Streaming Stream Team Workshops: A New, Virtual Era

Isabel: On August 31, ALLARM hosted their first virtual chemical training workshop for Lackawanna and Luzerne Master Watershed Stewards who are participating in ALLARM’s Stream Team program.  It was an exciting milestone because adapting to online workshops allows us to continue training new volunteers even when it is unsafe to meet in-person. This workshop had been originally scheduled for late March, so the volunteers were eager to finally start monitoring. 

Isabel: We had to implement many new training techniques to adapt to the online environment, including having different roles for staff to make sure the workshop flowed smoothly. Julie Vastine and Suzanne Hartley, our director and assistant director, were the actors who demonstrated each step as the readers (Phoebe Galione, Shante Toledo, and I) read and explained the instructions. The volunteers were then able to follow along at home with their own testing kits. 

Director of ALLARM, Julie Vastine, displays a conductivity value reading on the LaMotte Tracer PockeTester.

Phoebe: Although this was not my first workshop, it was my first experience teaching in an online setting so I got the jitters as if it was my first time co-teaching all over again. Generally, Watershed Coordinators (student workers) are divided between small groups of volunteers, making it easy to ensure that everyone is working on the same step. Additionally, working in person also allows for troubleshooting and tips to be given based on any difficulties or questions individuals have. Thankfully the volunteers were patient and willing to give feedback, helping us adapt and modify in the moment like slowing down the pace or revisiting instructions. The volunteer group was also very positive as we went through some of the more difficult steps more than once. It was an interesting juxtaposition to in-person workshops to be able to view the entire volunteer group at once when announcing and comparing results to the colorimetric pH and nitrate tests.

Assistant Director of ALLARM, Suzanne Hartley, demonstrates reading a pH sample by comparing its color to the LaMotte Color Range viewer

Isabel: This was also my first Stream Team workshop, and it was supposed to be my first workshop back in March, so it was nice to finally get to train the volunteers because we all felt the same anticipation and excitement. I was a little nervous going into the workshop, but it was reassuring to know that this would be a new experience for staff and volunteers alike, so we were along for the ride together. I logged off feeling happy about its success and excited for the volunteers, and I think we’re definitely ready for the next virtual workshop!

Phoebe: Overall it was a wonderful experience and went smoothly (thank goodness for reliable internet throughout the event!). We learned the importance of pacing and allotting enough time to certain complex procedures. I’m so thankful for the patience and continued dedication of the Luzerne and Lacawanna county volunteers and am so happy that the workshop was a success! I can’t wait for them to start sampling and to test their training on their own streams.

Julie Vastine demonstrates the first step to testing Nitrate-Nitrogen values by adding a Nitrate 1 tablet to a water sample.