Environmental Education Explorations

One of the things that I really wanted to focus on upon returning to Pomona from abroad was spending more of my time volunteering.  My volunteering activities usually focus on something related to kids, because I really like working with kids and being in college has a pretty limited age demographic.  So I am excited to tell you about the amazing opportunity I have this semester in taking a class at Pitzer called Theory and Practice in Environmental Education.

Despite the long and somewhat cumbersome title of the class, I think it could turn out to be one of my favorite classes in college.  Basically we read about both environmental issues and teaching issues and discuss these in our weekly class.  That’s the “theory” part.  Outside of class, though, we participate in a program called LEEP, Learning in Environmental Education Partnership.  This is the “practice”.  We meet in small teams to develop curriculum and once a week go up to the Bernard Field Station (BFS) and teach about environmental issues to a class of 5th graders at a local Claremont elementary school.

Students at the BFS (from bfs.claremont.edu)
Students at the BFS (from bfs.claremont.edu)

I have no intention of becoming a teacher (or so I keep telling myself and other people), but I have to say I think this is going to be just about the coolest thing ever.  A lot of work, with meetings and coming up with creative, interactive ways to teach 10 year olds about ecosystems, the water cycle, food webs, local ecology, and so on, but hopefully totally worth it.  In the end I hope they walk away with an understanding that nature is a) awesome and b) all around us and also c) interconnected with us.  We are a part of the natural system.  We can’t just mess it up and move on, pretending it won’t affect us.

Yesterday, Thursday, my LEEP team of fellow college students went to the elementary school class we’ll be working with and met the kids for the first time.  We had lots to tell them—everything from the plants they will see at the BFS (watch out for poison oak!) to the rules (stay on the path!).  I was a bit nervous about how I would be received by the students.  I’m used to working with much younger kids (namely 2 year olds) who are more likely to just love you unconditionally.  Once we split up into groups and I met with my group that I’ll be working with all semester, I wasn’t worried anymore.  They were all extremely excited and we quickly came up with our group’s name, made name tags, talked about our favorite animals, and went on a scavenger hunt around the school yard.  I think we’re going to have a fantastic (but of course also productive) time.

Bernard Field Station  (from bfs.claremont.edu)
Bernard Field Station
(from bfs.claremont.edu)

If we can keep up that enthusiasm all semester, every Thursday morning will be the highlight of my week!  And even if it isn’t quite so new and exciting every time, I think this will still be pretty awesome.  I’m really looking forward to connecting more with kids of the community on a topic I care a lot about: interacting with the environment and practicing sustainability.  I also suspect I will learn as much from my new team of students as they will from me.