The Evolution of the Workshop

I started off with ALLARM as a curious sophomore at Dickinson College, looking to connect with an academic group of like-minded individuals. Once I got an offer from Director Julie Vastine to become a Watershed Coordinator, I knew that this space would be a pivotal part of my college experience. Here I am now, as the organization’s Outreach and Communications Specialist, 2 years out of college!

As a Watershed Coordinator, I spent much time orienting myself to the organization by editing publications, creating graphic design content, and providing a photographic expertise through documenting ALLARM events. I delved into the world of workshops with the Bosler Library’s Institute for Lifelong Learning, where ALLARM held a series (pre-COVID times) of water quality related courses. Now, as we are all finding our ground in a virtual world, I have noticed so many changes within the meeting space, beyond not physically being with one another. The challenges at first were incomprehensible; how would we hold a chemical monitoring workshop, where we need to look over another individual’s shoulder to double-check a conductivity value? How would we have hands-on practice with kits, meters, and bugs? It felt overwhelming and confusing.

The most significant piece that acted as a glue between the forced distance of a pandemic and organizational success came to be community. Whether it was crowd-sourcing with the National Water Quality Monitoring Council connecting folks to generate COVID-19 monitoring protocols, or holding meetings to discuss the importance of including BIPOC and other narratives of marginalized groups in the outdoors, the sense of community in the citizen science world during this time has been providing me with the extra boost of energy I personally needed to move forward.

Beyond all of this, ALLARM has flexed its creative muscles as students stepped up and created their own socially-distant projects of interest that would enhance their desired skills like GIS, data visualization, and data communication. Workshops now have diverse virtual aspects that mirror how a workshop would have been broken up in person, like brainstorming sessions and time to get to know volunteers. I am grateful that the tools exist to translate in-person events into virtual ones. It is important to remember that some things get lost in translation, so ALLARM has really relied on supplemental material for workshops, including videos for volunteers to follow along to, and forms for folks to fill out with any feedback to ensure the accessibility and enjoyability of workshops and meetings. As someone who once captured the essence of in-person workshops and now captures that of virtual meetings, the workshops have a similar yet refreshed energy that feels delightfully familiar. I am so proud of the opportunity to work with ALLARM in a time of growth and expansion.


Hayat Rasul, Julie Vastine, and Jinnie Monismith (clockwise) meet virtually to discuss ALLARM’s Stream Visual Assessment Protocol, being the original team Hayat Rasul found themselves in when first working at Dickinson College’s ALLARM as a student.