Addressing educators and students at a state park near Carlisle, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Monday invited statewide college and university participation in DCNR’s new “Think Outside” initiative promoting state parks and forestlands as invaluable learning tools of higher education.
“‘Think Outside’ is designed to expand the learning landscape by inviting colleges and universities to provide opportunities for place-based educational experiences in our state’s incredibly diverse outdoor classrooms -- its 121 state parks and more than 2.2 million acres of state forests,” Dunn told Messiah College and Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania representatives gathered at Kings Gap Environmental Education Center, near Carlisle, Cumberland County.
DCNR officials are structuring the program as an opportunity for students to gain place-based learning outdoors. “Think Outside” invites students and professors to use state parks and forests for educational experiences, and then share their projects, activities, research or proposals with DCNR.
“Whether a single student, a group of students, or an entire class, participants are invited to visit the state parks and forests for any learning experience, and together work toward a more sustainable Pennsylvania,” Dunn said. “Students and professors across all academic disciplines are encouraged to cultivate new ideas and build stronger connections with the outdoors and our natural resources.”
At the Kings Gap gathering, Dunn invited questions from the groups representing Messiah College and Shippensburg University, two schools demonstrating strong interest in the “Think Outside” program.
“Participating in ‘Think Outside’ enhanced learning by giving student’s space to see the social value of conservation and to begin thinking critically about all the disciplines and resources that go into protecting Pennsylvania’s abundant natural resources,” said Brandon Hoover, Messiah College’s director of sustainability.
Dunn noted the educational program is part of DCNR’s commitment to sustainability, a department-wide effort to make state parks and forests more resilient, and ensure DCNR advances energy efficiency throughout its facilities and operations.
“As part of this, DNCR wants to hear from students and professors -- all are invited to share their learning experiences with DCNR,” Dunn said. “The department intends to host a ‘Think Outside Day’ with agency leaders. Research and findings will be presented and considered for implementation.”
Among possible state park- or forest-related projects suggested by Dunn:
-- Professor-led classes for analyses of soil, water, air, flora or fauna;
-- Visits for inspiration and subject matter in writing, painting or photography course work; and
-- Research opportunities on most DCNR lands.
Interested students and/or professors are asked to complete “Think Outside” applications, which will be reviewed by DCNR staff. Certain research projects may require approval by the bureaus of State Parks or Forestry.For more information, visit DCNR’s Think Outside webpage.