UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State Lehigh Valley CHANCE program, an educational outreach and professional development program in conservation biology, has received the 2012 Penn State Award for Community Engagement and Scholarship.
The award recognizes a project that best exemplifies Penn State as an “engaged institution,” which the Kellogg Commission defines as an institution that has redesigned teaching, research and extension and service functions to become even more sympathetically and productively involved with its communities.
Jacqueline McLaughlin, associate professor of biology at Penn State Lehigh Valley, is the founding director of CHANCE, Connecting Humans and Nature through Conservation Experiences. CHANCE’s goal is to educate Penn State undergraduates and K-12 science teachers and their students in conservation biology and global environmental sustainability.
Through international field courses and online curricular tools, CHANCE participants engage in inquiry-based research opportunities and conservation efforts so they can better understand global environmental issues. The program strives to connect people to nature through real-world experiences that incorporate scientific concepts, techniques, data and interpretations so they can construct their own understanding of their local landscapes and better effect change that will sustain the planet’s biodiversity.
CHANCE was founded in 2004 as a partnership between Penn State and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to train pre-service and in-service high school science teachers in environmental science and conservation biology through research. The program also develops teaching strategies that can be used in classrooms to develop students’ knowledge of, concern for and skill sets to solve challenging environmental problems.
Nearly 10,000 students participate in CHANCE’s online research-based activities each year, and approximately 125 teachers and 125 students have taken part in CHANCE field course programs. CHANCE has 27 partners worldwide and works with K-12 teachers and students throughout the United States and Panama and with undergraduate and graduate students throughout Penn State and at China’s Jiangnan University.