This content has been archived. It may no longer be relevant

About the Brandwein Institute

Institute History

This document appears as a chapter in an upcoming book about Paul F-Brandwein, “One Legacy of Paul F. Brandwein,” edited by Deborah Fort, published by Springer, copyright 2010.

The Paul F-Brandwein Institute:
Continuing a Legacy in Conservation Education

Keith A. Wheeler, John “Jack” Padalino, and Marily DeWall

During his lifetime as educator, author, lecturer, editor, scientist, conservationist, leader, friend, mentor, and humanitarian, Paul F-Brandwein entered the minds and hearts of many who had the opportunity to work and learn with him as well as many others who knew and learned from him through his published works and presentations. With his wife and partner, Mary, he transformed an historic farmhouse and the surrounding worked lands into a homestead. They became stewards of the pastoral and forested lands surrounding them. Throughout his life, Paul Brandwein helped people become better environmental citizens by providing them with the tools for literacy needed to understand and act on environmental problems.

On March 1, 1994, Paul and Mary, together with their friend and Paul’s coauthor on many projects Evelyn Morholt, created the Rutgers Creek Wildlife Conservancy of the Brandwein-Morholt Trust, as a means to sustain and restore a small but important area of this historic region of New York State in perpetuity. The decades of hard work and loving care Paul and Mary Brandwein devoted to the land and community now serve as a living nature laboratory, a special place —The Rutgers Creek Wildlife Conservancy — for learners of every age and background to investigate, to discover, to learn, and to enhance their sense of wonder.

Years 1993–1999

For many years, Paul and Mary surveyed their property and planned its use as a conservation and learning center. At Paul’s request, in the summer of 1993, Jack Padalino, then President of the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC), followed up on Paul’s early initiatives. He brought together a panel of leaders in nature center planning from across the nation to meet with the Brandweins, to examine the 63-acre site, and to consider the possibilities for its development and operations as a nature center. The consulting team, drawn from the leadership of the Association of Nature Center Administrators, consisted of Steve Coleman, Director Manitoga Inc. (New York), Ken Finch, Director Glen Helen Center (Ohio), Tracy Kay, Director, Rye Nature Center (New York), Corky McReynolds, Director Treehaven (Wisconsin), Mike Riska, Director Delaware Nature Society (Delaware), and Pat Welch, Director Pine Jog Environmental Education Center (Florida). Scientists James Montgomery, Bill Olsen, Alan Sexton, and others made site visits, reviewed the land, and suggested ways that it might be managed and monitored.

After Paul’s death on September 15, 1994, conversations began among Mary Brandwein, the Brandwein-Morholt Trustees, and Jack Padalino with the purpose of creating an organization to perpetuate Paul’s legacies — pedagogical, scientific, humanistic, and environmental. They decided to create an institute named for Paul, reflecting his wisdom and vision and dedicated to the education of teachers and students in recognition of their responsibility for sustaining the environment.

On October 23, 1995, a meeting took place at the Brandwein home with Mary Brandwein, Jack Padalino, Bill Hammond, and Keith Wheeler to determine what programs could be focused on lands at Rutgers Creek Wildlife Conservancy. These efforts were collaboratively managed by PEEC and funded by the Brandwein-Morholt Trust. In addition, the formation of the Brandwein Institute was suggested to serve as a keystone organizational structure that would be jointly supervised by the Brandwein-Morholt Trust and PEEC.

Shortly after the 1995 meeting, the PEEC Board of Trustees authorized the development of a collaborative partnership between PEEC and the Brandwein-Morholt Trust to use the lands of the Trust for scientific investigations, monitoring and restoration, service, and special projects within the guidelines provided by the Trust. In 1995, the Paul F-Brandwein Institute was established as a “Center of Excellence” at PEEC with support from Mary Brandwein and the Brandwein-Morholt Trust. Brandwein-Morholt Trustees Henry Burger and William Bavoso appointed an advisory board to guide the Institute.  The board included Dean Bennett, professor, the University of Maine; Mary Brandwein, for the Brandwein-Morholt Trust; Marily DeWall, associate executive director of the National Science Teachers Association; Bill F. Hammond, president of Natural Context; Jack Padalino, president of PEEC; Alan Sandler, senior director of education programs at the American Institute of Architects; and Keith Wheeler, executive director of the Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (GREEN).

