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Teaching About the Earth:
Ideas for environmental educators

Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education
Debbie Carraway, Hi Hill Outdoor School, Star Route, La Canada, CA 91011, (626) 792-8634,; The AEOE hosts conferences, publishes a newsletter, and offers other resources to support educators who want to incorporate outdoor environmental education into their lesson plans.

Association for Experiential Education
2305 Canyon Blvd., Suite 100, Boulder, CO 80302, (303) 440-8844,; The AEE provides teachers with information on accreditation, a job bulletin, a journal, and networking with other educators.

Association for the Study of Literature and Environment,
Department of English, Davidson College, Davidson, NC 28306, (704) 894-2487,; This organization is a resource for teachers of nature writing, ecocriticism, and other courses in writing and the environment.

Center for Environmental Education
Antioch New England Institute, 40 Avon St., Keene, NH 03431, (603) 355-3251,; The Center advances K-12 environmental education through a grant program, a curricula library, outreach programs, and a database of youth groups.

Destination Conservation
10511 Saskatchewan Dr., Edmonton, AB T6E 4S1 Canada, (780) 433-8711,; Help your school, whether in the United States or Canada, do an environmental retrofit to lower utility bills and create healthier, greener classrooms.

Institute for Earth Education
Cedar Cove, Greenville, WV 24945, (304) 832-6404,; This international group of environmental educators offers resources for designing and implementing successful learning programs.

National Environmental Education Advancement Project
College of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, WI 54481, (715) 346-4179,; This national organization supports educators and administrators who are creating environmental education programs at the state and local levels.

North American Association For Environmental Education
1825 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 800, Washington, DC 20009, (202) 884-8912,; The NAAEE promotes environmental education throughout North America (and beyond) with conferences, publications, and training sessions.

Online projects, lesson plans, and resources

Acorn naturalists Acorn Naturalists provides curricula and other resources for hands-on environmental education.

Art and Ecology Find resources for integrating art and environmental issues in the classroom as well as an online exhibition of contemporary ecological art.

Books for Young People on Environmental Issues Illinois's EPA suggests fiction and nonfiction selections for grades K through 6 and 7 through 12, plus activity resources for teachers.

Center for Ecoliteracy This Berkeley-based group publishes Ecoliteracy: Mapping the Terrain, an introduction to ecoliteracy, and The Edible Schoolyard, a guide to using garden projects in schools.

EEK! Environmental Education for Kids The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources offers enjoyable educational resources for teachers, parents, and kids in grades 4 through 8.

EPA's Environmental Education Center The EPA provides curriculum resources and activities, ideas for community service projects, and information about awards, workshops, conferences, jobs, and scholarships. Educators for grades K through 12 can subscribe to a curricula-discussion list by e-mailing with the message "subscribe k12_environet firstname lastname."

Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment Find out how your students can perform environmental observations and share their data online with scientists and other schools.

Green Teacher This quarterly magazine seeks to enhance environmental and global education at all grade levels, providing practical tips, ready-to-use activities, and resource reviews. The National Gardening Association offers inspirational classroom stories, articles about basic botany, educational activities, and other resources for gardening with kids.

Sharing Environmental Education Knowledge The state of Minnesota, which has operated an Office of Environmental Education since 1990, offers extensive resources that could provide a model for other states.

Sierra Club Environmental Education Check out the Sierra Club's selection of news, articles, programs, Web sites, and other resources for environmental education.

Sierra Club Environmental Education Activists List
Apply to join this listserv if you want to discuss public policy and help counter assaults on environmental education. For more information, send an e-mail to LISTSERV@LISTS.SIERRACLUB.ORG with no subject and the message INFO CE-EE-ACTIVISTS.

by Julie Monahan

Sunny Friday afternoons can seem interminable, as students gaze longingly out the windows and teachers struggle to keep their attention. But in Kirkland, Washington, the 120 middle-schoolers at the Environmental and Adventure School are already outside, exploring the forested wetlands of neighboring Big Finn Hill Park.

