Upper Dublin School District
Rick Schmidt was hired by the Upper Dublin School District in July of 1993 as an earth and space instructor at Sandy Run Middle School following completion of undergraduate studies at Penn State University in both Secondary Education and Earth Sciences. During his tenure at Sandy Run, Schmidt was heavily involved in a restructuring of the earth and space curriculum, served as a subcommittee co-chair during the 1997 K-12 science curriculum review and along with colleague and mentor John Selgrath, moved the earth and space science curriculum to the forefront of technology integration when the district engaged in its first major technology initiatives.
As the desire for a high school level earth and space program began to grow in the district largely due to the positive changes Selgrath and Schmidt had made to the middle school curriculum, Schmidt moved to Upper Dublin High School in 2001 where he initially taught environmental science and general science while preparing to launch the first high school earth and space program in the district’s history. At virtually same time, Schmidt completely rewrote the general science program into Forensic Science 323, the first full year forensic science course in the state. In 2002, Schmidt completed the Advanced Earth and Science 372 curriculum, his second major curricular initiative in as many years. The course was again the first of its kind at Upper Dublin High School and quickly gained notoriety for its college-level geoscience instruction, something rarely found in high schools anywhere in the nation. The course originally had two variants, an honors level (371H) and a college-prep (372) level. From its outset, the AES curriculum introduced many technology-based evolutions including the use of satellite/remote sensing equipment for meteorology instruction as well as an extensive SCUBA-based marine archaeology unit.
Following the unsuccessful attempt by the geoscience community to convince the College Board of the value for an Advanced Placement (AP) Geology curriculum in the early 2000s, it became apparent to Schmidt that a new strategy was needed to attract the district’s top science students and place the geosciences on an even keel with preexisting AP science curricula. In response to this, Schmidt began to research the concept of dual enrollment agreements whereby secondary schools would partner with higher education institutions in order to grant students college credit directly in order to grant students credit for a course. While these agreements were rather common across the U.S. as a whole, they were relatively uncommon in the Northeast . In addition, seventy percent of all dual enrollment agreements (nationally) were with two year colleges, an arrangement that was not an effective fit for the district’s top science clientele who were largely slated for four year universities. Schmidt’s research into this problem resulted in a fortuitous meeting with Drs. Todd Ellis and Jim Ebert from the State University of New York (Oneonta) who had created a dual enrollment partnership program for New York high schools called the Earth Science Outreach Program (ESOP) in 2003. After several discussions and a trip to Oneonta by Schmidt in 2009, SUNY agreed to include Upper Dublin in the ESOP program making it the first non New York state school district to become involved. It also meant that Schmidt’s newly revised Advanced Geosciences program became the first such program of its kind to be accredited by a four university in any of Pennsylvania’s 572 public high schools. Within a single year, Schmidt created four, sixteen week long geoscience electives in geology, meteorology, oceanography and astronomy from the original 371(H) course that easily met or exceeded the academic rigor of its AP science counterparts. All were accredited by SUNY by the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year.
Between 2010 and 2013, Schmidt tied his curricular efforts to formal education as a member of the inaugural cohort of Drexel University’s new Educational Leadership and Management doctoral program. While his programs at Upper Dublin continued to grow and evolve, they became the basis for his doctoral research that culminated in his dissertation Bridging the Geoscience Workforce Gap: Advanced High School Geoscience Programs. This research identified the general nationwide lack of high school geoscience programs as a key causative factor in the growing shortage of geoscience professionals in the U.S. workforce. It also presented Upper Dublin’s dual enrollment model as a solution to this problem with clear links between enrollment and a rise in students going on to undergraduate geoscience programs. In the Fall of 2013, Schmidt presented his data collaboratively with Dr. Jim Ebert of SUNY at the Geological Society of America’s national conference in Denver, CO.
