Kristen Poppleton, Director of Education
An article today in Conservation Minnesota details some ways that Minnesota schools can make their school a more environmentally friendly place WHILE freeing up money for education. The article brought to mind two things that have surprised me as the parent of a kindergartner just starting public school this year.
Before our daughter started kindergarten we attended several meetings at the school, met with her teacher and received at least 3 mailings. The result of these various meetings and mailings was close to a quarter of a ream of paper, much of which contained replications. I realize that often it takes this many times for a parent to respond, but an alternate delivery method, or a prioritizing of what truly needs to be printed seems in order. Put it all up on a website, but have some copies available for those who don't have access to the internet or ask parents on their kindergarten registartion forms if they would prefer to use email or post mail.
2. Bus vs. Ride
We are lucky in our city to have free busing available to all public school children within the district that are more than a mile from school. Because we live outside of a mile our daughter will be taking the bus. There is a long list of reasons I could go into why we made this decision, but I will stick to the one most relevant this blog. Carbon emissions. A bus could be described as the largest carpool option that exists and regardless of if I choose to use it or not, it will be running. Therefore if I choose to drive to school I double the emissions. On top of this, our school district has been involved with a great program called Project Green Fleet. "Project Green Fleet is a collaborative effort among business, government agencies and non-profit organizations to improve air quality and protect health by reducing emissions from Minnesota’s school buses and other diesel vehicles. Project Green Fleet helps school districts, privately owned school bus fleets, heavy-duty fleets and other diesel fleet owners reduce emissions through retrofits, repowers, and idle-reduction technologies."
When we toured the school my daughter will be attending last year we were able to go on a school bus ride. During the ride the driver explained how his bus was retrofited under this program to all of the kids and parents on the bus. His explanation turned the district's involvement in Project Green Fleet into not only a good environmental decision, but a teachable moment for children and parents alike. By using the bus system available to my child, I show my support for our district thinking about the importance of reducing carbon emissions and air pollution and providing a teachable moment for all of us about the changes that can be made system wide.
Climate Lessons Blog is back online after a successfully busy month of August planning, implementing and decompressing from our Fifth Annual Summer Institute for Climate Change Education. To experience the Institute virtually you can visit the Summer Institute 2010 page which is still be updated with lots of videos of the Institute and interview with our speakers and participants. This year at the Institute participants were given an opportunity to reflect on the day and submit their blog to be posted. Below are some excerpts from the blogs I received.
It was really interesting to learn some of background behind the group that thinks that climate change is a hoax. It is great to have this background information to understand where the propaganda is coming from. It helped me gain an understanding behind this group and what their intent may be. I got to thinking about how I could incorporate this information into my classroom. I thought it might be interesting to the students to do some background research on these individuals and present that to the class. If that is not possible, it is still good information to talk to the students about. (Angela Engelhardt)
When Dr. Oreskes connected the proponnets of SDI with the climate change detractors I was blown away! I had no idea it was essentially the same group of people who were involved. Then to add the tobacco component to their resume, I was astounded at the influence a small group of people have had using the same philosophical approach. What are they going to attempt to persuade the public of next?! I am excited to go home and purchase Dr. Orsekes' new book, Merchants of Doubt. At some point, the few have to be exposed to the public, so the reality of human impact on the environment can be full addressed. I hope it is through organizations like the Steger Foundation, book such as Dr. Orsekes' and that more teachers will feel empowered to bring environmental education into the classroom thus enlightening the next generation. The institute had a lot of additional ah-ha moments, well worth the treck out from California to attend. Thank you for all you have do! (Monica Ward History-Social Science Teacher Ramona High School Riverside, CA)
