Lycoming student, faculty collaborate on Waterdale Environmental Center

Lycoming College senior biology major, Brandan Gracia, of Houston, Texas, recently completed work on a curriculum guide for the Waterdale Environmental Education Center, which was a collaboration with Amy Rogers ’92, associate professor of education at Lycoming College. Gracia and Rogers presented the curriculum guide recently to the IU17 Curriculum Council from schools in Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga counties.

Located in the Mosquito Creek Watershed in Williamsport, the Waterdale Environmental Education Center, offers an educational outreach program that emphasizes the importance of watersheds and the role they serve in producing clean water that protects the public health of communities.

The curriculum guide reinforces the ecological instruction offered at the facility through lesson plans, projects and other activities that support the education of students in third to eighth grade but could be easily adapted to serve students in third to 12th grade.

Hands-on experiences promote awareness of the science of watersheds and connections to water quality and local ecology using the state’s academic and core standards. The activities offered are investigative and project-oriented, such as water monitoring and quality testing, macroinvertebrate population study, and stream flow and erosion simulations. Students collect and analyze data utilizing critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

“This interdisciplinary curriculum guide project allowed me to tap into my knowledge of biology and ecology, as well as all I’ve learned about educating young people. It focuses heavily on experiential learning, which is something I feel very passionately about, and which has had a great impact on my own life and studies,” Gracia said.

The curriculum includes lesson plans that may be adapted based on classroom needs; field trip itineraries; descriptions of various stations that could be offered, each with specific enhancements; and guidance to help teachers understand lessons and how to apply them — all with a focus on the conservation and protection of our watershed and how to maintain it, how water is cleaned and how it gets to homes.

“Brandan is an effective teacher because of his outgoing nature and true desire to work with children, but his love for biology and making people understand the need to protect our natural environment comes from his aptitude for biology,” Rogers said.

“His commitment to creating educational experiences for students at the Waterdale Environmental Center is impressive and inspiring.,” Rodgers added.

Gracia’s road to achieving so much at a young age was not always a smooth one.

“I am the oldest of four, and am a first-generation college student on both sides of my family,” he explained. “I am also responsible for my grandfather’s wellbeing back in Texas.”

A college education seemed a bit out of reach, until he found Yes Prep, a public charter school system for sixth to 12th grade in Houston’s underserved communities.

Gracia also has updated the Lycoming County Women’s History Curriculum Guide to align with Common Core standards, including the creation of new lessons and technology-based lessons; has completed service work with LACES in the Dominican Republic, where he served as a translator; works as a teacher’s assistant for Rogers; works for the College’s Clean Water Institute with programming and curriculum development; presented his research at the 13th Susquehanna River Symposium; and volunteers at the James V. Brown Library computer help desk.

“Brandan demonstrates all the qualities of a good teacher. He is knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and personable,” said Mel Zimmerman, professor emeritus of biology and director of the Clean Water Institue. “His contribution in developing the curriculum guide for the Waterdale Environmental Center allows teachers to know which state standards are met by the activities provided.”

Gracia’s “work on the development of the curriculum guide created a great asset to the students and teachers coming to our programs, while helping Brandan increase his knowledge about and competence in preparing and carrying out lesson plans,” said Walt Nicholson, center director, Williamsport Municipal Water Authority.