In the Fall of 2015 and with the assistance of SUNY, Schmidt brokered a new dual enrollment agreement through Dr. Martin Helmke of West Chester University, the first arrangement of its kind for the university. This switch in institutions made the logistical components of the agreement much simpler to facilitate and also presented opportunities for West Chester professors to visit Upper Dublin and become directly involved in student activities there. This further collaboration has been highly successful and has led to West Chester professors becoming involved in several UDHS geoscience initiatives including the marine archaeology unit and a special mineral economics research project. UDHS students have also benefitted from West Chester’s willingness to bring out industry-standard geoscience equipment like ground penetrating radar and drones (UAVs) for demonstrations. Since 2015, the Upper Dublin - West Chester University model has been replicated by several other area school districts with WCU reaping the benefits
Dr. Martin Helmke of West Chester University introducing advanced geology students to ground penetrating radar.
of a highly motivated and academically prepared undergraduate population of freshmen geoscience students. This data was once again presented (this time by Schmidt and Helmke) at the 2015 Geological Society of America’s national conference in Baltimore, MD in the presentation A Well Untapped: Overcoming the Obstacles Inhibiting Dual Enrollment Agreements in the Geosciences.
Schmidt’s fifth original science curriculum for Upper Dublin High School was launched in the Fall of 2019 and was the first multi-departmental curriculum effort of its kind at Upper Dublin. Along with physical education teacher Bret Stover, the pair designed and then presented Survival Science and Fitness 398/898, a co-taught, combination science and physical education course that emphasized overlapping themes between the two departments in a largely outdoor educational setting. The course’s unique partnership and curricular model was once again the first of its kind anywhere in the state and allowed Schmidt and Stover to integrate a variety of science, physical education, and health skills together in an immersive curriculum that required the skills from each discipline to be successful. It also brought both instructors’ extensive coaching background to the forefront and allowed them to inject topics like leadership and team building into the overarching survival theme. This ongoing development of this course occupies much of Schmidt’s current efforts since challenging COVID restrictions interrupted the course’s normal evolution shortly after its introduction.
Higher Education and the Bighorn Basin Paleontological Institute
Schmidt’s higher education teaching experience began in 2003 after the Delaware County Community College received Department of Homeland Security funding to create a new associate degree in Emergency Management and Planning. For his role in the development of this program, Schmidt designed and then taught the curriculum for the required Leadership and Influence in Emergency Response
course. The course focused on the unique aspects of emergency response and how a variety of leadership and management principles could be applied to this professional environment.
In 2012 after another fortuitous meeting with paleontologist Jason Schein in a New Jersey marl pit, Schmidt reconnected with his paleontological roots and participated in a summer dinosaur fossil dig with Schein’s Bighorn Basin Paleontological Institute (now the Elevation Science Institute). Schmidt never left the group and in 2016 was appointed the organization’s Director of Educational Programming. Since that time, he has created two separate partnerships with regional higher education institutions to offer undergraduate credit for an intensive, two week long field paleontology course in the Bighorn Basin. He now supervises and teaches this course each summer with undergraduate students from across the country traveling to the Bighorn Basin to work with the BBPI.
A Dinosaur Planet, a multimedia experience presented through a partnership between the Bureau of Land Management, the Bighorn Basin Paleontological Institute and the Upper Dublin School District. Featured among the various dinosaur fossils discovered by the Philadelphia-based BBPI team for the very first time was the complete, 46 vertebrae tail of the sauropod dinosaur Suuwassea emilieae. The exhibit ran for over one month and was seen by hundreds of people from the general public. Daytime programming for Upper Dublin elementary school students was facilitated by BBPI paleontologists.
Schmidt also spearheaded a public fossil exhibit at the Upper Dublin High School along with BBPI’s executive director Jason Schein in February-March 2020. The exhibit highlighted the work of the BBPI and several UDHS students who had worked with the group in Montana. This high quality exhibit included not only dinosaur fossils never before seen by the general public but also mock-ups of BBPI fossil sites and multimedia presentations showcasing such paleontological techniques as jacketing, excavation, preservation, and mapping. The exhibit’s highlight included the first complete tail of the sauropod Suuwassea emilieae ever recovered. Over the next month, BBPI staffers would use the exhibit to teach paleontology to the district’s 3rd and 4th graders while Schmidt used it with his Advanced Geosciences classes. One week after the exhibit’s final evening public event, the school district was forced to resort to virtual teaching as a result of the growing global COVID outbreak.
Upper Dublin Boys Soccer
Dr. Schmidt coached boys soccer for Upper Dublin School District between 1993 and 2013 first at Sandy Run Middle School with the 8th grade team and then at the high school for junior varsity and then varsity. When he became Head Coach of the program in 2001, Schmidt and his coaching staff set out on a complete rebranding effort of the three boys teams which led to considerable success, a reinvigorated esprit de corps, and their first conference championship since 1988 in 2014. The program’s success continued throughout Schmidt’s twelve year tenure as Head Coach and led to an additional four conference championships and the most successful period in UDHS’s boys soccer history with an overall varsity record of 142-69-20. By the time he finished his coaching career to begin his doctoral studies in 2013, Schmidt had amassed a career record (at all levels) of 203-77-26.
