Archive for the ‘environmental education’ Category

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Attention teachers in Southern California’s Inland Empire

The California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC) has announced the theme for their annual Coachella Valley Environmental Art Contest and Exhibition. This year’s theme is EARTH. A call for artwork in the following categories has been announced:

    Environmental Art
    Addresses issues of relationships between humans and the environment and suggests solutions.

    Recycle Art
    Made of recycled materials — may include environmentally friendly markers, paint, and glues.

    Digital or Photo Essay
    Digital/Photo essays must include a brief explanation.

This contest is open to all Pre-K – 12 students and adults.

Artwork is due May 24, 2017.

Awards ceremony and exhibition will be held on World Environment Day at the Palm Springs Pavilion on June 4, 2017.

Download EARTH flier

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EEC Symposium 2016 Flyer Next month the Environmental Education Collaborative (EEC) of the Inland Empire will host its second annual symposium at The Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA.

The EEC formed in February 2015 when over 125 organizations participated in a strategic planning meeting near downtown Riverside. Quite a bit was accomplished during this one-day meeting and the Environmental Education Collaborative has grown steadily during its first year.

The EEC is lead by co-chairs Dave Ficke, Region 10 Coordinator of the California Regional Environmental Education Community, and Ginger Greaves, Executive Director of the Santa Rosa Plateau Nature Education Foundation. The purpose of the Collaborative is to:

  • Bring funding to the Inland Empire to increase environmental literacy in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
  • Develop a network of environmental education resources.
  • Promote the programs of environmental education providers in the Inland Empire.
  • Monitor and influence environmental education policy in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Would you like to learn more about the EEC and support environmental education in the Inland Empire?

The Collaborative is seeking sponsors for their second annual meeting. All sponsorship packages include tickets to the symposium. To learn more about keynote speakers and to view the itinerary, click on the image above to download the event flyer.

To view sponsorship opportunities and benefits, download the Sponsorship package.

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Plants, Life, Riverside is an ongoing interpretive project about plants in an urban setting, continuing ArtPlantae’s mission of encouraging an interest in plants and addressing the subject of “plant blindness”. Where do plants reside in this city of concrete, asphalt and stucco? Let’s find out.

CN_inrectangle.wseal.tag The Inland Empire region of southern California is home to many native species of plants and animals. It is also home to many invasive species that threaten local plant communities and animal populations. The Inland Empire is a two-county area east of Los Angeles composed of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. In terms of mileage, the Inland Empire (or “IE”) is generally 60 miles from Los Angeles. In terms of drive time…well, the 80-mile commute to west Los Angeles from Riverside can take 3.5 hours during peak commuting hours. 

Nestled below the San Bernardino Mountains, is the Santa Ana Watershed. The watershed is an area of land through which water flows from the mountains to a single outlet at the Pacific Ocean. Water flowing from the mountains travels through four counties on its way to the ocean. These counties are San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange County. The Santa Ana watershed, its plant and animal communities and its namesake river are monitored by many resource conservation districts whose objectives are to promote the care of natural resources within the watershed.

The Santa Ana Watershed Association (SAWA) SAWAlogoTR2-2 began as a collaborative of local Resource Conservation Districts and the Orange County Water District. Formed in 1996, the purpose of the new association was to eradicate Giant Reed (Arundo donax) and other invasive species that had established themselves in the Santa Ana River. The Association became a nonprofit organization in 2000.

While earlier efforts focused primarily on field work, biological monitoring and habitat restoration, SAWA realized there was a need to educate the public about watershed issues. The Education and Public Outreach Department was formed in 2008 and in five short years, the three-person department has established itself as a major player in environmental education. The educators at SAWA participate in 30 outreach events per year, host four to eight educational events of their own and host four volunteer days (e.g., “clean up” events) at different locations in the Inland Empire. The Education Department connects with 12,000 people per year through its workshops, field trips and events, operates an interpretive center at Chino Creek Wetlands and Educational Park and is responsible for establishing the California Naturalist program in the Inland Empire.

