Virtual Field Trips and Meeting the Staff

Hello, my name is Jeremiah Davis, and I am a new member of the Chatham University’s Eden Hall K-12 Program staff. I am a first-year Sustainability student interested in community development and public service. I have been working on developing a virtual community development field trip to introduce students to the cool field of community development. When I first heard about virtual field trips, my head tilted: ‘How are you going to have a virtual field trip?’

Well, I have been pleasantly surprised by the awesome work that my fellow staff members have been producing! Through the use of virtual learning tools, video production, and interesting topics such as climate change and pollution, finding a unique angle to approach it and then connect that back to Eden Hall has made for some really interesting content! Lexi Kalpa, our Field Trip Coordinator, and undergraduate education and sustainability student and long-time staff member at the Eden Hall K-12 Program, developed one of our field trips on green buildings. I had no idea about green buildings previously; I was vaguely aware of LEED as a certification system for buildings, but that was about it! In the span of 40 minutes, we explored the science behind green buildings, different certifications, the value of design and space, and how buildings can be used for social justice. My favorite part of the field trip was the video filmed and produced by our team showing behind-the-scenes footage of the sustainable Eden Hall Campus. K-12 students are going to love seeing the physical beauty of Eden Halll’s buildings and learning about all the creative solutions being implemented that align with the concepts from the other parts of the virtual field trip.

Although being in a virtual space has been a challenge, it has pushed us to be more creative in crafting an experience that is engaging to students. That is a hard task to achieve with in-person field trips, and is doubly as hard in a virtual space! Using virtual learning tools such as Google Jamboard, Padlet, Menti, and my personal favorite, 3D images, has been crucial in developing engaging field trips. For younger students, we are excited to partner with other organizations to provide hands-on learning extension kits to have a tactile aid to help with their learning and engagement.

Members of the staff have been tasked with working on different field trips and other things around the office, so I also wanted to introduce the newest members to the team and talk about what they have been working on:

H.R. Liotta, our social media manager and sustainability educator, has been working on updates to the Green Building field trip developed to further improve the experience for students. H.R. is also a second-year arts management major and involved in theater and other things around Chatham.

Nora Robb is a sustainability educator and a second-year early education major. She has been working on our K-3 energy and ecology field trips, the latter of which will introduce students to Eden Hall’s sensory garden. She hopes to become an elementary school teacher, so this is great practice for her future career!

Jared Greenberg is our sustainability educator/blog manager, and he is a first-year master student in the food studies program. He has been working on the behind-the-scenes videos of rainwater capture systems and the sensory garden at Eden Hall for the 4-8 pollution and K-3 ecology field trip, respectively. He hopes to be a food writer, writing about the intersection of food and social justice.

Brooke Duplantier is a sustainability educator, and she is a second-year master student in the food studies program. She has been working on our 4-12 ecology field trip focusing on Chatham’s landscape management practices, introduced species, land colonization and indigenous ecology.

Our veteran student staff, Rashmi and Lexi, have also been hard at work on:

  • K-3 food field trips where students get to meet Eden Hall’s farm animals and learn how they help the garden grow
  • 4-12 food field trips exploring norms and rules we give each other around food in society, who benefits from these rules and who experiences social barriers to food sovereignty
  • 4-12 energy field trips digging into Eden Hall’s renewable energy systems and their data and then learning ways to make energy efficiency and renewable energy more accessible to all

All of us can’t wait to facilitate trips for your students!

For more information about field trips or to book a “trip”, visit our Virtual Field Trips Website or contact Lexi Kapla by emailing

This post was written by Jeremiah Davis

Chatham at the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Conference

Early this October, the 3rd annual Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference took place in downtown Pittsburgh. Many of Chatham’s sustainability students were able to attend and learn about ways to improve the environment of campus life on Chatham and to share ideas with other sustainability students from across the country.

The Student Summit on Tuesday opened up with a keynote by environmental scientist and sustainable policy expert Garrett Blad, who had a hopeful take on the current state of environmental affairs. Focusing on the extent of the power young people have over climate change action, he encouraged attendees to stand up for sustainable policy in everyday life by living a more sustainable lifestyle and supporting sustainable brands. As the executive director for the advocacy group SustainUS, Garrett Blad certainly has the experience to back up his talk. SustainUS offers youth-led training sessions for organizations, schools, and universities to educate and empower youth. More on these training sessions can be found here.

Chatham Sustainability Students at the Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh – Oct. 3rd.