A Place-Based Program with Local Impact
During its first five years, the Institute’s programs focused on the gifted and talented at all educational levels. Based on Paul’s teaching philosophy, PEEC initiated the Junior Natural Scientist program involving students in informal scientific study of nature. The program helped young people acquire the skills, concepts, and values of the sciences and the humanities that form the basis for environmental decision making in the context of global citizenship.

The Institute, while housed at PEEC, also focused on continuing education for teachers and future leaders to foster the skills, concepts, and values of the sciences and humanities. A primary focus of the Brandwein Institute at PEEC was to encourage the development of mentorship programs that linked teachers, teachers of teachers, and scientists and engaged them in teaching and learning about the environment. This focus formed the basis of today’s organizational principles of the Institute of convening, catalyzing, and communicating Paul Brandwein’s values and beliefs to the next generation of conservation-minded educators.

The Brandwein Institute advisory board met often in the early years to determine the context in which the Institute would do its work. The board members recognized that real estate pressures were consuming and transforming the farmlands of the Rutgers Creek region into suburban housing and weekend retreats for haggard urbanites. The Rutgers Creek Wildlife Conservancy and Morholt home, both Trust properties, would provide the ideal opportunity for demonstrating scientific monitoring and ecological succession of farmland back to native forest. While active farming continued on the adjacent lands, the property of Mary Brandwein could become an exemplary demonstration site for the process of “permaculture,” a term that describes a design system that encompasses both permanent agriculture and appropriate legal and financial strategies. By engaging students, local neighbors, leading environmental scientists, land restoration specialists and educators from the region and across the nation with this mini-conservancy, the legacy of Paul Brandwein’s Human Habitat Study could evolve and grow. (The Human Habitat Study, a nonprofit organization, dedicated itself to the maintenance of a healthful and healing global environment.)

In 1996, the Institute hired David Foord as assistant director to manage day-to-day work. In the spring of 1996, the first PEEC survey teams of staff and Junior Natural Scientists from the American Museum of Natural History visited the Rutgers Creek site and developed a plan for monitoring and establishing long-term surveys of the land and its ecosystem. A comprehensive monitoring, survey, and land-restoration program plan was initiated with connections to the White House U.S. Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program and the GREEN program. Monitoring and survey work continue to track ecosystem changes today. A web site for the Institute ( was designed to provide information about the ongoing projects at the Rutgers Creek property.   Field botanist Bill Olson developed herbaria to document existing plant species and began a vascular plant collection that resulted in over 350 species being housed in a permanent herbarium at the Institute. Breeding bird surveys were initiated in 1996 as well as automated weather monitoring. Members of the New Jersey Mycological Association initiated “fungal forays” on the Conservancy grounds. Since 2002, they have identified over 500 species on this property.

From Local to National and Global Impact
The Paul F- Brandwein Endowed Lecture.
In 1995, Mary Brandwein, the Brandwein-Morholt Trust, and the Human Habitat Study endowed an annual lecture series in Paul F-Brandwein’s memory. The Institute directors select speakers who have made significant contributions to science and conservation through education and research that reflect the work and contributions of Paul F-Brandwein. The lectures are featured events at annual National Science Teachers Association’s conferences on science education. The Journal of Science Education and Technology publishes each lecture.

Past and future lecturers include

1996 — William Stapp, University of Michigan
1997 — William Hammond, Florida Gulf Coast University
1998 — Cheryl Charles, Hawksong Associates
1999 — Joseph Renzulli, University of Connecticut, Storrs
2000 — Lynn Margulis, University of Massachusetts
2001 — Robert Tinker, Concord Consortium
2002— Barbara Barnes, EFG—Educating Future Generations
2003 — Rodger Bybee, Biological Sciences Curriculum Study
2004 — Dean and Sheila Bennett, University of Maine
2005 — F. James Rutherford, Formerly American Association for the Advancement of  Science
2006 — Charles Roth, Massachusetts Audubon Society
2007— Richard Louv, Author and Futurist
2008 — Rodger Bybee, Formerly Biological Sciences Curriculum Study         2009–Cheryl Charles   
2010–Lynn Cherry

