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Written by Elizabeth Jones
Tuesday, 17 July 2012
Green Education
We need to raise good stewards of the environment to care for issues like resource
depletion, environmental pollution, land degradation, and accelerating species extinctions.
Conservation efforts will benefit if we can better educate children on their connection to and
dependency upon nature. In an effort to further such education efforts, green programs are
cropping up across the country.
Green Programs in Elementary Schools
Green Teams: One of the primary ways in which students have been exposed to
environmental issues is through green team partnerships with non-profit organizations. One
of my friends, Lauren Casterson, has been helping students from Marin, California schools
participate in activities, ranging from cooking nachos in solar ovens to solar car races.
Students have also made movies on how to be "green," which were shared with classmates in
each school, and have learned how to monitor the power generated by the solar panels
installed on their schools roof.
Throughout Earth Week in April 2012, Lauren organized Mary E. Silveira Elementarys
green team, comprised of eight fourth and fifth graders, who gave away green bucks to
students exhibiting green behavior, such as bringing a waste-free lunch, composting, and
recycling. At the end of the week, the students raffled off green prizes to those who had
received green bucks. According to Lauren, the green buck incentives were a huge success:
"interest in the green bucks grew so immensely, that students were begging their parents to
pack them waste-free lunches!"
Cool the Earth: The Cool the Earth campaign is similar to that promoted by Green
Teams, except that it is more focused on climate change . The program inspires
students and their families to take simple actions at home. First, the program teaches
students about climate change in assemblies and the classrooms. Then the program
provides students with "coupons" to bring to their families, to promote and account for
carbon-reducing activities taken at home.
Students receive a booklet filled with carbon-reducing actions the family can take.
Every time the family takes an action specified on one of the coupons, the student returns
the coupons. The coupons are tallied each month and the results are displayed on a large
graph showing the number of cars taken off the road as a result of the total amount of
carbon reduced that month.

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In California homes, about 10% of
energy usage is related to TVs,
DVRs, cable and satellite boxes, and
DVD players.
Citizen Science Projects: Citizen science research projects are usually associated with
counting birds, the most known and well-established being Audubons 111-year-old
Christmas Bird Count. However, citizen science has grown in popularity in recent years.
Some projects enlist students to learn about and then count things like herring, fireflies,
ladybugs, and frogs. Other projects aim to collect and record data on water quality, flower
budding, and other natural phenomena.

For example, in Poughkeepsie, New York, Environmental Scientist Chris Bowser heads a
citizen science project focused on monitoring American eels in the Hudson River. Elementary
students are recruited to help with eel counting and weighing. This eel project is a great
model for citizen scienceFor one thing, the species has a real demonstrated conservation
need. Weve seen a decline in American eels in some populations 80 to 90 percent
since the 1970s, and were not sure why. The data we collect goes to the Atlantic States
Marine Fisheries Commission, which wants this information.
Moreover, not only do
scientists benefit, students benefit too! Volunteers like to know theyre doing something with
real value. When I worked on the project in 2010, it was inspiring to watch students who were
initially grossed out to count eels feel so connected to the eels by the end of the season. The
more people learn about science and build a personal connection to research, the more they
will care about the environment later in life.

To find citizen science projects near you check out:

Safe Routes to School: Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs are led by parents,
schools, and local governments who seek to improve the health and well-being of children by
enabling and encouraging them to walk and bicycle to school. SRTS programs examine
conditions around schools and conduct projects and activities that work to improve safety
and accessibility, and reduce traffic and air pollution in the vicinity of schools. As a result,
these programs help make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing
transportation choices, thus encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age.

Edible School Yard Projects: One of the more famous elementary school initiatives was
spearheaded by famous Berkeley, CA cook Alice Waters. Waters has called for a delicious
revolutiona movement in public education where the hearts and minds of our children are
captured by a school lunch curriculum, enriched with experience in the garden, sustainability
will become the lens through which they see the world.
Over the last 15 years the
revolution has spread from Berkeley to New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco,
Greensboro, and Brooklyn. Foodcorps, a similar Americorps program, was initiated to build
schoolyard gardens, teach cooking lessons, and foster environmental stewardship

Green Initiatives in High Schools
Greening the Curriculum: While green programs in elementary schools continue to grow,
educators are concerned about incorporating climate change and other environmental
studies into the high school curriculum. As Frank Niepold, climate education coordinator for
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, explains, once students advance to
high school, core science becomes specialized, displacing interdisciplinary, earth science-
based concepts like climate change. Recent statistics show that 83% of U.S. high school
students take biology, 50% chemistry, 20% physics, and a mere 20% take earth science
courses. As Niepold comments, "[e]ven if the earth science classes were amazingly effective,
we're only reaching 20 percent of all high school students." Whats worse is that many
students headed for college do not get exposure to environmental science because they are
fast-tracked through biology, chemistry, physics, and other advanced placement science
classes without taking earth science. "The reality of climate change is that its utterly
interdisciplinary," says Niepold. "Effective climate change education ... has to have strong
earth science, biology and physics components, and it has to connect to social science,
history, psychology and economics."
To counter this trend of specialized high school
science that skips over environmental issues, projects like the University of Michigans
Change Thinking for Global Science: Fostering and Evaluating the Ecological Impacts of
Climate Change are being developed to test out a new curriculum. The goal of the
curriculum is for students to gain a complex and sophisticated knowledge of science content
and practices for climate change topics such as weather and climate, the greenhouse effect,
and the impacts of climate change on humans and other living things.

In other cases, educators are going even further to integrate environmental issues into the
curriculum. Charter schools have long marketed themselves as project-based learning
alternatives to public schools, and now many charter schools are being founded with a
special emphasis on the environment. For example, the Environmental Charter High School
in Lawndale, California is a free public charter school where students complete community
service, participate in service learning projects, attend outdoor education field trips, and are
encouraged to take internships.
Other schools focus on combining environmental science
teaching with leadership development courses so that students can lead the change they
wish to see in the world.
Greening beyond the Classroom
Many students are joining together to say is not enough to just learn about climate change in
the classroom. A group of high school students have even turned to the legal system to
make demands. Five high schoolers from Ventura, California are suing the federal
government in U.S. District Court, claiming that the risks of climate change will threaten
their generation unless there is a major push in global energy policy. I think a lot of young
people realize that this is an urgent time, and that were not going to solve this problem just
by riding our bikes more, said Alec Loorz, one of the plaintiffs represented in this lawsuit on
a pro bono basis.
While leading industry officials have brushed the lawsuit aside as a publicity stunt, Loorz is
serious when he says that kids his age are much more worried about climate change than
many of their parents might imagine. Indeed, one British survey found that 74% of children
between the ages of 11 and 14 worry about climate change. "I used to play a lot of video
games, and goof off, and get sent to the office at school," he said. "But once I realized it was
my generation that was going to be the first to really be affected by climate change, I made
up my mind to do something about it."
Other high school students have joined in the fight
by signing up to receive updates from Loorzs nonprofit Kids vs Global Warming, which
organizes marches around the country.
The youth are moving to take control and fight
climate change to protect the environment for all of us. Heres to a brighter future!

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Comments (1)
1. 19-05-2013 23:06
Nice Post
I think this is the perfect learning for outdoor learning. where interesting with nature can
lead to improved connectedness to nature and improved ecological knowledge.
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