Professional Development Branch

Branch Chief: Dawn Lagrotteria, dawn_lagrotteria@fws.gov

Builds capacity through curriculum development and training within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and shares these resources with other Department of the Interior bureaus and partners. The branch offers a variety of classroom and distance learning training programs that fall under three curriculum strands: Environmental Education, Youth Outdoor Skills, and Youth Diversity, Leadership and Supervision. Key activities, curricular focuses and partnerships include:

Environmental Education Curriculum Strand

The Environmental Education (EE) Curriculum Strand consists of a variety of training opportunities geared towards Service employees who design, deliver, and evaluate EE programs for youth (age pre-K through college) and their leaders. All our courses introduce EE as a resource management tool, and each is based upon an adaptation of the Strategic Habitat Conservation Planning Model. These trainings are offered in both distance learning and face-to-face formats.

Many career paths lead Service employees to various roles in supporting EE as part of their jobs. While some employees have academic and professional backgrounds in Visitor Services, many come from other scientific and administrative disciplines.
These trainings provide a foundation in EE curriculum and program development to support both the Service’s and individual station’s mission and resource management objectives.

The Division also offers workshops and graduate courses to FWS staff through a partnership with the University of Wisconsin—Stevens Point and Stephen F. Austin University in Texas. These courses are offered via distance learning, and FWS participants have the option to supplement the workshop fee (provided by DEO) to gain graduate credits, and ultimately, a master’s degree.

View descriptions of courses offered through the Environmental Education Curriculum Strand. If you have questions or need additional information please contact Dawn Lagrotteria at dawn_lagrotteria@fws.gov.

Youth Outdoor Skills Curriculum Strand

The Youth Outdoor Skills Curriculum Strand consists of a variety of training opportunities and programs geared towards Service employees who actively engage youth (ages 15 – 25) in the outdoors through experiential hands-on learning.

Through a variety of trainings and instructor certification programs, the Youth Outdoor Skills Curriculum Strand prepares employees to teach wildlife viewing, photography, archery, and shooting sports. Train-the-trainer certifications in certain disciplines allow participants who successfully complete the course to return to their stations and train their colleagues and staff.

Through support of an equipment loaning program, field stations borrow archery equipment to support training efforts and experiential education programs and public events. While the majority of courses are offered in face-to-face formats due to the subject matter, distance learning is also used to support the larger Youth Outdoor Skills Community of Practice within the Service.

View descriptions of courses offered through the Youth Outdoor Skills Curriculum Strand. If you have questions or need additional information please contact Werner Barz at werner_barz@fws.gov.

Youth Diversity, Leadership, and Supervision Curriculum Strand

The Youth Diversity, Leadership and Supervision Curriculum Strand consists of a variety of training opportunities geared towards Service employees who work with young people (ages 15-25), with an emphasis on leaders and managers.

Many young people, who are hired through internships and as full-time equivalents, often find themselves being the only person in their age bracket at their particular office or site. These trainings offer specific tools that current employees can employ and model to foster an inclusive work environment. These tools are beneficial for communications and interactions with all generations. Course topics include youth mentoring, generational differences, and others. These trainings mostly center on issues related to diversity and inclusion. They are offered in both distance learning and face-to-face formats.

View descriptions of courses offered through the Youth Diversity, Leadership and Supervision Curriculum Strand. If you have questions or need additional information please contact Dawn Lagrotteria at dawn_lagrotteria@fws.gov.

Monarch Butterfly Conservation Training and Coordination

The Division of Education and Outreach (DEO) is the primary coordination point for Monarch Butterfly Conservation Activities at NCTC. A variety of activities began in FY15 to support this priority including two environmental education courses in Texas with a focus on working with youth to establish and maintain monarch habitat. DEO provided funding to 2 FWS participants from these courses ($1000 each) to continue their monarch habitat work at their sites. Two Conservation Connect series focus on monarch conservation and are on the NCTC website for use by teachers and non-formal educators. DEO’s partnership efforts for monarch butterfly conservation include cooperative agreements with the Children and Nature Network/Natural Leaders Network Legacy Initiative, The Corps Network, and Monarch Joint Venture/University of Minnesota to expand education and hands-on experience about monarchs and their habitats. The Division works closely with Headquarters to coordinate efforts and provide assistance where needed.

