by Janet Miron

South Fork Nature Center’s Educational initiative is moving in new directions this spring. We have hosted many classes at SFNC in the recent years. Our docents, along with area educators, have offered many hours of educational outdoor classroom instruction and adventure. We hope to continue making a difference in the scientific education of area students, as well as enriching their experience in nature’s classroom, by crossing the curriculum through combining nature with journaling and art. We strive to work with our visiting classroom teachers to align the SFNC programs with state frameworks. SFNC’s docents include several licensed teachers and university professors as well as many professionals from all walks of life.

This year we are hoping to branch out our educational endeavors by applying to become an “Approved Professional Development Provider” with the Arkansas Department of Education. This will allow us to offer courses to area licensed educators enabling them to receive credit toward the minimum annual requirement of CEU for licensure renewal. This is a lengthy application procedure but preliminary work has started. Our initial areas of interest for this endeavor will most likely be botany, environmental science and incorporating field research/discovery into classroom curriculum.

SFNC is also researching a new area of education that we feel the local communities will embrace and benefit from. We feel that the docent staff and facilities at SFNC could help support field research at Community Colleges in the area. With almost 50% of the undergraduates in the United States starting in Community Colleges, early undergraduate, natural science field research experiences could help direct more undergraduates into the science, technology, engineering and math related professions. This is also in the early stages of planning. We are initiating contact with our local community college professors to see if there is an interest in field studies and research.

The SFNC staff of docents and board members strives to keep current of all the changes in the diverse areas of natural science education. Our efforts to support education in our local communities are never ending. We’re excited about our new directions and hope to continue being a great resource for area educators.