You may already be familiar with the Master Gardener program and its requirement of 40 class hours and volunteer time. The California Naturalist program is similar in that it also requires 40 class hours. It differs from the gardening program in that it does not currently have the volunteer requirement. Participants are instead required to complete a capstone project to earn certification. Capstone projects must be a citizen science project, an educational or interpretive project, or be a work effort benefiting a local environmental organization.

river-2The California Naturalist program was created by UC Davis as a way to promote environmental literacy and engage California residents in the stewardship of California’s natural resources. This program exists in the Inland Empire because of the tireless efforts of Carrie Raleigh, SAWA’s Education and Public Outreach Manager. Carrie was already familiar with naturalist programs for the public because she herself had completed Florida’s Master Naturalist program in 2006. She returned to California, began work with SAWA and in 2011 began looking for a comparable program in California. She learned about the California Naturalist program through the UC Cooperative Extension. One of the first adopters of the program in inland southern California, Carrie worked on the program with her staff for two years and launched the Inland Empire California Naturalist program in
Fall 2013. 

Subject areas covered in the 40-hour program include: native plants, nature journaling, geology, climate, water resources, wildlife, forest and woodland resources, interpretation, communication, citizen science, and global environmental issues.

Thirty-six states have a Master Naturalist program. If you are interested in becoming a certified naturalist in your area, look for Master Naturalist programs near you.

If you live in the IE and want to learn more about the local California Naturalist program, see California Naturalist in the Inland Empire. To inquire about upcoming sessions, contact Carrie Raleigh.

On May 29, 2014, the Santa Ana Watershed Association closed its Education department. To inquire about future programming in the Inland Empire for the California Naturalist Program, please click on the link below.

Related Resources

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© Amie Potsic, All rights reserved. Image courtesy Schuylkill Center.

© Amie Potsic, All rights reserved. Image courtesy Schuylkill Center.

Schuylkill Center
Philadelphia, PA
February 15 – April 18, 2014

Philadelphia artists Amie Potsic and Nancy Agati explore the meaning of winter through photography and mixed media at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

In winter, patterns emerge from the harsh relief of cold temperatures and heavy snow that illuminate the relationship between us and the changing environment in which we live. Photographer Amie Potsic explains, “I find winter to be particularly seductive as it simultaneously highlights the stark beauty of our environment’s dormant cycle while hinting at the potential growth of spring.” Nancy Agati’s mixed media work, explores the ephemeral through use of natural materials and emphasizes the cyclical patterns of the natural world. Agati writes eloquently about the details that are highlighted by winter: “Working in the studio while the snow falls – again. Linear patterns are further defined as I notice the stark contrast of branches against a pallid backdrop.”

Agati and Potsic draw elements of nature into their work, giving voice to the natural world and putting it in dialogue with both the viewers and the artists themselves. Potsic’s photographs and installations focus on the intersection of the physical, socio-political, and natural worlds, highlighting the change of seasons as indicators of ecological wellbeing.

©Nancy Agati, All rights reserved. Image courtesy Schuylkill Center.

©Nancy Agati, All rights reserved. Image courtesy Schuylkill Center.

Agati’s sculptural installations use natural materials to create forms which resonate with the patterns, shapes, and complex structures of the natural world. Whether it is Agati’s striking sculptures or Potsic’s photography that transports you, Frost creates a world that is both uniquely its own and deeply connected to its inspiration: our natural world.

The public is invited to view the exhibition and meet the artists this weekend during the opening reception. The reception will be held on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 4:00 pm.

Learn more about the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education on their website at www.schuylkillcenter.org.

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An investigation into adolescents’ perceptions and experiences with nature revealed that some urban youth view nature as a threatening place. A place where crimes occur and where trees hide the activities of criminals.

Sound extreme?

Read on.

Arjen E. J. Wals provides extensive background into this observation and others in Nobody Planted it, it Just Grew! Young Adolescents’ Perceptions and Experiences of Nature in the Context of Urban Environmental Education.

The perception that nature is a threatening place was uncovered when Wals interviewed students from four classes at four different middle schools in and around Detroit, Michigan. Wals’ study included students from four different communities. The communities represented in this study include upper-class families whose children attend private schools, middle- and working-class families whose children attend suburban schools, and working-class and “out of work” families whose children attend schools in Detroit (Wals, 1994). The student populations at these schools ranged from almost all-white in the suburban schools to almost all-African-American in the Detroit schools. The locations of the schools ranged from a park-like setting for the private school to “a bunker in an urban war zone” (Wals, 1994) for one of the Detroit schools. The schools shared the same curriculum, however the Detroit schools were not as well equipped, had to spend time on safety issues, had to spend time performing tasks normally completed by parents and guardians and had to spend time teaching basic skills before students dropped out of school (Wals, 1994). This study included students who considered themselves fortunate to be living in safe neighborhoods and students who mostly used the outdoors “to get from one place to another” (Wals, 1994). For more information about the students and the urban environments involved in this project, read Wals (1994).

Arjen Wals created his study to investigate the following:

  • Did nature have a place in the lives of students?
  • How did students interact with nature?
  • Where did students experience nature in their respective urban environments?

Before we get too far along, I need to explain that Wals (1994) is an ethnographic-phenomenological study, not a statistical study. Phenomenological research investigates perceptions and experiences. While students from all four classes participated in the study, interviewed only 32 students. He chose eight students from each class and explains his sampling procedure in his paper.

Throughout the study, Wals was an active participant in classroom events. He observed student reactions to nature experiences, kept a research journal, interviewed students and reviewed their reflective journals (Wals, 1994).

What did he learn about students and their relationship with nature?

Wals (1994) found that students managed to build relationships with nature, regardless of their environment. He found that two themes emerged from student interviews and journals — how students define nature and how they experience nature.

Wals observed that students define nature as: flowers, animals, trees, alive, pure, peaceful, not human-made, freedom, solitude, self-supporting, wild, spontaneous (Wals, 1994).

He also observed that students experience nature as: entertainment, a challenging place, a place where time stands still, a threatening place, a background to other activities, a place for learning, a place to reflect, and as
a threatened place (Wals, 1994).

Excerpts from student interviews supporting the observations above can be reviewed in Wals (1994). Environmental education (EE) teachers will also be interested in the author’s comments about EE programs. Wals discusses his findings and the implications they have on environmental education. At the close of his paper, he suggests nature experiences teachers might want to try in their programs.

Nobody Planted it, it Just Grew! can be read online for free.

Literature Cited

Wals, Arjen E.J. 1994. Nobody planted it, it just grew! Young adolescents’ perceptions and experiences of nature in the context of urban environmental education. Children’s Environments. 11(3): 177-193

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poster_SustainabilityFair The Contra Costa Master Gardeners (CCMG) invite you to the Sustainability Fair celebrating their 30th anniversary of promoting healthy gardening. The Sustainability Fair will be held
September 7, 2013 from 10 AM – 3 PM at the CCMG garden in Walnut Creek, CA on the corner of N. Wiget Lane and Shadelands Drive (map).

“Growing your own vegetables can be a first step in a sustainable, healthy lifestyle that connects you in new ways to the food you eat”, according to Jackie Kennedy, CCMG Association President of the all-volunteer organization.

Visit the Sustainability Fair to learn about canning and preserving, growing winter vegetables, raising chickens, beekeeping, and making compost. You can also learn about sustainable strategies such as recycling, sheet mulching, smart-water usage and how to replace a lawn using the drought-tolerant UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars. Attend lectures, buy plants, go on a self-guided tour of the garden, enjoy healthful food and have fun with the kids in the Children’s Activity Center.

Sounds like a grand celebration and the perfect launch to a new school year!

Master Gardeners are educators trained by the University of California in horticulture, pest management and home gardening. Among the program’s goals is to produce an annual crop of educated volunteers to join the ranks of seasoned Master Gardeners. This year, Contra Costa Master Gardeners (CCMG) celebrates 30 years of providing research-based, sustainable gardening advice to home gardeners.