The 1997 Brandwein Fellows Symposium. The Brandwein Institute assembled leading science teachers and ecological scientists for a three-day retreat at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation Studies in Milford, Pennsylvania, in November. This core group made up the first class of Brandwein Fellows, individuals who are recognized for their contributions to conservation education and the Institute. The symposium focused on defining the key characteristics for the development of field-based science research projects. The Fellows considered the problems and issues which frame field-based science research, strategies employed, and the roles played by different individuals within the environmental community. The working sessions were structured to allow teachers and scientists working as teams to explore ecosystems using state-of-the-art field-testing equipment, and then reconvene to share their findings. The teams provided the Institute with recommendations on what and how programs should be conducted. One of the key recommendations was to formalize the Brandwein Fellows Program. Today there are over 100 Fellows from across the nation comprising both educators and scientists.

A New Organization. At the end of the first five years of the Paul F-Brandwein Institute’s existence, it became evident that there was significant opportunity for the Institute to grow and become an independent organization. In 1999, the Institute was incorporated as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, known as the Paul F-Brandwein Institute, Inc.  Bylaws were written and approved, and the Board of Directors was elected with Mary Brandwein serving as chairwoman. Jack Padalino was selected as the Institute’s first president. This series of activities set the stage for the growth that was to follow. The founding Board of Directors included Mary Brandwein (chair), Jack Padalino (president), William Bavoso (vice president), Henry Burger (treasurer), Marily DeWall (secretary), William Hammond, Alan Sandler, and Keith Wheeler

Years 2000–2003

The Summer Leadership Programs
The Paul F-Brandwein Institute, in partnership with PEEC, was awarded a three-year Toyota USA Foundation grant to initiate Summer Teacher Leadership Institutes beginning in 2000. The program was supported by the Toyota USA Foundation and the Brandwein-Morholt Trust.

According to Paul Brandwein, the best way to encourage the young in science is to help them early to do original work, and the best way to make that happen is through mentoring. Mentoring relationships can be scientist-teacher mentoring; teacher-student mentoring, teacher-teacher mentoring, or scientist-student mentoring. The teacher, the key to the success of these relationships, must be supported in this role. The goal of the Leadership Institutes was to develop teacher and scientist mentors who would share their expertise with teachers and students nationwide.

For each of three years, 20 outstanding teachers were selected to attend a Leadership Institute. The program focused on three critical issues in environmental science education: Establishing Guidelines and Protocols for Field-Based Research; Integrating Technology into Field-Based Inquiry Studies; and Creating Instruments to Assess Field-Based Learning. At the Leadership Institutes, the teachers established guidelines and protocols for students to collect and share environmental data. They gained experience using the latest technology, learning to integrate it into programs where students are working with and learning from scientists. The teachers also developed ways to measure how practicing science outdoors can enhance learning. Strategies for enlisting community support and securing grant monies to sustain and grow outdoor learning programs were also emphasized.

The first Leadership Institute, held in August, 2000, focused on establishing guidelines and protocols for field-based research. The program assisted participants in identifying opportunities for studying air, water, soil, land, plants, and animals in the context of a changing environment. Participants formulated driving questions to inspire field-based research studies and modeled an atmosphere in which problem-based learning is the central paradigm for learning science. The goal of the first workshop was to help participants create an ecology of learning that has the classroom, the local and regional scientists, the community at large, and other educators in the community come together to engage in authentic inquiry about environmental research studies and change in a local context. The monograph resulting from the first Leadership Institute provided strategies that enable teachers to establish outdoor learning laboratories. It documented field study activities that can be replicated on school and community sites as well as described how mentoring partnerships can be formed to conduct field-based research.

The second Leadership Institute, held in July, 2001, emphasized the integration of technology to support authentic inquiry in field-based studies. The technology used at the workshop ranged from Internet searches to leading-edge technology tools for monitoring the local environment to communications tools to connect to other teachers, scientists, and students. Participants employed digital mapping technologies, such as Global Information Systems and other interfaces, including computer-assisted probes that monitor water quality, soil pH, and meteorological phenomena, to develop land use management and habitat assessment at research field sites. Some of the Institute program’s time was spent on working with the latest software for analyzing, mapping, displaying, and communicating results. The monograph resulting from the second Leadership Institute defined prerequisite technology needed to perform effective field-based study as well as to report and communicate the results of study.

