Appendix C: Project Highlights
Project Lead: Dr. Jeff Kirwan
Contact Information: 540-231-7265;
The purpose of this project was to meet the demands of increased visitation to the Augusta Springs Wetlands as personnel shortages continue. The Web site is meant to facilitate on-line scheduling and communication with school groups, lessening the time USFS and other agency personnel would otherwise spend on these tasks. It is also meant to enable school groups to prepare volunteers who lead groups through the site. The Web site has station descriptions, photographs, maps, simple lesson plans and other volunteer information that can be shared electronically with minimum time and effort. Potential volunteers are directed to the site to gain better understanding of what is expected and needed of them. Lastly, the Web site design was kept simple so that teachers and students could add content to the site based on their experiences.
The project’s intended audience includes individuals interested in learning about Augusta Springs, such as conservation educators, teachers, volunteers, undergraduate students, and advanced K-12 students, to add their own content and research to the Web site. On the other hand, it is used as a communication tool to provide information about Augusta Springs Environmental Education to the nearby communities, visitors to the site, school groups, volunteers working the learning station, local agencies, etc.
Planning for this project was a result of Dr. Kirwan’s forethought. Although the Web site is serving as a tool to disseminate information about Augusta Springs, it has not fulfilled all the goals originally envisioned. Online registration is not available and content is edited mainly by the interns. Project team consists of Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. Daniel Dunlap, the Augusta Springs Environmental Educator Sandy Greene, and interns Cristina Issem and Melanie Nichols.
Most Web technology represents one-way communication from Web content developers flowing to end-users. The proposed technology is collaborative, enabling cross-communication as users add, delete and edit content to the site as needed with minimal effort. Also, a new learning station is being developed to display alternative energies, like solar, wind, and man-powered activities. These technologies will complement, organize and enhance an already successful program. The web-based technology was known only to Dunlap and Kirwan and then passed down while the alternative energy items are known by Greene and Nichols.
The technology is easily sustainable as it serves as a main line of communication from facilitators to the volunteers to the school groups and teachers. The Web site allows volunteers to prepare with minimal guidance from personnel. Dr. Dunlap designed the Web site and assists Dr. Kirwan in training individuals how to use it.
Experience to Date
The largest success factor is that this Web site quickly became an excellent communication tool to the volunteer station leaders, largely credited to Mrs. Greene. She constantly steers everyone involved from the school groups, to the teachers and many more to the Web site. Another major benefit was the development of a larger Web site Forested.org. This site is a collection of various environmental education Web sites for this area of Virginia. Unfortunately, the project team has not been able to disseminate information to the teachers and school students that they can use the Web site to post their own materials. Although they use it to get background information they have not realized its potential just yet.
The technology used here is easy to reproduce. The concept of a place-based electronic commons can serve conservation education programs wherever they exist.
Advice to Others
“The environment you surround yourself in is key. You need to develop many partners to complement your skills. This was a key factor in the success of this project. With limited personnel resources available in the area, this program is still a huge success because of the partnerships in education which include the Headwaters Soil and Water Conservation District, US Forest Service North River Ranger District (Dry River R.D. at the start of the project), Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and more. Each can offer some help and thus it is enough to maintain the Wetlands Environmental Education program.”