Georgia-Pacific’s Educational in Nature® program provides environmental education supplements for elementary school children. With the rapid growth in global learning and increased need for sustainability education, the company is seeking to expand its program. Over the course of four months, the company has sponsored two education based panel discussions in which I was the moderator. The purpose of the discussions was to highlight successful environmental and conservation education initiatives.
As a recap, the first panel dealt with how to increase conservation education in the classroom through technology and outside learning experiences. The second panel kept with the same themes with a more in-depth discussion about how businesses can help support conservation education. Be sure to watch the below video or listen to the podcast.
The panelists were: Dr. Brian Davis, Vice President of Education and Training of the Georgia Aquarium; Daniel Strauss, Nature Conservancy LEAF program; Colleen Ryan, Keystone Center Participant and 8th grade math teacher; Vicki Davis, technology teacher for grades 8-12 , editor of Cool Cat Teacher Blog, and co-founder of the Flat Classroom Project; and Teresa Walsh , Public Affairs Manager for Georgia-Pacific’s Crossett, Arkansas, facility.
The panel discussion was an hour and chock full of insightful information. I urge you to listen to the audio podcast. The programs and business involvement discussion was outstanding. For brevity, I will focus on the main points of each panelist.
Daniel Strauss, LEAF Program, Nature Conservancy:
The Nature Conservancy Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) works with environmentally themed urban high schools. Strauss explained urban areas have typically been under-represented in environmental education.
As part of their program, the organization offers limited paid summer internships to juniors. The internship exposes them to conservation work experience, life skills, and a first taste of a job. Currently LEAF has twenty-two partner schools across the United States. In addition, they have established a Facebook group educator network, professional development webinars and an annual retreat to increase collaboration and support for the teachers at partner schools. One of the program’s long-term goals is to encourage the interning juniors to seek an environmental science career.
Vicki Davis, Technology educator
Davis is a proponent of teachers customizing the classroom especially through hands-on experiences. In that vein, she started the Flint River Project, where her school’s high school students documented the river. Some of the themes explored are river quality and studying invertebrates. The project changes the students’ views of the area.
In addition, she allows her students to use 20% of their classroom time on personal interest projects. Such projects have included an animated recycling video, conservation of wildlife, and GPS project.
One of her main teaching tenets is for students to establish a “networking quotient” to find, mobilize and be part of the network that influences how people think. Global learning through networking is the backbone of her teaching. Business involvement in the classroom through either virtual volunteering using technology or actual participation can help connect the students with the outside world.
Davis also advocates citizen science, which can be incorporated into all areas of a student curriculum such as language arts, math, or science. Examples of citizen science projects include Frog Watch USA and the Shout Learning Project where the students gather data.
Colleen Ryan, 8th Grade NY Math Teacher:
Ryan was a participant at a Keystone workshop, which helps teachers to identify environmental issues as well as teach those issues in different content areas. Over the past two years, Ryan’s mission has been to find ways to incorporate environmental issues into the mathematics classroom. Ryan’s biggest challenge is to identify data and find ways to meet the rigors of the Common Core learning standards for 8th grade mathematics.
She will be incorporating environmental issues when she teachers the unit on statistics and linear functions as well as a culminating project after the State exam. Her hope is to teach her students how to make decisions based on data, interpret that data, and become critical thinkers.
Teresa Walsh, Georgia-Pacific Public Affairs Manager
The GP Crossett, Arkansas, facility offers the Water Ways Festival to area 4th grade students. The program focuses on water and teaches the children about conservation and stewardship of the environment. They spend the day learning about water conservation and are divided into 12-14 student groups which rotate through various fun hands-on stations throughout the day. A dozen other expert organizations participate in this program.
In addition, the Crossett facility has an ongoing partnership with area schools. One of their programs, Girls Engaged in Engineering, was created by GP after schools expressed a need to encourage young girls to be interested in science and math. The program is a monthly, voluntary weekend program open to girls in grades three through twelve where they participate in fun projects with volunteer GP engineers to expose them to the engineering field.
In addition, GP funds other school programs as well as providing time and leadership in the classroom, helping with various programs such as a drug awareness program or robotics class.
Her wish list of GP’s further involvement in the schools includes: expanding successful Crossett programs outside the area, providing papermaking educational kits to the schools, building an outdoor classroom, and expanding her mill management leadership in the school to include an entrepreneurial program.
Dr. Brian Davis, Vice President of Education and Training at Georgia Aquarium:
Georgia Aquarium educates students of all age levels from pre-K to college. In addition, the Aquarium offers professional development for teachers.
The Aquarium’s educational advisory committee is a stellar example of utilizing the business and outside community to increase the viability of its education programs to the community. It is comprised of outside educators, administrators, universities, and corporate representatives. The group helps to vet out different programs and to connect the Aquarium with other entities or corporations that can enhance the programs.
One of the programs the Aquarium is most proud of is its five-day teacher immersion program called Rivers to Reefs in which teachers learn about such topics as water quality and aquatic issues.
In summation, all the panelists stressed the need for a community based partnership among teachers, not- for- profits and businesses to teach our children about conservation and sustainability. It truly takes a village.
Join in the Conversation:
- What successful outside community school sustainability and conservation involvement have you seen?
- How do you feel businesses can help to increase conservation and sustainability awareness?
- Do you feel schools are incorporating enough conservation and sustainability programs?
Disclosure: I was compensated by Georgia-Pacific for my time to moderate the panel, create the audio podcast, video, and write the recap of the panel discussion/ All opinions reflected in this post are my own.