Today, humanity faces this reality – the environment is broken on local, state (province), national, and global scales most of which are a result of human impact on natural resources and ecosystems. Through its field courses and on-line tools, CHANCE serves as a catalyst to create innovative and real-world learning environments that foster and deliver conceptual understanding, interdisciplinary content, authentic scientific experience (research), and diplomacy skills in order to increase the heterogeneity of students who come to understand, and can work to define solutions for, the ecological and social challenges facing all life on Earth. Since environments and biodiversity cross national borders, CHANCE strives to view, and to define sustainable answers for, the world’s pressing environmental realities from a global perspective.
CHANCE (Connecting Humans And Nature through Conservation Experiences) is an environmental education, professional development and outreach program, whose overarching goal is to teach conservation biology (the science and practice of conserving Earth's biological diversity) and global sustainability (the pursuit of societal, environmental, and economic balance) at the front line. To do this, CHANCE creates unique learning environments which immerse its participants, students and science teachers, in nature. Participants work directly in the field with scientists to EXPLORE species biodiversity, RESEARCH ecology, and CONSERVE the biological structure of select and threatened ecosystems around the world. The ultimate goal: To prepare global-minded citizens who can analyze, create, and implement solutions to maintain biological diversity, and as such, face the challenges of our time such as energy, air, food, water quality, and climate change.
CHANCE was founded in 2004 as a partnership with The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), and today nearly forty partners world-wide which include several key partners such as: Burkert Fluid Control Systems, The DOW Chemical Company, Jiangnan University (Wuxi, China), Nanjing University (Nanjing, China), the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI; Panama City, Panama), National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), Organization for Tropical Studies at La Selva (OTS; Costa Rica), WIDECAST – The Wider Caribbean Conservation Network, and Science/AAAS (for a complete list see CHANCE Partners). As such, CHANCE has evolved and grown exponentially.
CHANCE and its partners have collectively broken-out of the traditional boundaries of didactic education and effectively work together to create physical and virtual learning environments that allow students and science teachers to travel the world in order "to do" actual research on global environmental realities and to participate in activities that unmask the life-sustaining relationships between the human and nonhuman worlds. These educational environments include international field courses and online “research modules,” each of which draws attention to some of the most troubling environmental issues that confront humanity today.
A scientifically literate global society fueled by a heterogeneous population of environmentally educated individuals who work towards environmentally sustainable life-styles and answers, and who can rethink the word human, in more than human terms, is being realized through CHANCE.
Each CHANCE international field course includes approximately twenty-two select undergraduate and graduate students, science teachers, college professors and/or post-doctoral fellows from around the world who work with governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGO's), academic institutions, and/or businesses worldwide on an assortment of research-based ecological projects and conservation-based activities directly in the field.
Selected teams may study the effects of nitrogen overload (from urbanization and industrialization) on eutrophication in China’s third largest freshwater lake, Tai, bordering Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces; monitor tree dynamics (trunk girth, leaf stomata density, and seedling growth) as they relate to temperature changes in the lowland tropical rainforests of Barro Colorado Island, Panama; record the nesting activity of endangered green and leatherback sea turtles, relocate and protect turtle eggs, and morphologically analyze and tabulate numbers of successful hatchlings, in areas of poaching and over-fishing in Gandoca, Costa Rica; or, analyze the feeding preferences and nesting dynamics of bluebird populations in endangered habitats of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) of the United States. Importantly, participants not only collect real data that assists an assigned researcher’s experimentation, but they also design and carry-out a small group, independent research project which allows them to answer a scientific question of their own accord by collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data. Their capstone experience is a public presentation of their research project to field course related peers, faculty, research scientists, and CHANCE partners.
Importantly, in this time of growing awareness of the ecological and social challenges facing all life on earth, participants also engage in numerous conservation activities that allow them to question the fundamental meaning, value, and purpose of the living world through an interdisciplinary lens.
The CHANCE program has an international reach that includes the United States, China, Costa Rica & Panama.
As for the CHANCE “research modules,” these freely available, web-based multimedia tools are designed to virtually engage both students and teachers (those who can’t physically participate in a field course) in a real-world research project with actual scientists from organizations, such as Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (Kempton, PA), Organization of Tropical Studies (La Selva., Costa Rica), Duke University, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/Earth System Research Laboratory, who are investigating a specific environmental issue in the field.
The modules are currently being used by high school and college students worldwide and are encouraging them to go beyond the core content found in textbooks, and to consider the implications of the real research data from factual ecosystems they are analyzing. These virtual environments focus on the following global topics: invasive versus non-invasive plant species; raptor migration and protection; amphibians as indicators of environmental change; sea turtle nesting behaviors and survival; deciduous forest biodiversity and succession; species extinction; and, global climate change.
Additionally, local, national and international professional development workshops are routinely held that provide training for teachers to best utilize the CHANCE modules in and out of their classrooms.