Environmental Education Conference


Thank you to all that joined Rural Action and Camp Oty’Okwa for the 3rd annual Inquiry-Based Education Conference November 1-3, 2016 at Burr Oak Lodge & Conference Center! A three-day hands-on experience for teachers and non-formal educators with an interest in environmental education.


Conference Highlights: from last year

  • Hands-on sessions tied closely to Ohio’s academic learning standards
  • Graduate credit available through Ashland University
  • Keynote presentation from Herb Broda, Ashland University Professor and author of Moving the Classroom Outdoors and Schoolyard Enhanced Learning.


Podcast: Conference Overview


Last years Conference Agenda

Monday, October 31

7:00-10:00pm Networking and Mixer in the Burr Oak Lodge bar

Tuesday, November 1st–Focus on Inquiry

8:00-8:45am  Registration and light breakfast

9:00-9:30am  Welcome, Kick-Off, and Logistics

9:45-11:45am Concurrent Session 1

11:45am-12:30pm View Tables and Exhibits

12:30-1:15pm Lunch

1:30-2:30pm Keynote Presentation by Dr. Herb Broda, PhD

2:30-3:00pm View Tables and Exhibits

3:00-5:00pm Concurrent Session II

5:30-6:30pm Dinner

7:30-9:00pm Inquiry and The Observable Night Sky with Judy and Mike Feinstein

Wednesday, November 2nd–Focus on Field Experiences

8:00-8:45am Registration and Breakfast

9:00am-12:00pm Field Session 1

12:30-1:30pm Lunch (all-day field trips will include a boxed lunch)

2:00-5:00pm Field Session II

5:30-6:30 Dinner

6:30-7:00 Award Presentations

7:00-9:00pm Live Band in the Chickadee Room (cash bar)

Thursday, November 3rd–Focus on Career Connections

8:00-9:00 Registration and Breakfast

9:00-10:00 Keynote Presentation from Carolyn Watkins, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency

10:15am-12:15pm Concurrent Session 1

12:30-1:30pm Lunch

1:30-2:00pm Networking and View Tables

2:00-4:00pm Concurrent Session II

Keynote Presenters

Dr. Herb Broda, Ashland University Professor and author of Moving the Classroom Outdoors and Schoolyard Enhanced Learning.

Carolyn Watkins, Director of Ohio EPA’s Office of Environmental Education.

Concurrent Sessions from 2016:

Tuesday Inquiry 9:45-11:45am

Dennis Clements, WET Sampler (All Levels, inside)

Water Quality? Ask the Bugs! Will provide participants knowledge about macroinvertebrates and how they indicate good or poor water quality in Ohio’s streams and rivers. The presentation will also involve discussions on watersheds, non-point source and point sources pollution.

Lynn White, Inquiry Hikes with Middle and High-school (inside/outside)

Talk a an interactive walk while discussing the success of talking classes outside on the school grounds. Reflect on what has worked in the past while gathering new ideas.

Jeannie Wycinski, School Gardens and Standards (Elm/MS/HS, inside/outside)

Grow an indoor garden through hands-on activities in the classroom. Through a Garden Lab series your students will learn seed germination, parts of a plant, harvesting, nutrition and basic garden knowledge.

Focus: Hands-on inquiry lessons, aligned to state standards.

Sam Romeo, Wind Turbines and Solar Models  (MS/HS, inside/outside)

Guide participants through ha few energy related lessons for middle and high school students such as building a model wind turbine and using a model solar town.

Jeffrey Baker, Wild School Site and Inquiry (All Levels, inside)

Using arthropod species richness as a biodiversity indicator comparing two sections of the natural area Students plan and execute the lesson with guided inquiry.

Tuesday Inquiry 3:00-5:00pm

Jen Dennison, Building a WILD School Site (All levels, inside/outside)

Come learn about all the resources, lessons, plans, and funding available to you and your educational facilities and organizations through the ODNR-Division of Wildlife’s WILD School Sites program.

Robyn Wright-Strauss, Prairie Ants and Butterflies (Elm, inside/outside)

By replicating sampling techniques used by ecologists in the field to describe an ecosystem, students can actively engage in scientific inquiry in the classroom. Participants will engage in a biotic survey of a model prairie in order to reveal the unique relationship between the Edward’s Hairstreak butterfly and Allegehny Mound Ants. Further analysis of the data and class discussion will include management strategies, surveying methods, symbiosis, and further use of the scientific method.

Cathy Knoop, Population Connections (MS/HS, inside)

Population Connection is a program that promotes thoughtful planning for the demand our exponentially expanding population is placing on the world’s resources. In this interdisciplinary workshop, participants will engage in hands-on activities that can be used to help CISV participants understand how population trends affect land use, resource consumption, and water quality. An awareness of and understanding of these issues will help participants become more conscious of what needs to be done to live sustainablie.
Participants will also become familiar with the new interactive website and receive a CD-ROM containing activities, charts/graphs, and age level appropriate readings.

Joe Moosbrugger, Carbon Cycles (MS/HS/Adult, inside)

We will explore the Carbon Cycle and investigate how energy, originally from the sun is cycled through living organisms. We will dig deeper into the fields of dendrology and dendrochronology to look at how trees have grown.