The third Leadership Institute, held in July, 2002, focused on designing and implementing assessment instruments to evaluate field-based instruction and learning. Participants devised methods to measure success with problem-based, science field study. They created instruments to measure field-based learning and evaluated alternative assessments and performance-based examinations. Participants found ways to measure not only what students learned but also whether their learning has had an impact on them, on their society, and/or on the environment. Teachers and scientists reviewed different models and metrics to enable them to demonstrate effectively the success of the inquiry approach to field investigations. The monograph resulting from the third Institute provided a sample of problem-solving performance activities that teachers can implement to measure the success of their program.

The Paul F-Brandwein Summer Leadership Institute program trained a core of science teachers in environmental science education nationwide. Teachers at the summer institutes acquired skills to foster mentoring partnerships with students and with other teachers and scientists. Following the Institutes, the teachers conducted outreach activities at workshops and meetings at local, regional, and national gatherings to share their skills in building outdoor programs and mentoring relationships with their peers.

Years 2004–2007

The Sanibel Retreat
In June of 2002, a small group of Brandwein Directors and key Fellows met on Sanibel Island, Florida, to determine where the Paul F-Brandwein Institute should be focusing its efforts over the next five-year period. A consensus emerged that the Institute should capitalize on its exemplary local work and begin to focus on creating a national impact. In his life and work, Paul Brandwein catalyzed new trends in science and conservation education, convened the nation’s brightest individuals to address critical issues, and communicated findings to key decision makers to insure the change necessary for the transformation that he sought. This process of convening, catalyzing, and communicating became the key elements that would guide the Institute’s future activities.

The Conservation Learning Summit
Paul F-Brandwein and his colleagues played a key role in defining and shaping conservation education in the United States through the Pinchot Institute for Conservation Studies Conferences of 1965 and 1966. These conferences brought together a community of leading thinkers and practitioners of conservation education. The participants defined their goals in terms of assuring a citizenry that understood and supported the value of scientific and rational planning for the efficient use of natural resources. These conferences had a long-lasting influence on many of their participants who, in turn, exerted great influence on the various informal and formal conservation education communities of which they were members. The conference participants moved forward in response to this challenge from Paul F-Brandwein:

We must develop new structures, new strategies, and new techniques of teaching. We must test and revise until we have developed a culture which recognizes man’s interdependence with his environment and all of life, and his responsibility for maintaining that environment in a condition fit for life and fit for living.

The Paul F-Brandwein Institute directors and fellows believed there was a need to rekindle the strategic convening power of the 1965 and 1966 conservation education conferences to bring together education and conservation leaders old and new, to look carefully and creatively at our current conservation situation and to identify how to address our challenges in conservation education. The Institute identified an advisory committee comprising members from many organizations to collaborate in the conference planning.
The Paul F-Brandwein Institute and its partners launched a national Conservation Learning Summit in 2005 and a series of supporting projects to focus the national leadership of the conservation education community and key stakeholders on identifying the root causes of the human resource and intellectual capital drain in the conservation and wildlife management sciences. One of the major drivers for the Summit was the fact that a projected 60 percent of the nation’s senior leadership in the government work force would be eligible to retire in 2007. Many of those retiring are natural resource scientists and conservation workers.

In a letter that appeared in the Summit conference proceedings, Stewart L. Udall, honorary chairman of the Summit and former Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, wrote,

Nothing is more important than the legacy we leave future generations. It will take whole communities, working together, to solve the problems of the present and the future—leaving the lifeblood of informed stewardship to care for the environment, and one another, in the generations to come. The country is better off when the community is more important than the individual—when people are judged by how much they contribute to the community, and take it to the national level. That is why we created this national Conservation Learning Summit, and its important agenda for action.

Eighty representatives of federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, philanthropy, academia, and business attended the invitational national Conservation Learning Summit held November 4-6, 2005, at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. They were drawn together by a shared concern about an imminent loss of expertise to ensure the future health of the environment, including the nation’s heritage of abundant natural resources. Among the many national leaders who participated was Richard Louv, author of the best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (2005); Lynn Scarlett, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior; and Congressman Tom Udall of New Mexico. Debate was lively and recommendations for specific programs of action were brought forth and contained in the Summit Proceedings.  The Proceedings are available in PDF format on the Brandwein website (

An Action Agenda
The Conservation Learning Summit led to a national agenda for action and commitments from key stakeholders to implement it. Following the Summit, representatives from a diverse group of organizations and public agencies came together at the National Press Club in Washington, D. C., to announce an ambitious agenda to reconnect youth with nature and prepare a future workforce to take care of the nation’s natural resources. The Paul F-Brandwein Institute convened the event, and Louv delivered the keynote address. The video taken at the Summit was shown, and copies of the Proceedings, Conservation Learning Summit: A Re-Commitment to the Future were distributed.