The rest of the Student Summit was split into one hour long sessions led by the movers and shakers of sustainability movements across the country. Of the seminars attended by K-12 team member Morgan Block, one dealt with how Aramark, a food supply company for college campuses, is working to introduce more plant-based options at college dining halls. A diet that less meat-centered is better for the environment as growing vegetables requires less water and produces fewer carbon emissions than producing meat. An idea that Aramark and other universities came up with to promote a plant-based diet was “Meatless Mondays”, which failed on most campuses it was tried on, including Chatham. Not to be discouraged, Aramark found a way to reduce the amount of meat that needed to be prepared by simply arranging food courts so that students reached vegetarian options first, so they had less space for meat. This is a great example of working within limits that might be imposed on you by a budget, organization, or school culture to still make changes for a positive environmental impact. Aramark has a number of other sustainability programs in place for college campuses and K-12 school districts, which you can read about here. What sustainability initiatives do your food service provider have in place? How might students engage to help evaluate and enhance these initiatives?

Another seminar attended by one of Chatham’s sustainability students was titled “Sustaining our Communities Through Care and Action”, lead by Western Washington University Sustainable Action Fund Education Coordinator, Kate Rayner-Fried. This presentation was about how “community care principles”, such as outreach in disadvantaged communities, can be incorporated into sustainability thought, organizations, and actions. Rayner-Fried explained that the only way to have a truly successful movement, in sustainability or otherwise, was to share knowledge and to empower marginalized groups. Time was given to participants of this session to brainstorm ways to apply these ethics to our own organizations, whether they be professional or our school community.

To read more about AASHE and their mission, click here.

Now Offering Integrated Pest Management Field Trip Activity for Grades 9-12

Chatham University uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to control the insects that do damage to our environment. In a new program option now offered during Eden Hall field trips, students explore and learn about IPM in agriculture through discussions, activities, and reflections. Students develop and apply knowledge to distinguish when bugs are considered beneficial or pests, and put into practice some of the most important steps of IPM.

This newest activity includes defining and developing the “IPM pyramid” and researching evidence of pests in either the solar high tunnel or the on-campus farm. Photographs taken during these activities are uploaded to the larger Eden Hall IPM Evidence Database, and will contribute to a much larger scientific database and tracking system that benefits the overall health of the Eden Hall environment.

This IPM program was piloted during a food-themed visit from Hampton High School this November. Check out some photos from the program below. In addition to documenting pests found on campus, Hampton’s field trip itinerary also included a family style lunch and a food-focused campus tour (highlighting the aquaculture lab, vertical gardens, and all campus growing spaces). Stay tuned for future blog posts on our new lunch program, and an extension of the IPM activity into lower grades.

Hampton High School students look for and document evidence of pests in the solar high tunnel at Eden Hall.

A Hampton High School student and teacher look for and document evidence of pests in the solar high tunnel at Eden Hall.

Hampton High School students look for and document evidence of pests in the solar high tunnel at Eden Hall.

by Dani San Filippo, Food Studies Grad Student and Eden Hall K-12 Farm & Garden Educator

Eden Hall Summer Teacher Fellowship 2016

Thanks to generous support from the Benedum Foundation, this summer the Eden Hall Campus hosted five teachers for the Eden Hall Summer Teacher Fellowship. Over five days, educators came together to learn about sustainability content from Chatham faculty and build Problem Based Learning (PBL) lessons and unit plans to use in the classroom over the coming school year. This year’s participating schools included: Penn Hills Junior High School, Pittsburgh Public Gifted Center, Environmental Charter School, and Falk Laboratory School.

Faculty content sessions included:

  • Renewable Energy and Green Buildings with Mary Whitney, Director of University Sustainability
  • Sustainable Agriculture with John Taylor, Assistant Professor of Agroecology
  • Ecology and Biodiversity with Ryan Utz, Assistant Professor of Water Resources
  • Place, Health and Well-Being with Mary Beth Mannarino, Assistant Professor of Psychology
  • Aquaculture and Aquaponics with Roy Weitzell, Aquatic Laboratory Director

PBL training was provided in partnership with ASSET and fellows were also given time to visit with community partners relevant to their lesson planning over the course of the week. We are excited for all of these passionate educators to come back to Eden Hall with their students over this coming year as they pilot their PBL unit in sustainability!

Here’s what some of the Fellows had to say about the week themselves:

“This experience was incredibly enriching and definitely furthered my capacities as an educator. I am so thankful that I was able to take part in this and hope that it continues to grow and change education!”

“I enjoyed the real hands on time with professors/experts in the field of sustainability and the community of teachers who shared ideas, resources, and insight with one another.”

“I was fascinated by the professors talks and demonstrations. Just like our students, I loved the hands on learning of the moth watch, log inoculation, tour of the facilities, solar oven demo. I appreciated the time to explore community partners that were of interest to us (local farms). I enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow teachers, our brainstorming sessions and socializing.”


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