Betty Blockinger, Social Studies + Science = Project-Based Learning (All Levels, inside)

How do we define Project Based Learning and how do we use it as an educational resource? Project Based Learning integrates inquiry throughout its process, from the initial question a student chooses to answer and research, to the questions that are developed throughout the project. Through hands-on activities and discussion, educators will learn how to integrate Science and Social Studies into Project Based Learning. The session will show project examples, suggest ways to integrate Project Based Learning into curriculum, and provide opportunities for hands-on learning.

Tuesday Night 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Mike and Judy Feinstein“The Observable Sky at Dark ” (All Levels, outside)

Inquiry methods discovering the movement and configurations of circum-polar constellations throughout the year.  (Dippers, Cassiopeia, North Star and other features)

Wednesday Field Trips 9:00am-5pm

Marcey Shafer, Clear Creek Metro Park (All Levels, outside)

We will travel to Clear Creek and take a rugged hike to the largest red oak tree in Ohio. We will also visit some of Clear Creek’s beautiful sandstone formations and discuss ecology and conservation of terrestrial and aquatic areas in the park. We will explore the biodiversity of Clear Creek and the various habitats the park offers. The hike will be approximately 3-miles.

Tom Schissler, Wahkeena (All Levels, outside)


Kip Brady and Watershed Groups-Students Assessing Environmental Impacts of AMD (outside)

In this session participants will participate in a field study comparing salamander and invertebrate communities in headwater stream ecosystems with and without acid mine drainage (AMD) impacts.  Participants will learn to identify salamander and invertebrate species, discuss factors that may inhibit certain species from recolonizing AMD affected sites, and develop strategies for engaging students from a wide range of ages in authentic investigations of local ecosystems.

Wednesday Field Trips 9:00am-12:00pm

Land Lab tour with Rural Action (All Levels, outside)

Rural Action’s Environmental Education team will take you on an exploration of the nearby land labs and show how their team and the teachers have used/improved their land land.

Paul Knoop–Hike at Burr Oak (All Levels, outside)

Participants will use their sense of discovery to learn more about the natural history of SE Ohio.

Wednesday Field Trips 2:00-5:00pm

Julie Gee-Exploring Nature on One Hand:  Five Inquiry Questions (All Levels, outside)

Questions can be powerful tools to inspire discovery and learning.  Any natural item or place has a story to tell if we only ask the right questions.  “What is it?” is probably the most common question asked by all sorts of people when they encounter something new that they are curious about.  Leading students or visitors from that first question through a series of four more questions, all counted on one hand, can create memorable experiences.  In this session, we will explore the eastern deciduous forest and get to know it by asking these questions.

Sue Smith, “Waste in Place” Curriculum (Elm., inside)

Hands on activities from the Waste In Place guide. All attendees receive a kit containing 34 lessons , games and books. ($40 value)

Thursday Careers 10:15am-12:15pm

Sarah Fisher, Building an Appalachian Green Teachers Program Community (round-table) (All Levels, inside)

Take part in shaping  a network of local teachers to improve communications and lessons sharing resources for teachers in Southeastern Ohio. Come prepared to share your experience and ideas in implementing outdoor environmental education inquiry learning.

Lorrie and Empress, Scientific Argumentation (MS/HS/Adult,  inside)

Every student has something they are passionate about. Scientific Argumentation provides the stage for students to build upon and improve communication skills with confidence. Scientific Argumentation helps students to support their claims by researching ideas, weighing evidence, interpreting data and assessing the validity of their claims. We would like to share how we use Scientific Argumentation to engage our students and feed their passions.

Environmental Career Panel (Audience: Teachers and Students, inside)

Join experts from around the area that have made a career in the environment.  Ask them questions on how they got to be where they are. Many careers will be explored such as meteorology, and land management. This years panel consists of

Dr. Fogt,  an Associate Professor of Meteorology in the Department of Geography at Ohio University and director of the Scalia Laboratory for Atmospheric Analysis

Heather Stehle, Executive Director of Crane Hollow and was previously a curriculum coordinator.

Mat Roberts a young professional as Information and Outreach Director, UpGrade Athens County. Mathew hopes to inspire others to join a healthy and thriving movement based on sustainable living principles.

Tim Ferrell and Michelle Shively from Rural Action’s Watershed Restoration Group.

Mitch Farley, a local land owner and his jobs in the abandoned mine land restoration and forestry, land preservation

Thursday Careers 2:00-4:00pm

Karam Sheban, Appalachian Stewards, Not Outlaws: Ginseng and Forest Botanicals (Elm/MS, inside/outside)

Join Karam, an AmeriCorps member in sustainable Forestry, as he explains the history and current use of ginseng. Sustainable Forestry and Environmental Education are partnering up to bring a interactive lesson plan to schools to help learn about ginseng and reestablish the ginseng population.

Betty Altfater, Math and Chemistry with Coins (HS, inside)

Discovering the difference between old and new pennies and when the change occurred and what the change was and why (involves comparing masses which compares densities)
Using algebra to indirectly count old and new pennies
Using coins to simulate determining atomic mass (weighted average)
Using pennies to investigate plating metals and making alloys

Wayne National Forest Career Panel (Audience: Teachers and Students, inside)

The panel will provide an introduction to the careers possible in the USDA Forest Service. A selection of Wayne National Forest employees will share their career paths and information about their current jobs with the USDA Forest Service.



  • Contact Joe Brehm for more information: 740-767-4938,  joe@ruralaction.org
  • Contact Cathy Knoop about Graduate Credit: 740-603-3911,  cathy.h.knoop@gmail.com


The 3rd Annual Inquiry-Based Education Conference was possible through the generous support of our sponsors: