A quiet, informal group dedicated to enhancing science education for school-age children meets regularly at venues across Palm Beach County.
Founded in 2014, Resources In Science Education (RISE) held its bi-monthly meeting at Lion Country Safari on Wednesday, Oct. 16. Throughout the school year, RISE brings together educators working at facilities across the county every other month to network and learn from each other.
“RISE got started with a group of us saying that we wanted to continue to meet. We just wanted to get together, network, support each other and get the science word out,” said Janice Kerber, director of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Everglades Youth Conservation Camp. “That is critical — having the opportunity to meet and just come be who we are, with no membership fees.”
RISE has nearly doubled in size since its inception, and organizations that offer science education programs are encouraged to sign up. “We started out with about 10 [organizations] and are up to about 20 now. This year, I’ve seen the largest variety of groups. Last year, we did a major push on making sure we had a speaker at every session or some type of a program — this one being the tour of the facility — so we have our continuing education,” Kerber said. “We really zeroed-in last year on things like the need for special education training, because many of us are not trained on that, and how to deal with some of the various issues at our facilities.”
RISE uses the knowledge and experience of its members to build on the programs offered elsewhere in Palm Beach County. Topics range from educational lectures designed to expand member knowledge to developing program evaluations or completing the school district’s vendor application process.
“We have been a part of RISE for maybe five years,” said Rhonda Beitman, assistant education and outreach manager at Lion Country Safari. “It has been great. The networking is really good, being able to share experiences and collaborate.”
The purpose of RISE remains focused on a mission to improve the resources for teachers, families and schools. Member organizations share vital information on available trainings, events, educational trends and programming.
“We all offer top-of-the-line science education at our centers, and we want to promote that,” Kerber said. “We are not stepping on each other’s feet, but instead we promote amongst each other. It’s really important to understand that there are lots of kids in this district, and we want to meet the needs of as many as we can.”
There has been an expansion of the group in recent years to facilities that offer arts education as well, effectively transitioning to cover both STEM and STEAM initiatives.
“Some of us are inland, some of us are coastal, and a lot are in between,” Kerber said. “I don’t think any of us repeat programming. We are all different.”
Organizations present at last week’s meeting were the Panther Ridge Conservation Center, the Hobe Sound Nature Center, the ANGARI Foundation, Palm Beach County Nature Centers, the FAU/Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Loxahatchee River Center, the Mounts Botanical Garden, Audubon Everglades, the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, Manatee Lagoon, the South Florida Science Center & Aquarium, the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County, Grassy Waters Preserve, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens and the University of Florida’s Thompson Earth Systems Institute.
A number of other organizations are RISE members but were not present.
The next RISE meeting will take place in December at the Panther Ridge Conservation Center. Meetings are not open to the general public but interested organizations should reach out to Kerber at email@example.com to join the e-mail list and RSVP.