The data regarding kids learning better after spending time outside coupled with the idea that they learn more from what we do than what we say was a good reminder for me. I have made a note to make sure to be sure to more explicitly model appreciation of the outdoors as the speaker suggested and build on the outdoors whenever possible in any of my teaching. Also the 5’C’s about how to appeal to people to change their behavior is catchy and I hope I can keep it in mind when trying to get people to follow me in my attempts to mitigate climate change: common experience, civility, core values, citizenship, community (Sharon Gloster)
What has always been a real struggle for me is how to "adapt" my own personal concern regarding Climate Change to a meaningful level for my special education students. I love the curriculum that has been developed, however adapting is very time consuming so in my classroom it is more of an activity rather than curriculum. However, today I was blown away by the idea of a Journal. To see Will Steger's journal and also the Botany Journal was fabulous and gave me a great idea for my students who are mostly non-verbal, non-writing, etc. My idea is to have my students keep an explorer's journal. I plan to have my students spend 10-15 minutes outside every day and "Look Up, Look Down, Look Around". They will then keep a separate notebook for each day that could for example: the color of the sky, temperature (cold or hot), weather (sunny, cloudy, rainy, windy, or snowy), pick a flower or leaf and paste it in the book and identify (color, etc). (Joan Duncanson Teacher DCD Bridge View School)
Today I attended the Institute for Global Climate Change. The highlight was an impressive list of speakers that are at the forefront of the movement to bring about policy change in the U.S. Throughout the day it became clear that there is a consilience of evidence to show the impact of human emissions on global climate. Dr. Naomi Oreskes gave a surprising explanation of why the U.S. continues to delay taking a world lead on global warming. I will definitely go buy her book, Merchants of Doubt to learn more. The afternoon was spent looking at the resources available to teachers and how to get students involved. Abby Fenton used her amazing energy to show how she gets youth involved and what YEA MN is. The day was permeated by the passion of Will Steger himself, first of all talking about how he became an explorer and educator. He then continued to move about the group and quietly talked with participants and connected with as many as possible. I am so glad that I spent one of my summer days here, it was a great way to get motivated for the upcoming school year. (Lauren)
I was surprised to hear that every ice shelf Will traveled across on his first expedition is now gone. I was also surprised to hear that 3 free market fundamentalists began the campaign of doubt against global warming that pervades the media’s coverage of the issue today. Not to mention that these same people mounted the same campaign to discredit the science behind the effects of second-hand smoke, acid rain, and the severity of the ozone hole. Mark Seeley’s voice has brought me joy on many Friday morning trips to school. I was so excited to hear from him in person today, and learned a lot about evidence of global warming in Minnesota and the consequences that we are facing or will face as the earth continues to warm. Especially notable was the impact of global warming on minimum temperatures, and frequency and duration of precipitation. I plan on reading through the curriculum we have been given to help me plan my AP environmental science unit on climate change. I am excited to have these resources at my fingertips. I am thinking of creating a weekly homework assignment of nature journaling with an emphasis on phenology. We could work in photographs as well, and it could lead in to a final project that the kids present to their classmates at the end of the year. I think it might be more powerful if they do this somewhere in their own community, then I don’t have to worry about keeping tabs on 30 kids each hour. I think it is important they have the freedom in these journals to draw, sketch, paste pictures, leaves or what ever else they can dream up to make it meaningful to them. (Jessica Ley)
Summer Institute 2010 Recap
Our 2010 Summer Institute for Climate Change Education marked our fifth year of offering in-person professional development workshops for educators. This year we took time to “Go Back to the Basics.” This year’s Institute featured keynote speakers, Dr. Naomi Oreskes, climate historian and author of Merchants of Doubt; University of Minnesota climatologist, Mark Seeley, and a new presentation by Will Steger on his history of online education. We were able to offer scholarships to educators from out-state Minnesota, reaching 75 educators in person and via webinar. The Institute provided educators with an understanding of why climate misinformation persists and the tools to respond to those in doubt, by getting back to the basics of climate science and climate change education methods. In addition participants received a special sneak preview of the Foundation’s new curriculum, Minnesota’s Changing Climate, using Will’s lifelong archives to highlight Minnesota’s changing climate.
