees, historical and modern methods of boiling sap into maple syrup, and interpretive methods for teaching the general public the art of maple sugaring at the Maple Harvest Festival in late March.

For more information, please see the flyer for 2019 or view information about our Credit Courses.

Maple Harvest Fest 2019 Flyer

Environmental and Cultural Interpretation Courses

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 to interpret the natural origins of Halloween to visitors attending the annual Shaver’s Creek Maple 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.

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 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 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 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?

Adventure and Leadership Courses

A group of Penn State students stand around a bike

The Shaver’s Creek Field Laboratory is Penn State’s home for courses in outdoor group management techniques, adventure leadership, and team-building skills. Shaver’s Creek faculty bring to these exciting and challenging classes their extensive experience in the fields of outdoor education and adventure recreation.

Shaver’s Creek is also home to AURORA, Penn State’s Outdoor Orientation Programs, which runs 5 of the nation’s premier first-year student orientation programs.

KINES 089 — Student Wilderness Experience (ORION, POLARIS, URSA, VEGA, RIGEL)

3 credits

KINES 089 provides incoming first-year Penn State (UP) students with the opportunity to engage in a fun, challenging, outdoor experience prior to their first fall at college. Incoming students meet and make new friends, learn outdoor skills that focus on the “Leave No Trace” philosophy, and set goals for their first year at Penn State while enjoying five days of backpacking adventure in one of our scenic locations nationwide. (Visit the AURORA program page for more information.)

RPTM 230 — Team-Building Facilitation

3 credits; offered spring and fall semester

Learn to lead and facilitate group team-building activities. Other topics include leadership, group process, and group dynamics. This course counts toward the Intercollege Minor in Sustainability Leadership. (One of two spring sections is limited to SEED Semester students only.)

SOC 300 — Preceptorship in Sociology

1–8 credits, maximum of 4 per semester; offered spring and fall semester

Supervised experience as a teaching assistant for SOC 119 under the supervision of an approved faculty member. Prerequisite: SOC 119 and by application.

RPTM 330 — Adventure-Based Program Leadership

3 credits; offered spring semester

Both theoretical and experiential components are included as the role of the leader in adventure programs is examined. This course will focus on the philosophy, leadership techniques, ethics, and current practices in the area of adventure programming. Focus of instruction will be upon program design, developing skills for facilitating personal growth and providing leadership for outdoor pursuits.

RPTM 397 — First Year Seminar (for AURORA participants)

1 credit; offered fall semester

This First Year Seminar is designed to introduce first year students who have participated in AURORA (ORION, URSA, VEGA, or POLARIS) to the academic and social culture of Penn State University. The objective of the class is to help you engage with academic, social, and personal resources available at Penn State and in the community and to facilitate your transition to college life. (limited to AURORA participants)

RPTM 440 — Adventure-Based Programming and Administration

3 credits; offered fall semester

This course is designed to equip students with a variety of outdoor program-planning methodologies and skills. Emphasis is on planning, organization, implementation, and evaluation of outdoor experiential education programs. Outdoor topics, theories, and systems will be explored to facilitate the administration of quality adventure-based programs.

SOC 469 — Techniques in Small Group Facilitation

1–4 credits per semester, maximum of 12; offered spring and fall semester

SOC 469 is an advanced training course for students who have been selected to be facilitators for the World in Conversations Project. In this course, students draw on sociological theories and methods to learn how to sharpen their group facilitation skills in order to lead small group dialogues on taboo subjects, such as race, gender, and deeply rooted cultural conflicts. The main objective is to learn how to create an ideologically neutral environment in which participants will think critically and speak candidly about their views and roles in these taboo subjects. All evaluations are accomplished through “live” observations of students actually facilitating dialogue. Prerequisite: In order to be considered for a position as facilitator with the World in Conversations Project, a student must successfully complete SOC 119 (Race and Ethnic Relations) and SOC 300 (Preceptorship in Sociology).

RPTM 497 — Canoeing Leadership

1 credit; offered spring and fall semester

Through classroom presentation, literature review, and practical experience, students will develop the basic skills for teaching, planning for, and leading tandem canoe trips in flat water and slow-moving water. Participants can develop a working knowledge of the history and philosophies of canoeing; an understanding of the basic equipment needs for canoeing; experience in ways to manage the inherent risks of the sport; and proficiency as to how and when to use many basic canoe strokes. Students can also learn how to develop a detailed float plan for a canoe trip, including physically and mentally preparing for the sport of canoeing — and gain a certificate of completion from the American Canoe Association for flat water canoeing and swift water rescue.

RPTM 498 — Wilderness First Responder (“Woofer”) Certification

3 credits

The Wilderness First Responder (WFR) curriculum uses the principles of long-term care, improvised resources, and varying environmental conditions as the framework for learning. This certification course meets DOT National Standards for First Responder with additional protocols for extended-care situations. Upon successful completion, students receive a SOLO Wilderness First Responder card and an American Heart Association Adult Heartsaver CPR card, or equivalent. (Call 814-863-2000 for dates.)

RPTM 498 — Backpacking Leadership

2 credits; offered spring semester

This course will introduce students to backpacking leadership skills, including pre-trip planning; selection, use, and care of equipment; and backcountry travel techniques. Participants will also learn about the value of leadership, teamwork, and communication; human impacts on the environment; and development of a personal connection to the environment. Students will have an opportunity to practice leadership skills and to plan and lead a two-day backpacking trip. 

RPTM 498 — Rock Climbing Leadership

3 credits; offered fall semester

This course will help students develop a working knowledge of the history and philosophies of rock climbing; the foundations of physically and mentally preparing for the sport of climbing; the basic equipment needs for climbing in an indoor setting; ways to manage the inherent risks of the sport; how and when to use and teach many basic climbing techniques; AMGA standard practices for climbing in a gym setting; and the current trends in climbing as a sport. Students will earn an American Mountain Guiding Association (AMGA) Climbing Wall Instructor Certification.