Sonoma Ecology Center offers environmental class for teachers
Seeking to help educators inspire students to be more active caretakers of the environment, Sonoma Ecology Center is offering an eight-week course on “Climate and Wildfire Resiliency” for K-12 classroom teachers and other educators this fall.
The UC Naturalist Program for Teachers course is being offered in collaboration with the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“We hope participants will gain a deep understanding of California’s local ecology, climate change impacts and wildfire resiliency,” said Tony Passantino, education program manager for Sonoma Ecology Center. “Additionally, we aim for participants to develop the skills to effectively communicate environmental information and inspire their students to become active stewards on California’s natural communities.”
The course will run from Wednesday, Sept. 27 to Saturday, Nov. 11, and consist of Zoom lectures on Wednesday nights from 6 to 8:30 p.m. as well as alternating in-person lectures and field trips on Saturdays (see sidebar for a complete list of sessions).
K-12 classroom teachers and other educators — including curriculum designers, nature center staff members and other professionals who work in an environmental space — are invited to apply for the course. Twenty applicants will be selected to participate, and priority will be given to classroom teachers and other formal educators.
“The course is open to a broad range of professionals to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and foster a more comprehensive understanding of environmental education,” Passantino said. “This approach allows for the integration of different perspectives and expertise, enriching the learning experience.”
Educators need to register for the course, which costs $40, at the ecology center website by Tuesday, Sept. 20.
The in-person lectures will be given by a wide variety of specialists and the field trips will take place at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Kenwood, managed by Sonoma Ecology Center as a nonprofit park.
“Sonoma Ecology Center has prioritized community science and environmental education as part of our mission within this park,” Passantino said. “The park’s richly diverse ecosystems, past experiences with the Nuns and Glass fires, and its status as an immersive, outdoor learning environment make it an ideal observational lab for this program.
“Equipping teachers with advanced tools to teach about climate resiliency has a cascading impact, extending to every student they engage with.”
This course has been offered to the general public every spring for the past eight years. Every participant is required to complete an eight-hour service-learning project.
Past projects have included developing a comprehensive guide on birds, butterflies and natural history for visitors to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, wildflower tabling for springtime visitors, helping at Sonoma Native Plant Nursery, supporting Sonoma Ecology Center’s biweekly trial maintenance crew and leading family hikes on weekends.
Passantino said that participants have gained a great deal from the course.
“They have given positive feedback about it, mentioning their improved knowledge of local ecology, enhanced teaching techniques and increased confidence in comprehending and conveying environmental concepts to others,” he said. “There has also been a lot of positive feedback on the community building that develops over the semester with the cohort of participants.”
Sonoma Ecology Center received $9,000 from the California State Parks Foundation Climate Resiliency Initiative to help finance the course.
Reach the reporter, Dan Johnson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.