Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nearby Nature- Environmental Education can be Easy

I was recently asked to create a succinct description of what Environmental Education is for my fiscal agent’s website. I looked to the “classic” UNEP 7 principles of EE and ended up with this:

“EE focuses on interactions within and among natural, built, and social environments. EE aims to develop an individual's understanding, skills and the feelings of empowerment that are necessary for both positive behavior towards the biophysical and social environment in everyday living, and for active participation in group efforts to find the optimal solutions for environmental problems.EE is interdisciplinary, and is particularly effective when direct experiential learning is utilized.”

In looking at my description, I realized that it makes EE seem complicated, cumbersome, and overwhelming—all things that are extremely unattractive to most educators. To assuage my conscience for having published something that may actually turn some people off to EE, I wanted to focus on a few ideas and programs that let you utilize “nearby nature” for simple EE experiences.

· The Children and Nature Network was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working worldwide to reconnect children with nature. C&NN provides access to the latest news and research in the field and a peer-to-peer network of researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children's health and well-being. Find information on forming family nature clubs, getting involved in your local community, and a new program called “natural teacher.”

The following two examples are specific to the San Diego region, but no matter where you live you can find nearby nature.

· San Diego Canyonlands has a mission to promote, protect and restore the natural habitats in San Diego County canyons and creeks by fostering education and ongoing community involvement in stewardship and advocacy. They are a clearinghouse of canyon “friends” groups, so if your family wants to do a service activity while learning about the local environment, they can help you to connect to a nearby canyon. They can also help school sites get started on projects in nearby canyons and offer service learning credit for participation in some events.

· Visit your local parks and recreation website. The City of San Diego’s site can help you find a nearby natural area to visit.

So take the first small step toward environmental education experiences for your students, your family, and your community today. Just get outside!

--Adrienne Marriott, Coordinator

CREEC Region9a (San Diego and Imperial Counties)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

We’re WILD about new early childhood environmental education curriculum, by Deb Bruns

We’re WILD about new early childhood environmental education curriculum

Last month I had the pleasure of joining with 25 environmental educators and early childhood educators from across California to learn firsthand about Growing Up WILD – the latest addition to the Project WILD family of high quality environmental education programs. This one is geared to the 3 -7 year old crowd, building on that natural sense of wonder to connect kids to the world around them while developing important social and academic skills.

The colorful, 11 x 17, eye-catching guide includes 27 nature based activities with kid-friendly themes like “Bird Beak Buffet,” “Spider Web Wonders,” and “Lunch for a Bear.” In the December workshop we tried out “Wiggling Worms.” We each had our own worm to watch and even got down on the floor and tried to move like the worms we had just observed. Thankfully, the superintendent didn’t wander by the workshop at that particular moment! Later, we went outside to look for signs of “Who Lives in a Tree” and collect materials for an art project.

Like all of the materials from the Council on Environmental Education, the guide defines “user-friendly.” A Quick Facts box on each page includes the basic background information on the topic for the teacher. Educators can choose from a myriad of activities to fill a pre-schooler’s day: songs set to familiar tunes, art and craft projects, movement, math, indoor and outdoor games, science explorations and even a related (and mostly healthy) snack. In “Fishing Fun,” students use pretzel stick rods with cream cheese bait to “catch” fish crackers.

Need more? Each activity page also includes a list of related fiction and non-fiction books. Home Connections – easily copied pages provided in English and Spanish – encourage families to explore the natural world together with simple activities such as finding an ant colony, looking for birds in the neighborhood or visiting a local pet store to observe the fish. Journal prompts and discussion starter questions are provided for parents which will mostly likely result in a little adult education as well.

I can’t wait to share Growing Up WILD with our Head Start teachers and the local child care planning council. I’m also going to work with the community colleges in the area and our own high school ROP Careers with Children teacher to get the guide to as many early childhood educators as possible. They will be happy to know that each activity page notes correlations to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Standards and the Head Start Domains

Growing Up WILD is available free to any early childhood educator who attends a workshop. Now that there are trained workshop facilitators throughout California there is sure to be a workshop near you. Contact your CREEC Coordinator or California’s Project WILD Coordinator, Betsy Magladry, to find out about a workshop or facilitator in your area. For more information on the guide (including a look at a sample activity page), visit