Inspired by Louv’s book and speech, the Institute announced the formation of a new campaign to Leave No Child Inside, citing Louv’s call to action,

Western society is sending an unintended message to children: nature is the past, electronics are the future and the bogeyman lives in the woods. This script is delivered in schools, families, even organizations devoted to the outdoors and codified into the legal and regulatory structures of many of our communities. Healing the broken bond between our young and nature is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demand it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depend upon it. So does the health of the Earth. Conservation-oriented groups are beginning to realize that a generation that has had little or no personal connection to nature is unlikely to produce passionate stewards of the Earth.

The long-term health of everyone, from children to the planet itself, will benefit by re-connecting children with nature.  Along the way, the Brandwein Institute and organizations working with it will prepare the next generation of informed and committed resource professionals.  Over 40 years ago, Paul F- Brandwein in one of his seminal works titled An Ecology of Achievement, identified the strong linkages between the interactions of the very young to inquiry and the natural world and showed how critical this process was as a step in the path of self-selection that leads young adults to pursue careers in the sciences. Leading representatives of the nation’s largest conservation organizations, senior officials in U.S. federal agencies, deans of colleges and universities, business leaders and government officials have joined the Paul F-Brandwein Institute to embrace the purpose and vision of this new campaign.

The Brandwein Medal

As part of the commitments made at the Conservation Learning Summit, the Brandwein Board of Directors voted to sponsor a national award called the Brandwein Medal for an outstanding conservation educator. The first award was presented to an elementary teacher on March 31, 2007, as part of the Brandwein Lecture at the National Science Teachers Association’s National Conference on Science Education. The recipient of the award was David Brown, a fifth-grade teacher from Quincy, Illinois. Since then, Medals have been awarded to Rodger Bybee, Biological Sciences Curriculum Sates, Toyota Motor Sales, and Katalin Czippan, Sustainable Development Programme, Budapest, Hungary. Brandwein Medal recipients receive national recognition, a bronze medallion, and a cash award.

Changes in Leadership
In January 2006, Jack Padalino retired to the role of president emeritus and the Brandwein Institute Board of Directors elected Keith Wheeler to serve as president of the Board. Mary Brandwein, the driving force behind the Brandwein Institute, died at 94 on September 4, 2006, after a brief illness. The Paul F-Brandwein Institute continues to serve a role as convener, catalyzer, and communicator carrying on the legacy that Mary defined and that the Institute has excelled at over the past decade.

Steve Hulbert and Cheryl Charles were elected as new members to the Board of Directors  at the Board Meeting in December 2006.  Henry Burger was elected as the new chair, and Alan Sandler, the new treasurer, of the Institute.

Years 2007–2012

The Carmel Retreat
The Paul F-Brandwein Institute Board of Directors met in June 2007 in Carmel, California to develop a strategic plan for programs over the next five years. The Board’s consensus was that the Institute should capitalize on what has been done in the past and should carry on the Conservation Learning Summit legacy with children, nature, and adults.  Each year, board members will decide on an annual theme, and then the Institute will partner with an organization that also studies and supports that theme.  The theme will also be reflected in the Brandwein Lecture and the criteria for the Brandwein Medal awardee. The current focus of the Institute is to construct a network of interpretive trails on the Rudgers Creek property. These trails will become part of the “Brandwein Nature Learning Preserve” for the enjoyment and edification of local students and club members as well as virtual learners who can visit the site online and participate in conservation activities and share data.

Institute Expansion

The Brandwein Institute has a satellite office at the Callahan House, an historic building owned and operated by the National Park Service, in Milford, Pennsylvania.  The Institute headquarters and collections remain at the Morholt home on the Rutgers Creek Wildlife Conservancy in Greenville, New York.