Sydra Cooperdock
Envs 220: Internship
5 May 2006

Environmental Education for Kids
Final Report

At the beginning of the semester, I set goals for myself, as EEK coordinator, and for the club itself. I planned on starting up meetings on campus and rejuvenating the use of the listserv to excite students about EEK. I wanted to look through the materials available in the EEK store closet, especially the notes from previous years (mostly those records kept in the late 1990s when EEK began). Also, I intended to contact the local teachers who had previously been involved with EEK or were interested in becoming involved. I wanted to form groups that would work together in the classroom, as well as establish curriculum ideas and activities. I also need to secure leadership for the next semester since I will be abroad. In addition, it would be extremely beneficial for EEK to have a club table during the opening weekend of fall semester’s poster sale/club sign-up.

By mid-semester, I had established goals, taken initiative to involve new members with EEK and taken care of some logistics, but I unfortunately had started some aspects of the internship a little late. The ASWC Representative and I put together a budget for EEK at the beginning of the semester to ensure that we would have some funds for any potential supplies; we have to spend some of the money if we want EEK to continue to be funded and recognized by ASWC. Based upon the gems I found in the black box of old EEK records—curriculum ideas, old meeting minutes, the mission statement, as well as other little interesting tidbits from the early years of the club—I wrote up some ideas of my own about possible curriculums and fun activities to do with the kids.

The first meeting I set up for EEK had a small turn out but we came up with some exciting, progressive ideas (some of my original ideas as well as many new): the possibility of classes taught in Spanish; the emphasis on different aspects of environmentalism that each teacher possesses as her or his forte and how they could all be effectively brought into the classroom; curriculum and project ideas, such as water conservation, resource conservation awareness—in home and with regard to everyday activities, recycled art, seed planting, reading books, and general outdoor activities. In consideration to the actual structure of the in-classroom curriculum, we thought it would beneficial if the interactive activities led into an environmental message or lesson the EEK teachers wished to relay to the kids.

I ended up setting two groups towards the end of the semester to go out into the classroom: both went to elementary classes (first and third grade). The groups both began with the concept of ‘recycling’ and its implications. Most importantly, when visiting an elementary class, plan a hands-on activity and have questions that will provoke thought on the part of the students. For example, we brought an array of recyclable and non-recyclable items, broke the kids into groups and had them figure out what is what; asked them why recycling is good; talked about the Three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, why is ‘recycle’ last? and asked the kids what nature means to them along with other engaging, open-ended questions.

Also, towards the end of the semester I worked with another environmental studies intern to visit a class of older students (middle and early high school ages) at The Palouse Community School. The two of us set up a much more intellectually engaging lesson centered on agriculture. Walla Walla is surrounded by agriculture and it makes a good portion of the local economy, thus we were able to bring our lesson into their local framework. Applying a localized aspect to an environmental lesson greatly increases involvement and desire on the part of the students, making the lesson flow much more smoothly. Here is a rough outline of our agricultural lesson plan (which could be possibly used as a guide to a future lesson):

Introduction: who we are, where we are from and what we are doing

Frame the discussion around local agricultural statistics

Then ask questions:

I. Can you name some agriculture techniques? Some examples are:

1. irrigation
2. till
3. no-till
4. terraced or stepped fields
5. dry crops
6. crop burning
7. crop rotation

II. Do any of you have relatives/friends involved in agriculture? What kind? What techniques do they use?

III. What are some of the pros and cons of these different techniques?

1. irrigation

a. possibility of water shortages; wasted water
b. erosion, chemical runoff
c. channeling which can cause erosion, runoff and increase eutrophication within channel while greatly decreasing water supply from original stream
d. drip irrigation: uses less water and directly applying it to plant roots

2. till

a. soil loses carbon and other nutrients
b. loss of soil moisture
c. soil exhaustion
d. increases soil erosion and runoff

3. no-till

a. holds moisture
b. decrease loss of soil nutrients
c. decreases soil erosion and runoff

4. terraced or stepped fields

a. decreases erosion
b. ability to utilize hills for agriculture

5. dry crops

a. crop depends entirely upon natural rainfall and does not need irrigation
b. decreases environmental impact of crop

6. crop burning

a. reduces soil nutrients
b. increases loss of soil moisture
c. possibility of air pollution

7. crop rotation

a. soil does not become exhausted
b. increases life of entire farm
c. if organic: replenishes soil nutrients without fertilizers

IV. Small Scale Agriculture

1. techniques

a. no-till
b. crop rotation
c. drip irrigation

2. pros

a. ability to maintain soil health
b. increases possibility of organic agriculture
c. decreased use of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers

3. cons

a. less income
b. less production
c. sometimes more work if attempting to abide by environmental standards

V. Large Scale Agriculture

1. techniques

a. some form of irrigation
b. mono cultures (more common)
c. dry agriculture
d. crop burning
e. terraced or stepped fields
f. till—recently more farms are switching to no-till (yay!)

2. pros

a. ability for larger production
b. more money
c. techniques are generally less labor intensive

3. cons

a. increases environmental degradation
b. high uses of herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers

i. erosion
ii. runoff
iii. soil exhaustion

VI. Then bring the students back to the original idea of agriculture in Walla Walla and ask them what sorts of techniques they like best, how they feel about sustainable agriculture, etc.

VII. Conclude lesson by asking them what they learned, if they enjoyed it, etc.

This outlines can hopefully help others interested in continuing EEK and help them figure out how to structure a lesson plan. This semester was spent mostly trying to rekindle EEK’s presence on campus. I feel that was accomplished but also that much more needs to be done to make sure it doesn’t slip out of sight. Next semester and year, the focus of EEK should be on more campus recruitment and continued contact with local elementary teachers as well as classroom visits. If we wish to remain recognized and funded as a group by ASWC, we’ll have to come up with concrete needs, such as environmental youth literature, project supplies, etc. There is a lot of passion and environmental knowledge on campus. And EEK needs an enthusiastic, vocal leader to stir up excitement.