Semester at Shaver's Creek offers eye-opening experience in environmental ed

Shaver's Creek and Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management recognized for preparation, professional development of environmental educators

Megan McCarthy works on an outdoor art installation for one of her SEED classes - RPTM 425: Principles of Interpretive Materials.  Credit: Joshua PotterAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Megan McCarthy always wanted a career working outdoors, but it wasn’t until she spent a semester at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center that she knew she could work in environmental education.

In spring of 2018, McCarthy enrolled in the SEED semester at Shaver’s Creek — a fully immersive student engagement experience that’s part of the park management and environmental interpretation pathway of the recreation, park and tourism management degree program at Penn State. Since 1979, the SEED semester has helped prepare students for careers in environmental education and outdoor leadership.

The program was recently accredited for the first time by the North American Association for Environmental Education for engaging students in the preparation and professional development of environmental educators.

The SEED semester is one of only 10 higher-education programs within North America to receive the accreditation.

For McCarthy, who hopes to work as a naturalist at an environmental center, she said the semester was an eye-opening experience for how she could make a career out of her love for the outdoor world.

The SEED semester is an 18-credit program comprised of six classes and a 10-day trip through New England to visit, explore and analyze exemplary environmental education centers, natural history museums, adventure education centers and national parks. Students spend the semester at Shaver’s Creek engaging in real world, hands-on experiences teaching children and families about the natural world and gaining a holistic set of outdoor leadership and environmental education skills.

The NAAEE recognizes colleges, universities and programs for preparing environmental educators with the knowledge and abilities to provide high-quality education to diverse audiences in various settings, and fostering a high standard of environmental literacy.

Laurie McLaughlin, SEED semester coordinator and an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, said the accreditation is a testament to the department’s and Shaver’s Creek’s high-quality teaching methods and environmental programs.

“I want students to say, ‘Wow, they’re teaching cutting-edge education,’ and be able to use those skills somewhere else,” she said. “It’s not just teaching content; it’s fully integrated into a semester-long student engagement experience. The SEED semester allows students to interact with others, practice their crafts and become better teachers.”

McCarthy said it was her most impactful experience at Penn State.

“I’ve never learned more in my educational career compared to what I learned at Shaver’s Creek,” she said. “It was the most welcoming experience possible. I’ve never been in a setting where everyone was like-minded and surrounded by peers and instructors wanting you to be successful.”

Visit the Shaver’s Creek website for more information about the SEED program and the Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management website to learn more about the department.

Last Updated March 12, 2019