A Place-Based Freshwater Course for Educators

Designed For
Middle and High School Math, Science, Art, Technology, Social Studies/History teachers; ELA and Special Education teachers; and informal and non-formal educators.
May 6 - June 16, 2019
Online | Instructor-led
$435 (+ $60 registration fee)
Six weeks
45 hours
16 PDUs with Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission

This watershed course for teacher professional development is place-based and hands-on in nature and is appropriate for international audiences. It is NorthBay’s renowned watershed field course for teachers packaged into an online format. A variety of learning pedagogies are used to provide a holistic, integrated, engaging experience. It is designed for teachers of all academic disciplines in sixth through twelfth grades.

What You’ll Learn

Teachers will increase their freshwater ecology knowledge and learn how to facilitate student-directed watershed inquiry that includes action projects.

What You’ll Do

Participants in this course will practice sensory-based activities outdoors and keep a journal to record their reflections. Participants will read, watch videos and conduct fieldwork to learn essential watershed content. Using scientific protocols, participants will conduct research and use their findings to develop an action plan.

Course Outcomes

This course is designed to provide everything teachers will need to feel confident and inspired to take their students outside to conduct research at a local stream, river or school yard. In addition to conducting inquiry, teachers will learn how to conduct meaningful action with their students. Teachers will find inspiring stories about classes who have leveraged research findings into solutions for local stream/river issues, and shared them with their communities. This last step of action demonstrates to the rest of the community what is possible.

During this course teachers will:

  • Become intimately acquainted with their local waterway as a teacher, a citizen-scientist, storyteller, stream snorkeler (optional), witness and participant in the stream community and watershed.
  • Become aware of how using inquiry in a watershed context can help reach existing academic standards and curricular goals.
  • Identify and understand the reciprocity of our relationships with freshwater systems, recognizing that the choices we make affect the capacity of all nature to flourish.
  • Strengthen knowledge of freshwater ecology.
  • Practice inquiry to address a local watershed issue.
  • Develop the confidence to share this integrated approach to teaching stream ecology; enabling students to experience the stream community from multiple perspectives and conduct meaningful research that will lead to lasting solutions for local watershed issues.

Course Expectations

Please read the course expectations carefully to decide whether or not you have the time to join us on this learning journey. Once you begin the course, you will have six weeks to complete it. We expect you will spend approximately 45 hours working your way through, and upon successful completion, you will receive the number of professional development units your state approves for a 45 hour program. Please note that this course will require a minimum of six stream visits to the stream of your choice.

Here is a list of what we will ask teachers to submit:

  • At least one journal entry from each stream observation for a minimum of six entries. Journal entries can be text, watercolors, acrylics, collages or a combination of media. We want learners to express their experiences in ways personally meaningful.
  • Evidence of one practice that is outside a comfort zone – we are NorthBay, an organization which asks people to go beyond perceived boundaries.
  • A mini research project about a pressing local watershed issue.
  • Evidence of practice/research with students.
  • A final multimedia project to represent what has been learned and applied personally and professionally, including any transformational or “ah-ha” moments.

Other assignments are found throughout the course. We won’t ask teachers to submit them, but we will ask teachers to complete them on their own or together with students. Students will likely appreciate seeing their teachers as fellow learners.

What You’ll Need

  • Reliable internet
  • Access to a non-tidal stream or wadeable river
  • A journal
  • Curiosity

About NorthBay

NorthBay Education Inc. exists to empower people to realize that their attitudes, choices and actions matter. NorthBay, a national organization, engages youth and adults in a transformative, multi-faceted outdoor education program. The NorthBay experience motivates people to become more connected to their communities, and to contribute to the world in positive ways.


  1. NorthBay encourages interested teachers to take this course with a colleague or colleagues. In fact, we hope participants will collaborate often in this course with colleagues and students and with us. Sharing and practicing learning will make for a richer, more lasting, experience.
  2. Inquiry is an engaging way for students to learn content and skills while conducting authentic research about watershed topics that affect all of us.
  3. By participating in this course you will be contributing to its ongoing development. Therefore we encourage you to share with us your learning, your struggles, your joys, your overall experiences.

Partnering Organizations

Frank Cardo
Program Coordinator for Science/STEM and Environmental Literacy
Cecil County Public Schools

I work for a school system of approximately 15,000 students and around 2000 employees. I have between 70-80 secondary science teachers and a couple hundred elementary teachers that I work with throughout the year. Finding professional development for all these different teachers at different grade levels and contents is difficult. The one size fits all may work for a T-shirt by it doesn’t work for PD. I have to provide meaningful PD to all my teachers which means a lot of differentiation. Working with NorthBay to help create such a PD has been invaluable, especially in regards to the watershed evaluation project we started here several years ago.

In the development of the watershed evaluation PD NorthBay and I took a look of the major goals for this project which was sponsored by a NOAA B-WET Grant. The major goals were; Build future good stewards of the Chesapeake Bay, get students out into the watershed to conduct watershed evaluations and train teachers to conduct these watershed evaluations with their students. NorthBay came up with a great model for training our teachers and increasing our teacher’s capacity and confidence to conduct these investigations with students. Teacher capacity and confidence was the focal point of this watershed evaluation project and it had to be the focal point of the NorthBay PD. If teachers weren’t confident about conducting these watershed field trips with students, this project would never happen.

NorthBay developed a comprehensive PD for teachers which educated teachers on the issues facing their local watershed, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed along with giving teachers a basic understanding of the functions and attributes of a watershed. This PD combined in-class research and discussions with in-the-field experiences to prepare teachers to conduct watershed evaluations building both their capacity and confidence. This PD was provided to teachers during a week long summer training. Teachers participated in these trainings during the summer with additional trainings occurring during the school year as part of our county-wide PD. NorthBay staff also went into the field with teachers during the school year helping teachers conduct these watershed evaluations with their students as a way of building teacher confidence.

It is hard to measure the effectiveness of a program that is trying to build future stewards of the Chesapeake Bay; what we can measure is the number of teachers that participated in the Professional Development provided by NorthBay and the number of students that went out into the field and conduct these watershed evaluations. As of this date, over 100 teachers have been through part or all of this professional development and over 4000 students have been able to go out into their local watershed as part of this project during the past 3 years. The teachers trained by NorthBay for this project came from middle school and high school. They were science teachers, mathematics teachers, media specialists, social studies teachers and special educators. Many of these teachers worked together assisting each other in the field. Several of these trained teachers are now training new teachers on conducting watershed evaluations which is allowing this project to be sustainable after the NOAA B-WET Grant ends.

The professional development provided by NorthBay on conducting watershed evaluations has given our teachers the knowledge, skills and confidence to take students out into the local watershed and conduct real world science with students. In order to meet the goal of building future stewards of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, students had to get out into their local watershed, experience the watershed and hopefully begin to appreciate what their watershed does and means to us all.

  • Kathy Chambliss


    Kathy Chambliss, Ph.D., is an educator, learner, photographer, traveler and the Professional Development Coordinator at Northbay Education Foundation.