For additional information please contact Tracy McCleaf at tracy_mccleaf@fws.gov.

Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Partnership Youth

The Branch of Professional Development partners with AFWA on programs such as the Conservation Education Strategy, which is intended to increase knowledge and awareness of wildlife and the environment and reinforce the connection between Americans and the outdoors. The Branch also participates in the Wildlife Viewing and Nature Tourism Working Group, which addresses a national need for a cohesive voice, and a more fluid, organized approach to regional, state, and local wildlife viewing opportunities. This Partnership resulted in opportunities to present best practice for youth-mentored hunting programs at events such as the northeast AFWA Meeting. The Aquatic Resource Education Association conference and the AFWA Nature Viewing conference are being hosted at NCTC in FY16.

For more information on the AFWA partnership please contact Werner Barz at werner_barz@fws.gov.

Youth Partner Program Coordination

The National Youth Partner Program Coordinator (formerly known as the Service’s National Scouting Coordinator) represents the Service in working with national youth organizations (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Campfire, Royal Rangers, and others as requested), and supports the Service’s Regional Youth Partner Program Coordinators and their efforts. These organizations support academic, leadership, and citizenship skills through a variety of enrichment experiences, such as field trips, skill-building activities, community service projects, cultural exchanges, volunteer and internship opportunities, and environmental stewardship projects. The National Youth Partner Program Coordinator is currently working with the Service’s Fisheries Program to develop a national curriculum specifically focused towards various youth partner organization’s fishing and water ecology programs.

For additional information on Youth Partner Program Coordination please contact Werner Barz at werner_barz@fws.gov.

Urban Wildlife Conservation Program Evaluation

Human and financial resources are being allocated to support activities conducted by urban refuges to meet the Standards of Excellence and goals of the newly established Urban Wildlife Conservation Program (UWCP). To assess progress and effectiveness, staff from NCTC and the Branch of Human Dimensions in Refuges is currently funding and leading efforts to develop and execute a multi-year system-wide “umbrella” evaluation plan. Through the use of webinars and face-to-face workshops, NCTC’s Division of Education and Outreach is building capacity of urban refuge staff and partners to engage in program evaluation and to foster an organizational culture of learning, sharing, and adaptive management. This overall program evaluation effort represents an historic opportunity to launch a new era in demonstrating the influence of the FWS in building a connected conservation constituency in urban areas and validates the resources expended towards this effort.

For more information on the UWCP Evaluation please contact Sandy Spakoff at sandy_spakoff@fws.gov.

National Initiative to Understand and Connect Americans and Nature (UCAN)

UCAN is a study that is collecting information on public attitudes toward the natural environment; the effects of contact with nature on the public’s health and quality of life; the extent of contact with nature and obstacles to greater contact with nature; general knowledge of nature and wildlife; concerns toward selected environmental issues; and socio-demographic variables. Results will help improve the design and delivery of new or existing programs aimed at engaging the public in nature-related activities (e.g., outreach and educational programming at national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries). NCTC’s Division of Education and Outreach oversees the FWS’ contract with DJ Case and Associates that provides funding for principle investigators Mr. David Case, DJ Case and Associates, and Dr. Stephen Kellert, Yale University. The Service’s funds for this initiative are being leveraged with funding from a variety of organizations including: Texas Parks and Wildlife, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Morrison Family Foundation, and the Disney Corporation. For more information on the initiative see The Nature of Americans.

For more information on the Service’s role in UCAN please contact Tracy McCleaf at tracy_mccleaf@fws.gov