Summer Insitute 2010 Presenter Videos:
- Presentation: Overview of Will Steger Foundation: Nicole Rom: Executive Director, Will Steger Foundation - PDF (15.72 MB)
- Presentation: A History of Online Adventure Education: Will Steger: Polar Explorer and Founder, Will Steger Foundation - PDF (12.64 MB)
- Presentation: An Introduction to "Minnesota's Changing Climate" Curriculum: Kristen Poppleton: Education Program Manager, Will Steger Foundation - PDF (1.42 MB) Accompanying Video (79.76 MB)
- Presentation: Weather vs. Climate: Dr. Mark Seeley: University of Minnesota climatologist - PDF (33.95 MB) Accompanying Video (173.18 MB)
- Keynote Presentation: Dr. Naomi Oreskes: Climate historian, author: Merchants of Doubt - PDF (20.36 MB)
- Presentation: Bringing Climate Change to the Classroom: Nalani McCutcheon: Director, Cannon River STEM School (Available Soon)
- Presentation: Will Steger Foundation Website and Education Resources, Kristen Poppleton: Education Program Manager, Will Steger Foundation - PDF (3.38 MB)
- Presentation: Youth Engagement, Abby Fenton: Director of Youth Programs, Will Steger Foundation; RE-AMP Youth Climate Coordinator (Available Soon)
- Closing Presentation: Dr. Carolyn Breedlove: Project Manager for Green Initiatives, National Education Association - PDF (883 KB)
Throughout the last few months we have been busy planning for our Fifth Annual Institute for Climate Change Education on August 12 from 8:30-4:30(CST) at the University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus. Here are five reasons why we think you should join us, whether in person or virtually via webinar!
1. Our keynote speaker is Naomi Oreskes. She will be talking about the misinformation campaign that has persisted surrounding the issue of climate change. Her new book Merchants of Doubt, coauthored with Erik Conway, has been the subject of many articles, blog posts and conferences in the last few months. Here are a few examples: Climate Progress, Star Tribune, Time, yale360.
2. We will be unveiling our new project, Engaging Students in Environmental Conservation Through Adventure Learning, recently funded by Minnesota's Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.
3. We have participants from all over the state of Minnesota and the country flying in and participating via webinar that you will have the opportunity to network with!
4. We will be presenting a new funding opportunity for schools and youth available due to our new partnership with the British Council.
5. An excellent lunch will be included donated from local vendors!
This opinion piece was posted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune today and we thought it was worth sharing. It raises another important reason that we as educators should be teaching kids about climate change in the classroom; Parent Education and Awareness. It often takes the concerns of ones own child to bring the importance of an issue to the surface. Mr. Commers provides us with the perspective of a parent, educated by his children, willing to take some part of the blame, but also willing to be part of the solution.
When Kids Call for Better Behavior
What makes the parent of young children more anxious – the responsibility of teaching the important lessons, or the knowledge that we’re still learning those lessons ourselves?
Recently, as my elementary-age children have drawn an interest in news, we have had more conversation about climate change. This winter's dumping of thirty-two inches of snow on Washington, D.C. caught their attention due to jealousy, but also concern. Recent reporting that Lake Superior’s temperature is substantially warmer this year than normal also prompted talk.
Based on my sample size of two, kids aren’t just aware of climate change and some of its potential impact. And they aren’t afraid of it, so to speak. But they are absolutely serious about responding to global trends with immediate, concrete behavior change. They gave me multiple suggestions for how. Here are a few:
* Compete against your own driving. Set a limit for how many miles you will drive this week. Reduce the limit regularly. Call it car limbo.
* Grow food in the backyard if you have one, and create greenhouses together for winter growing. Why eat food from far away?
* Use a compost. You can put all of your corn husks and apple cores in it, and then it turns into dirt without having to drive it anywhere.
* If you sell things in plastic containers, you should take them back to recycle them (hear that, grocery stores?)
These are mostly relatively simple measures to implement for many of us, and they're increments toward a solution. But the kids don’t stop here. The immediacy and concreteness of their recommendations become more clear with ideas like:
* Add trees all over. Replace some of the streets with trees. Shrink the city.
* Change the city so that people don’t need to drive across town to go from their home to their work.
