Penns Valley

On Centre: Penns Valley | Conservation group connects students to environment

STEM education focuses on science, technology, engineering and math. Add an “A” and it includes the arts, as well.

STEM and STEAM are nationwide education initiatives that elaborate on the sciences and arts in school-aged children.

But the Penns Valley Conservation Association has taken that concept one step further with a play on words to create the STrEAM Initiative — science, technology, riparian, engineering, arts and math — said Executive Director Andrea Ferich.

Ferich said that last fall, the conservation group teamed up with the Penns Valley Area School District to enhance its community-based education programs. She and sometimes other members of the association work with teachers to provide hands-on science activities for students.

STrEAM is an internship-like program that aims to give Penns Valley students practical experience in natural science and agriculture.

The goal of the program is to help students connect to the environment by using the STEM and STEAM models of learning and teaching.

By including the riparian environment of the Upper Penns Creek watershed, Ferich said, participants are learning more than just about the environment.

“We’re making sure the Penns Valley area’s cultural and natural heritage is passed on to future generations,” she said.

By doing this, the students are engaging in the development of the Penns Valley Environmental Center, and other programs with management and maintenance of the watershed, and learning about its history.

The association works with about 1,000 students annually and set up “environmental days” for Penns Valley students in kindergarten to seventh grade, Ferich said.

The environmental days are designed to accompany what students are learning in the classroom by bringing them interactive, outdoor activities.

Run out of the Old Gregg School in Spring Mills, the volunteer-driven organization aims to implement community-based projects within the watershed, where improvement is needed, and is focused on maintaining water quality and the area’s rural heritage, and stable environmental planning.