Marple Newtown High School Marching Band
Dr. Schmidt’s contributions to education have not been limited to his career at Upper Dublin and from 1989 until 2021, he continued to work for his own alma mater’s highly successful marching band as a marching instructor, visual coordinator and most recently, student leadership developer. Over the years, Schmidt has assisted the band’s director in producing the group’s field show programs and subsequent visual instruction. In 2002, the band moved to the Cavalcade of Bands circuit where it won the Yankee A division championship its first year. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, they became only the second band in the Yankee Open division ever to win three consecutive titles with the shows Haunted, Daredevil and Machines. Throughout most of this period, the band has consistently maintained a size of between sixty to ninety musicians and guard and participates in a number of public events, parades and competitions each year.
Awards and Recognition
Schmidt has been recognized numerous times for his innovative work in geoscience education. In 2005, he was inducted into West Chester University’s 3E Institute "Educator 500" for excellence in entrepreneurial education. In 2008, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers recognized Schmidt as the Outstanding Earth Science Teacher for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania while the Geological Society of America presented him with the Award For Excellence in Earth Science Teaching. Schmidt’s accomplishments were also recognized by the Pennsylvania State University’s World Campus as part of their Be Exceptional campaign. In 2011, he was one of ninety-seven science and mathematics
teachers from around the country honored in Washington, D.C. with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the highest federal government honor for K-12 math and science educators. Schmidt was the only geoscience instructor to receive the award that year.
Emergency Response and Management
Dr. Schmidt joined the volunteer fire service in 1988 and has remained a firefighter and fire officer since that time for the Broomall Fire Company in suburban Philadelphia. To date, he has responded to approximately 7,000 alarms and has served as an operations officer up to the rank of Assistant Chief for eighteen years. Schmidt is currently serving as a Captain and is directly responsible for oversight of the rescue and truck companies of the station. In 1993 and 1994, Schmidt served as the logistics officer for Delaware County Cares, a large multi-agency disaster relief organization that assisted in the Midwest’s “Flood of the Century” (1993) and the Flint River floods (1994) in southern Georgia before serving at the World Trade Center site in September of 2001.
In 2002, Schmidt created, trained and commanded the Broomall Fire Company Honor Guard, a highly trained group of firefighters. Over the next nine years, his team would become renown throughout the region for their technical expertise and participated in one-hundred public events including parades, graduations, dedications, conferences and funerals. Events included appearances in front of dignitaries including Vice President Dick Cheney, Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, U.S. Fire Administration chief R. David Paulison, and Philadelphia Mayors Ed Rendell and Michael Nutter. Schmidt also led his team to Marple, England in 2004 in what was dubbed the “Brotherhood Tour”, a week long collaborative endeavor and ceremonial visit with the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service. During the visit, official proclamations of friendship between Marple, England and Marple, USA were exchanged and the firefighters trained with their British counterparts before participating in the community’s yearly fund raising parade and carnival event. In 2011, Schmidt reformed his original unit into a brand new county-wide honor guard for the Delaware County Fallen Firefighter and EMS Memorial Committee where they participated in an additional thirty-nine public ceremonies before Schmidt turned the team over to others in 2016.
Dr. Schmidt’s emergency response experience has also been tapped by the Upper Dublin School District on multiple occasions. From 2006-2009, he organized and led a district-wide safety assessment of the entire district in response to a school shooting incident in a nearby district. The findings from this assessment and related efforts eventually led to the creation of the district’s first multi-hazard safety plan. From 2014-2020, Schmidt focused his efforts on the high school where he taught and revamped the existing evacuation plans and other emergency response protocols to more accurately reflect emerging best practices. He also designed the framework for a district-wide emergency communications system in conjunction with township emergency management services and municipal government. Schmidt also designed and taught staff from across the
district in the National Incident Management System (NIMS) creating a cohesive system of management that could effectively interface with incoming emergency services should the need arise while also raising student awareness through several multimedia presentations, evacuation evolutions and informal discussions.