WBEZ | environmental education http://www.wbez.org/tags/environmental-education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago Conservation Corps cultivates environmental leaders http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/chicago-conservation-corps-cultivates-environmental-leaders-107064 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/emiliano-zapata-students.jpg" style="float: left; height: 229px; width: 305px;" title="Students from Little Village's Emiliano Zapata Academy with power strips they distributed to classrooms to reduce their energy waste." /></p><p>The White House Council on Environmental Quality <a href="http://www2.epa.gov/education/presidential-innovation-award-environmental-educators">honored 12 teachers with a Presidential Award for environmental education Tuesday</a>, but in Chicago a band of green-minded volunteers added more than 700 new students and teachers to&nbsp;an environmental organization present in every one of the city&#39;s 50 wards.</p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://chicagoconservationcorps.org/blog/">Chicago Conservation Corps</a>&#39;&nbsp;student program has graduated roughly 6,500 students and teachers who have devoted some 150,000 hours of service since the program begin in 2006. <a href="http://chicagoconservationcorps.org/blog/about-this-weblog/c3-partner-organizations/">Partner organizations</a> can team up with the group for environmental service projects, drawing on volunteers from the general public as well as adults who have undergone environmental leadership training.</p><p>The program comes with some ready-made projects, like making household cleaning products from non-toxic ingredients and distributing home weatherization kits to promote energy efficiency. New clubs start by auditing their trash, food waste and leaky faucets &mdash; their leak-finding program reportedly saved 1.5 million gallons last year.</p><p>But many schools develop their own curricula. Students at North Lawndale College Prep, for example, filmed a video about the dangers of radon poisoning.</p><p>&ldquo;These are the movers and shakers of your age group,&rdquo; the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum&rsquo;s Kristen Pratt, who coordinates the Conservation Corps program, told the graduating students assembled Tuesday, &ldquo;who are really making a difference.&rdquo;</p><p>John Hancock High School, located in the southwest side West Elsdon neighborhood, has been running Conservation Corps programs since 2006. Erin Niedt, who teaches at Hancock, says her students get a sense of pride from seeing the impact of their actions. This year her class handed out dozens of weatherization kits and spent Saturday mornings cleaning up Ottawa Trail Woods.</p><p>&ldquo;They made a visual difference,&rdquo; Niedt says. &ldquo;They could see what a difference they made.&rdquo;<br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_5186-2-300x200.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 305px; float: right;" title="North Lawndale College Prep students conduct a waste audit." />There are no shortage of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-04/unpacking-barriers-going-green-98425">ways to pursue a &ldquo;green&rdquo; lifestyle</a>, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/today%E2%80%99s-mighty-acorns-tomorrow%E2%80%99s-environmentalists-105347">environmental education initiatives, like Chicago&#39;s Mighty Acorns program,</a> are going strong in Chicago even after the city dissolved its <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20111013/NEWS02/111019914/chicago-shutting-environment-department-adding-eco-friendly-measures-to-new-budget">environment department into other city agencies</a>. But <a href="http://www.theatlanticcities.com/politics/2013/05/why-your-green-lifestyle-choices-dont-really-matter/5501/">many have criticized the comparatively small-bore progress of personal action</a> in light of the daunting task of transitioning to a sustainable industrial society before the impacts of climate change become too great. True, shorter showers and recycled goods won&rsquo;t supplant our fossil fuel dependency, but education builds momentum for grassroots actions that can have far-reaching effects.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re building a culture,&rdquo; Pratt says. &ldquo;What&rsquo;s most exciting isn&rsquo;t even the collective impact of the individual projects, although we do tally them up and it makes a difference. The most exciting part is building awareness.&rdquo;</p><p>Pratt, who grew up in the West Lawn neighborhood, says she&rsquo;s living proof of the lifelong impact of an early introduction to environmentalism. A graduate of the Career Ladder for Youth program run by the Chicago Zoological Society and the Brookfield Zoo, she went on to earn a degree in zoology from Michigan State University. Though the science itself was interesting, she says her favorite part was sharing what she learned.