At times, these conversations have shifted into early forms of generational charges: Dad, your generation and all the others have blown it big time. We’re not going to face the music with baby steps, so get moving. And they’re right. Attempting to explain why some of these recommendations aren’t a matter of course is dicey territory. Don’t even try suggesting to them that politics present a legitimate reason for inaction. There are plenty of ways I continue to develop and guide my children’s behavior, and in doing so hopefully convey larger lessons about life. At the same time, in cases like these exchanges about “going green,” they serve to develop and guide my behavior, too. We’re all better for it.
By Jon Commers, founder and principal of Donjek, Incorporated. His projects focus on navigating placemakers - planners, developers, engineers - through financial feasibility and analysis, with an emphasis on facilitating public-private sector negotiations.
This week we have been busy working with a group of college students from Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, Portugal and France. They are here through the University of Minnesota's Office of International Studies and are studying Climate Change and Sustainability for five weeks. We have been lucky to host them for a few days up at Will's homestead outside Ely teaching them about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, as well as discussing issues of climate change policy at an international level. It is always exciting for us as at the Foundation to meet with youth from other countries and to have time to have a dialogue on climate change from a global perspective. For one activity, we pulled from our Citizen Climate curriculum a lesson on equity in climate negotiations, and discussed different definitions of equity. Our discussion was all the more rich because of the diversity of nations represented in our group. Here are a few photos of the group in action both using their brains and using their hands!
I feel like most people in the blogging world, especially those of us in environmental nonprofits, get around to the "so I biked to work today" blog. Today is my day.
I have been aiming to bike to work since February when I started here. I feel like a hypocrite doing the work I do without doing a little of my own carbon offsetting, but there is always a good excuse. Blizzard like weather, day care drop offs, not having a good bike lock, flat tire, training for a marathon, the list goes on. Finally last week the stars aligned. Our car needed to go in the shop and I "had" to seek an alternative transport option.
I was immediately hooked. Here are a few reasons why:
1. We are lucky in the Twin Cities to have some amazing bike trails, the best one being the Midtown Greenway running next to our office.
2. There is a community of people out there that bike to work, and they aren't all in fancy outfits and riding fast bikes. Most of them look like normal people, using their bike to get from point A to point B. They are wearing jeans, skirts, dress pants, bike shorts, swim suits, and head scarves.
3. People transport what they need in amazing ways. They have bags on their shoulders, trailers behind them and baskets in front.
4. I feel healthy when I move my body in the morning. I think about my work day ahead and on the way home leave work behind.
5. You cannot safely multi-task when biking. The simplicity of it is a rarity in the life I lead of working Mom/spouse/friend/daughter/sister.
6. If I bike once a week throughout the year I will save 450 pounds of CO2 emissions and $100. Not a huge amount, but something. (Freedom Bike Calculator)
7. Finally I like the example I set for my kids and for those around me. I am a firm believer that action inspires action. I share that I biked to work as my facebook status and within ten minutes three people have commented on or "liked" my status. Thats three people that have thought about bike commuting and maybe are considering trying it.
As educators you also have an opportunity to set an example for the students you teach. If you teach in a traditional school with your summers off, try out the bike commute to school on your own time this summer to see what it is like and what the best route is. Make a goal of biking in at least once a week if it works for you and hang your bike helmet up in your classroom with pride. Tell your students why you do it, how it makes you feel and share the resources below that might be useful when planning a bike commute. The What Now? section of our education binder has a great template and steps for taking personal, community and school action. Spend some classtime discussing ways students already are making a difference (carpooling, riding a schoolbus instead of getting a ride), and more steps they can take.
Bike Commuting Resources
1. Google Maps now includes bike routes for many communities.
2. There are number of carbon calculators out there. I found the Freedom Bike Calculator.
3. REI has a number of useful articles and videos on bike commuting, as well as free bike maintenance classes. Local bike shops in your area may have similar classes.
This is the second in a series of blogs focused on connecting to the natural world in anticipation of our newly funded curriculum project, Minnesota's Changing Climate.
