DCNR Good Natured Pennsylvanians: Sarah Presongna, Environmental Ed Specialist
Sarah Presogna is the Environmental Education Specialist Supervisor at Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center in Berks County. Her love for the outdoors allows her to enjoy her job and be passionate in teaching others about the natural world.
Sarah began working for DCNR in the fall of 2016 at French Creek State Park after completing a season at the neighboring Hopewell Furnace National Historical Site. She joined the team at Nolde Forest in May of this year.
Sarah’s current career path began when she received a work study stipend in college. Instead of working at the cafeteria or the campus library, the University of Pittsburgh had agreements with local cultural institutions to accept student workers.
Through classes and her work in the botany and education departments of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Sarah found that she had a passion for teaching non-formal environmental and outdoor education.
Sarah took an internship in the education department of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and worked there after graduation until she moved to eastern Pennsylvania to study horticulture.
After a year of work at the Morris Arboretum, it was clear to her that her interests lay more with outdoor education than landscape design and horticulture (although she still loves plants).
In Sarah’s opinion, indifference is the greatest enemy when it comes to the outdoors and conservation.
“I’m certain few people actively go out of their way to harm the environment and fight against outdoor protections,” she says, “but if everyone who didn’t think much about their impacts or their local ecosystems became invigorated and came together, I think there would be a sea change for the better.”
The duties of an Environmental Education Specialist Supervisor are varied, which Sarah says suites her.
“One day I might be leading a preschool walk where we look for and sort autumn leaves by color. Another day I might be assisting a group of citizen scientists with water chemistry data collection streamside.”
Environmental education is a year-round job for Sarah. In the spring and fall, the center serves many school groups coming to the forest for learning experiences and engages the local community through weekend programming for various age ranges.
In the winter, she and staff go into the local underserved school districts and provide in-class lessons and field trips for their students.
“But no matter the group,” she says, “I help individuals make a deeper connection to the natural world around them by serving as a guide to what may be a new experience.”
Sarah points to her college mentors, but also her parents as inspiration. She says, “they always made a point to share their passion with me, even from a young age. They taught me many things I am teaching now.”
Her favorite part of the job?
“That it still fills me with wonder and excitement every day, because you never know what you might experience,” Sarah says. “Perhaps I’ll find a hummingbird nest with a group of students…a quiet moment on a trail when a fawn crosses in front of me. This job will always remind you why you are doing the work you do, and I am grateful to never feel complacent.”
Know of a good natured Pennsylvanian who is passionate about outdoor recreation and/or conservation DCNR should feature? Contact DCNR at email@example.com to nominate someone.
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[Posted: November 14, 2019]
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