Wondering how your students can have access to Environmental Education in their curriculum, work on CA State Standards, learn life skills and help the community?
Environmental Service Learning projects are one way you can achieve all of this! They are a fantastic way to engage your students in hands-on Environmental Education, while making your school or community a better place.
Environmental Service Learning can give students a higher sense of self-esteem and belonging in the community as they become valued participants in educational projects that provide them with the experience of conscientious environmental stewardship. Service Learning of all different kinds has been proven to lower the drop-out rates in high school. The kind of life experience Service Learning projects afford students will no doubt look great on any job application or an admissions application to a University or other school.
Students of all ages can participate in Environmental Service Learning projects that will impact the way they think about the Earth, their bioregion, their local community, and their peers. Students reflections on their actions and impact can be an interesting and powerful motivational tool to instigate many positive changes in the world. Preschool and Elementary aged students can easily do projects with the guidance of a teacher. Secondary students can share more of their leadership skills and spearhead their own projects with a bit of mentoring from a teacher or other community partners. As long as a measurable learning outcome is achieved, any good community service can be turned into a great Service Learning project.
In Region 10, we offer a couple great opportunities for Students grades 6-12 called the Desert Environmental Youth Experience (EYE) for Leaders program and the Environmental Youth Leadership Conference (EYLC). For both programs, student teams identify a problem either on campus or in their community that they would like to address. Then through teamwork, creative problem solving and community partnerships, students create an Environmental Service Learning project of their choice that together they work on and implement throughout the year.
The themes for the Desert EYE are Water Conservation, Energy Conservation and Environmental Stewardship. In years past students have done waste audits on campuses, established recycling programs and educated other students on the ins and outs of recycling and waste management as they transformed their campuses into conservation centers, reducing their carbon footprint. One team raised enough money in two years through recycling to put in electricity and a clean water system into a school in Uganda, provide school supplies for 50 orphans and medical supplies for a nearby remote village. More locally, students can participate in restoration projects in wild places, eradicating non-native plants competing for resources. School gardens are an excellent way to beautify the school while creating an outdoor living laboratory in which to approach all the educational disciplines. Students can experience life science first hand composting and cultivating plants, both edible and ornamental. Gardens create a habitat for native wildlife and an environment in which to work on language arts skills in journaling and do math calculations either in establishing the garden or charting growth of plants.
Ultimately, students can take what they have learned through the process of doing their project and their reflections on the experience, and then share that information with others in creative ways. A team may create a skit or rap to take on tour and share with other local students. Or perhaps a team might create a short film or PSA (Public Service Announcement) or use other multimedia arts to display their message, raising consciousness in the community as they foster environmental awareness through their words and actions.
“America’s young people – from kindergartners to college students – have the desire, energy and ability to make a real difference in their communities. Service-learning offers a unique opportunity for them to get involved in a tangible way by integrating community service projects with classroom learning. Service-learning engages students in the educational process, using what they learn in the classroom to solve real-life problems. Students not only learn about democracy and citizenship, they become actively contributing citizens and community members through the service they perform.”
-Learn and Serve America
Planet Earth is one thing we all share in common. Some say it takes a village to raise a child. Perhaps it will be our children who stand up as young leaders and teach our villages to take better care of our environment, so we may all continue to enjoy good health and the great diversity and beauty of nature.
CA Dept. of Ed. Service-Learning page: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/sl/
Disney Planet Challenge for 4-6th grades: http://disney.go.com/PlanetChallenge/
Learn & Serve America: http://www.learnandserve.gov/
Region 10’s Program for 6-12th grades: http://www.deserteye.org
Youth Service California: http://yscal.org/cm/Home.html
Region 10 RIMS Desert Communities Coordinator