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Meet Berks Nature – The Nature Place

Contributed by Allison Mackley, Vice President for Education, Berks Nature – The Nature Place

Allison Mackley, Vice President for Education, Berks Nature – The Nature Place
Berks Nature is not simply a place. It is a feeling you get as you enter its presence. Walking through the grounds and towards the facility, I breathe in, my shoulders release a bit, and I am taken by the place that values nature as essential to our quality of life. Berks Nature, a 501(c)(3) non-profit conservation organization, shines within its community in Reading, Pennsylvania.

As one of the newest staff members at Berks Nature, I serve as the Vice President for Education who plans and executes the strategic vision for the education program in collaboration with the President, Vice President for Community Relations and Development, educators and staff members. From our Nature Preschool to our environmental education programs, Berks Nature models and strives to transform people’s relationship with nature.

Our relationship with the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program is led by Michael Griffith, Education and Watershed Specialist. Michael trains citizen scientists, Berks Nature Ambassadors, and watershed member volunteers in the GLOBE protocols for water quality testing. The collected data are uploaded to the GLOBE information system by approximately 108 (past and present) trained volunteers to ensure quality control and quality assurance. In addition, the GLOBE Observer app is used for public programming and citizen scientists who can enter data and upload photos in four protocols without specific training or tools.

Our school-aged education, reaching 1500 – 2000 students a year, centers its practices on both the GLOBE Observer app for elementary and the main GLOBE data collection tool for secondary. Our young learners collect cloud data and engage with the Elementary GLOBE book series. GLOBE data collection student accounts are used for older students who collect the following data points: clouds, air temperature, water (pH, water temperature, conductivity, nitrites, dissolved oxygen, turbidity), land cover classification, green-up/green down, soil classification, soil temperature, and soil moisture (SMAP).

In late August 2022, Michael and the Berks Nature Fellow, Melissa Acosta, taught the GLOBE protocol through a macroinvertebrates study with high school students who are enrolled in an inclusive summer camp. The Berks Nature programs lend themselves to more than the science. There are opportunities for conversations about careers development planning. Toward the end of the learning experience, one high school participant asked, “If I want to do this, what kind of education do I need?” Her face lit up when she heard the varied formal and informal education experiences of the staff members. Just as my walk down the path each day towards my work at Berks Nature opens my heart to learning in nature, her potential life opportunities expanded through our Berks Nature GLOBE program.

News origin: United States of America