This public school centers its entire curriculum around environmental and outdoor activities. Students learn science by calculating biodiversity losses and English by reading nature essays. They meet county park naturalists, ethnobotanists, and salmon preservationists and learn about the roles these people play in their communities.

At the end of the school week, students fan out to one of four outdoor classrooms, where they may sweat through riverbank restoration at a former salmon-bearing creek, plan a schoolyard habitat for native plants and birds, or continue construction on a Salish tribe plank house. "At my old school, field trips meant we had to stay still a lot," says Cory Zeitlin, 12. "Here we really get to go out and explore."

What students see around this Seattle suburb are salmon-depleted streams, heavily logged woodlands, and sprawl. At least to some students, the conclusions are obvious. "I'm learning that the earth might be completely destroyed, but if we help now, we might be able to preserve it," says Francine Iacono, 12, who wants to start her own environmental organization one day.

Research by the State Education and Environment Roundtable in San Diego indicates that students learn better when teachers relate their curriculum to the kids' cultural and natural environments. Test scores increase, reading levels rise, and teachers report fewer disciplinary problems. Such programs also give students an appreciation for the natural world and a desire to help take care of it.

by Carol Schuck Scheiber

An increasing emphasis on the links between faith and ecology is showing up in classes, camps, and projects aimed at teaching that loving God means loving the earth (see "The Second Creation Story," November/December 1998). Religious education can help develop two badly needed faculties: the ability to embrace the wonder of creation and a sense of ethical responsibility to care for it.

"Prayer and God and religion are not all about sitting in cold and, for some of us, sterile synagogues," says Nili Simhai, education director at Teva Learning Center in New York City. Teva specializes in immersing urban kids in nature. "When we go out into God's creation, it's one of the best times for us to recognize God the Creator. The kids pick up on that right away. We don't have to spell it out for them."

Founded in 1994, Teva is one of five organizations in the United States. dedicated to Jewish environmental education for children. It runs overnight camps at several East Coast sites, catering to students at Jewish schools. The camps are kosher, and the programs integrate classic outdoor education with prayers, rituals, and theology.

Many Christian schools and churches take advantage of programs exported by "earth literacy" centers, such as the Franciscan Earth Literacy Center in Tiffin, Ohio. Founded in 1994 by the Sisters of St. Francis, the center takes ecology into the region's public and Catholic schools, hosts day camps and overnight camps, offers gardening classes, and even hosts a prayerful summer solstice celebration. It is one of roughly 250 U.S. ecology centers founded by nuns.

Other churches turn to programs such as Timber-Lee Christian Center, which runs sophisticated on-site environmental education in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area, fine-tuning the religious content to the denomination.

Sisters of Earth, Sister Kathy Erard, O.P., 707 E. Sienna Heights Dr., Apt. 15, Adrian, MI 49221, (517) 263-1376, A network of nuns and other religious women involved in various environmental projects, including children's environmental education.

Environmental Justice Resource Manual, $20 (plus $3 shipping)
This manual provides teaching resources and project ideas for teens and parish youth groups. It's available from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, 415 Michigan Ave. N.E., Suite 40, Washington, DC 20017, (202) 636-3825,,

Let the Earth Teach You Torah, by Ellen Bernstein and Rabbi Daniel Fink, $23
This book is a compendium of material for teaching Jewish environmental education. Available from Teva Learning Center, 307 Seventh Ave. #900, New York, NY 10001, (860) 824-3175.

Evangelical Environmental Network, 10 East Lancaster Ave., Wynnewood, PA 19096, (800) 650-6600, EEN offers resources on Christian environmentalism, including children's education.

National Religious Partnership For The Environment, 1047 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10025; (212) 316-7441, The NRPE can help link you with hundreds of religion/environment programs for youth.

The Spirituality Outreach Guide, The Biodiversity Project, 214 North Henry St., Suite 201, Madison, WI 53703, (608) 250-9876,; Offers excellent advice on introducing environmental programs to religious groups.

Timber-Lee Christian Center, Mike Manke, Director of Science Education Center, N-8705 Scout Rd., East Troy, WI 53120, (262) 642-7345, Offers wilderness adventures like whitewater rafting and backpacking for youth and families.

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