View Fair Schedule, Get Directions

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In a review of the environmental education literature, professors Donald J. Burgess and Jolie Mayer-Smith found that research about childhood experiences in wilderness settings was lacking, as were data describing what an active love of nature looks like in young children. In response to this, they created a study in which they documented the reactions and comments of urban students in a wilderness setting. They discuss their findings in Listening to Children: Perceptions of Nature and address how children perceive nature and identify the types of experiences that encourage a love of the natural world.

Burgess and Mayer-Smith (2011) used the framework of environmental values created by Stephen R. Kellert to evaluate children’s reactions to nature. Kellert is the first person to methodically assess and classify how people view nature (Burgess and Mayer-Smith, 2011).

The categories of environmental values created by Kellert are very interesting and they need to be explained in order to discuss Burgess and Mayer-Smith’s findings. Kellert describes values as “the convergence of emotion and cognition” (Burgess and Mayer-Smith, 2011). Through his categories of nature values, he explains the different ways individuals value and perceive nature. Here is a summary of Kellert’s value categories as described by Burgess and Mayer-Smith (2011):

    Scientific-Ecological Valuing – Interests focus on looking for knowledge or information

    Naturalistic Valuing – Interests focus on exploring and discovery

    Symbolic Valuing – When nature is viewed as a source for language or imagination

    Aesthetic Valuing – Formation of emotional connections to nature

    Humanistic Valuing – Similar to Aesthetic

    Utilitarian Valuing – Viewing nature as a source for materials or reward

    Moralistic Valuing – When ethical and spiritual connections are formed with nature

    Dominionistic Valuing – Viewing nature as something to master or control

To conduct their study of how children perceive nature, Burgess and Mayer-Smith (2011) observed two classes of 5th grade students (n=35, age 10-11) while they attended Mountain School, a three-day environmental education class held in the wilderness of North Cascades National Park in Washington. Burgess and Mayer-Smith (2011) worked closely with graduate students, parents, rangers and classroom teachers during their study. They conducted pre-interviews one week before the Mountain School program began, conducted post-interviews one month after the program ended, documented children’s reactions in the field during hikes, and reviewed student journals containing students’ field notes, checklists, worksheets, creative writing entries and drawings.

While using Kellert’s framework, Burgess and Mayer-Smith (2011) found that the framework wasn’t broad enough for their study so they added their own themes and sub themes to each category. In the end, they added 33 themes and sub themes to the framework (Burgess and Mayer-Smith, 2011).

A thorough analysis of the data revealed that the Mountain School program changed children’s perspectives and how they viewed nature. Burgess and Mayer-Smith (2011) saw changes in students’ scientific-ecologocial, naturalistic and symbolic valuing of nature. Students began the program making general observations about nature. During the program they demonstrated an understanding of ecological relationships and ended the program being able to reflect about nature in a creative way (Burgess and Mayer-Smith, 2011).

The authors also observed changes in how students connected with nature on an emotional level. While they began the program having objective and indifferent thoughts about nature, they ended the program talking passionately about their first-hand experiences and the students who at first had some level of fear about nature had their fear reduced by the end of the program (Burgess and Mayer-Smith, 2011).

Burgess and Mayer-Smith (2011) also observed students gaining a new respect for nature and the ability to communicate this new respect to others.

Learning Experiences Encouraging Change

What type of experiences encourage the type of change described above?

Burgess and Mayer-Smith (2011) claim that direct experiences with nature encourage emotional connections and change how children view the natural world. They also state that physically challenging experiences and reflective experiences reinforce children’s emotional connections with nature (Burgess and Mayer-Smith, 2011).

Burgess and Mayer-Smith (2011) provide a thorough explanation about these experiences in their paper and also include student quotes as examples of how student perceptions were changed by the Mountain School program.

Listening to Children: Perceptions in Nature can be viewed online and is available for download as a 17-page PDF. Included with the article are the pre- and post-interview questions used by the authors.

Literature Cited

Burgess, Donald J. and Jolie Mayer-Smith. 2011. Listening to children: perceptions of nature. Journal of Natural History Education and Experience.
5: 27-43. Web. <http://naturalhistorynetwork.org/journal/articles/listening-to-children-perceptions-of-nature> [accessed 17 January 2013]


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