In the upcoming months we will be busy working on our new project recently funded by the LCCMR, Engaging Students in Environmental Stewardship through Adventure Learning. The foundation of this project came out of a recognition that in order to develop active and life-long stewardship of the environment, we had to build awareness and interest in the natural environment and the impact of climate change. We hope to build this through a new curriculum project that brings together an interactive online classroom, with lesson plans and video and audio clips. We will be using examples from Will Steger’s lifelong archives that demonstrate how his early experiences in the outdoors, observing and documenting what he saw were foundational in his development as an explorer, and climate change educator.
One goal of our project is to find ways to bring together the online environment, with experiences and observations that students make outside. In a recent blog post, author Richard Louv, discusses the idea that some people feel “technology is the antithesis of nature.” He argues that a “techno-naturalists” are here to stay, and that “the proof of the worth of any nature-oriented getaway gadget should not be how focused the user becomes on the technology, but on how long it takes that person to put down the gadget, or become unaware of it, so they feel free to look away and use their own eyes and all the other senses.”
This view on technology and outdoor experiences seems worthy. It is nearly impossible to completely eliminate the presence of technology from outdoor experiences today, and in the case of classroom outdoor experiences the integration of technology is what is being called a mandatory “21st Century skill.” However, it is important to be deliberate and conscious about how and when technology is being used. Most importantly always make time to put down the technology, whether it be pencil or smartphone; smell the flowers, see the birds, or hear the wind in the trees.
Growing up I would call myself a summer camp junkie. My parents started taking us camping when we were toddlers and we attended a week long family camp every summer in Minnesota's northwoods. When I hit third grade, my parents packed me off to Girl Scout camp for a week and while the friend I went with cried all week from homesickness I reveled in the freedom, the campfires, the wild edible talks and starlit nights. My camp adventures grew longer and more intense as I grew older, I volunteered as junior counselor at family camp, and the summer after my senior year of high school I went on a 45 day canoe trip in Canada's Arctic. I had no trouble knowing what job I wanted to do in my summers during college. The nine months of the year not spent at camp, were essentially a long countdown. It was also during college that I realized that my love for camp, and more specifically the wild places I had the opportunity to explore and get to know, were essentially linked to science and education.
There is no question that camp and the unique individuals that were my camp counselors and mentors, were what inspired me to enter environmental education. It is because of this, that I was saddened to read Mary Beth Mccauley' article in The Christian Science Monitor, Summer camp: Sunset for an American tradition? The article details how it is increasingly difficult for camps to cater to the life of the modern child and today's parents. School years are longer, there is more concern about still focusing on academics in the summer, and the idea of "unplugging" from modern technology is becoming so foreign to parents and kids that it is hard to sell. Mccauley writes;..."there are other places where young people can learn the stout virtues of confidence, teamwork, and resilience; of independence and friendship; of love of nature. But few disguise the lessons quite the way summer camp does – as pure fun."
As an environmental educator, the loss of these intense experiences in the natural world are what concerns me most. Author Richard Louv labelled this Nature Deficit Disorder, others call this a loss of a sense of place. Regardless of its name, the less positive experiences in the natural world that children have, the less connection they have and the less likely they are to feel real concern for threats to the environment. There is in fact an entire field of research in environmental education called Significant Life Experience Research that looks at how, why, when and where experiences in the outdoors are important. The results are pretty clear. The more you get people outside, the more likely they are to show an affinity for the environment.
The importance of this is obvious from the standpoint of us at the Will Steger Foundation. Without a real concern for the environment, how are we supposed to get people concerned for the effects of climate change? In the next blog I will begin to outline some of the ways we will be addressing this in our new curriculum project, Minnesota's Changing Climate, as well as discuss the possibility of integrating technology with experiences in the natural world in a way that doesn't take away from the experience, but enhances it.
Today was Bike/Walk to Work Day and seeing all the fun events to celebrate it around the Twin Cities Metropolitan area reminded me of the project seen in the video below. It was done with the thought that:
...something simple and fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better. (fun theory)
Events like Bike/Walk to Work Day intentionally build a community of people committed to doing something good for the environment, by limiting the amount they drive to work. Others can become inspired by these actions in part because of how much FUN the people that participate seem to be having.
Think about the community you live or work in. What are some things that could be done to improve the energy efficiency or limit your carbon footprint? How could they be made fun?
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