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 07 May 2013 16:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/chicago-conservation-corps-cultivates-environmental-leaders-107064 Today’s Mighty Acorns, tomorrow’s environmentalists http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/today%E2%80%99s-mighty-acorns-tomorrow%E2%80%99s-environmentalists-105347 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/34610267@N05/sets/72157632687648819/with/8446261684/" target="_blank"><object height="458" width="610"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632687648819%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632687648819%2F&amp;set_id=72157632687648819&amp;jump_to=" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632687648819%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632687648819%2F&amp;set_id=72157632687648819&amp;jump_to=" height="458" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="610"></embed></object></a></p><p>Part of the conservationist Aldo Leopold&rsquo;s classic &ldquo;<a href="http://home2.btconnect.com/tipiglen/landethic.html">land ethic</a>&rdquo; was the idea that you cannot act ethically toward something that you do not &ldquo;understand, love, or otherwise have faith in.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Your true modern is separate from the land by many middlemen, and by innumerable physical gadgets,&rdquo; he wrote in 1948&rsquo;s <em>A Sand County Almanac</em>. &ldquo;He has no vital relation to it; to him it is the space between cities on which crops grow.&rdquo;</p><p>For many children growing up in a metropolis like Chicago, that may be the case. Indeed <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/chicagos-hispanic-neighborhoods-farther-nature-study-shows-104838">some communities are consistently deprived easy access to nature</a>. But Chicago&rsquo;s famous stockyards and steel-framed skyscrapers are not as isolated from Leopold&rsquo;s land as the city&#39;s middlemen and gadgets might suggest.</p><p>Twenty years ago, The Nature Conservancy started&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mightyacorns.org/ourstory.html">Mighty Acorns</a>, an environmental education program&nbsp;that introduces Chicagoans to nature when they are young, hoping to recruit (or awaken) life-long stewards of the land.</p><p>Before they joined the program, for example, some students from the <a href="http://agcchicago.org/">Academy for Global Citizenship</a>, a charter school near Midway airport, might not have know about the rolling hills and forests less than 10 miles down the road at Arie Crown woods in southwest suburban Countryside, Ill.</p><p>Monday morning was the fifth graders&rsquo; second visit to Arie Crown woods. In just a few hours, the group spotted a coyote and a Cooper&rsquo;s hawk, as well as plenty of deer tracks in the fresh snow. They also got a crash course in ecological restoration, learning to identify and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/restoring-prairieland-calumets-industrial-corridor-104751">clear buckthorn, an invasive species that crowds out native oaks</a>.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/acorns3-610px.jpg" title="Kids cut up buckthorn, an invasive species. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s the best kind of education: getting out and experiencing things,&rdquo; said Ruth Jetton, a teacher whose fifth grade class seemed especially adept at reading animal tracks &mdash; and initiating the occasional snowball fight.</p><p>Teachers who once turned to textbooks for far-flung environmental case studies now teach sustainability from Chicago&rsquo;s backyard.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it gives the kids some ownership,&rdquo; said another teacher, Joe Phillips. &ldquo;They know about wildlife already but they don&rsquo;t have the same sense of it until they visit.&rdquo;</p><p>Other exercises focused on adaptation and interdependence. Students mocked up a &ldquo;web of life,&rdquo; donning nametags like &ldquo;mushroom,&rdquo; &ldquo;mouse,&rdquo; and &ldquo;hawk,&rdquo; and then literally stringing out the relationships of their adopted identities using orange rope.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/acorns16-610px.jpg" title="The “web of life” exercise, wherein kids map out ecological relationships using orange rope, is interrupted by the flight of a Cooper’s hawk overhead. Cheryl McGarry of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, points to the bird. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div><p>The Forest Preserve District of Cook County serves the most children per year of the two dozen <a href="http://www.mightyacorns.org/Partners.html">partner organizations</a> that make up the Mighty Acorns consortium.</p><p>The environmental challenges that these kids will face are incredibly complex, inherently political and potentially very costly. So an awareness of nature and basic ecology is only the beginning of a real environmental education. But an early connection to the land can set the stage for lifelong growth, teachers say.</p><p>Congress even gave this idea a vote of confidence in 1990 by passing the <a href="http://www.epa.gov/enviroed/pdf/neea.pdf">National Environmental Education Act</a>. And Aldo Leopold knew the value of education, too.</p><p>&ldquo;The objective is to teach the student to see the land,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;To understand what he sees, and enjoy what he understands.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 05 Feb 2013 09:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/today%E2%80%99s-mighty-acorns-tomorrow%E2%80%99s-environmentalists-105347