Expanding a Nature Education Network along the Kittatinny Ridge
Amy Weidensaul is a self-professed “nature nerd,” thanks to a family that nurtured a love of the outdoors since birth. It wasn’t until college that her interest in the environment evolved into a deeper commitment as she navigated through a variety of studies, from entomology surveys to piping plover monitoring to whale behavior, and ultimately to an internship at the Pickering Creek Audubon Center.
Amy continued her long career at Audubon as director of the Shehan Audubon Center in Maryland, and is currently Director of Grants and Program Development for Audubon Pennsylvania, where she is able to further extend her passion for the natural world. Her latest projects focus on underserved school communities: York, PA, where students are restoring riparian habitat within an urban Important Bird Area, and Waggoner’s Gap, which connects students to a hawk watch site along the Kittatinny Ridge through in-class and field experiences.
With the help of her Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship, Amy built on a teacher development program she created called Connecting Schools and Communities Along the Kittatinny Ridge. This educational network provides middle and high school teachers with the tools and training to implement place-based education and conservation projects for their students, while also supplementing their own academic and professional experiences. Participants have the ability to collaborate through blogs, chat rooms, websites and social media, to strengthen awareness and inspire action.
The 185 mile-long Kittatinny Ridge ecosystem, along which tens of thousands of raptors migrate each year, and which provides critical open space for millions of Pennsylvania residents, faces many threats. Amy knows we must act now to save this critical landscape. Human encroachment along the ridge has increased dramatically in recent decades, and this rising population and growing habitat fragmentation make community engagement even more critical. Working with a large pool of teachers – and thus with many thousands of students – Amy continues to increase awareness and appreciation of this unique natural resource, and inspire greater community action to protect it.