EEK - Environmental Education for Kids
Leading EEK has been quite an experience. In some ways it has been
exactly what I expected (organizing students and contacting teachers) and in
other ways it has surprised me immensely (realizing how many students are interested
in the program and how few teachers are flexible with their schedules and their
curriculum). The expected and the unexpected have both been exciting and I have
learned a lot. My goal with this final report is to reflect on what I hoped
would happen during this semester, what did happen during the semester, and
what I hope will happen in the future.
On Original Goals and Objectives
I determined my initial goals and objectives for the internship in early September. Looking back on them now, I was quite ambitious. I am fortunate, however, because I will be the president of EEK for a full school year and so these personal aspirations do not need to end when the semester comes to a close next week. The more expansive, larger goals can still be met. And, we are definitely on the right track. The club meets regularly, almost every Wednesday at eight in the evening at the Outhose, and we have become a supportive community. Although only a small percentage of the 117 students on the club’s listserv attend the meetings, there is a good group of students who are normally there and who contribute greatly to the club. We are coming up with new lesson plans, deciding on uniform curriculum for each group to use when they go into the classroom, and discussing pertinent information that will help everyone to be more successful while teaching. Overall, my original goals have been and are being met. And, I then they were by and large good goals to begin the semester with.
As the leader of EEK, I organized student meetings, maintained and updated ASWC recognition, corresponded and coordinated with local teachers, and helped Whitman students in general to go into local classrooms. This involved a good deal of organization, time, and people skills.
The first thing I did this semester was advertise around campus to get more students involved in EEK. I had a booth at the Activity’s Fair which was a great success. Our listserv was substantially increased and I was able to speak to a lot of new and current students about the club. I was surprised how many upperclassmen had just never heard of EEK. Because of this, I think more advertising would be beneficial and necessary in the future to keep the club going. The other bonus about the Activity’s Fair is that a lot of freshmen attend this event. It is crucial for a club’s longevity to have new students involved so that they can carry the club on for years to come. Already, there are a number of freshman who regularly attend meetings and I see most of them continuing and increasing their involvement with EEK during their time here at Whitman.
At our first EEK meeting I passed around a sign-up sheet so that club members could sign up with when they were available to teach during the school week. I then used this information to organize student groups and determine the best times for them to go to the classroom. I contacted teachers next. This was much more difficult than I had anticipated. I assumed that we would have many interested teachers and they would be available whenever we could teach. I sent out a mass email to most of the teachers on the lists I received from Professor Kay Fenimore-Smith and last year’s EEK president Kristen Kirkby and only heard back from two teachers. I learned quickly that this was going to be tough and I started calling teachers during their lunch breaks to try to get them interested in the program. Finally, I reached enough teachers for five groups of students to teach in separate classes.
The other main subject I focused on was compiling information to be used for the club now and, especially, for the future. I looked on-line and in books for lesson plans and have started putting together some master lists and descriptions of these teaching tools. In addition, I compiled a list of websites and other resources to be used by Whitman students to help them research lesson plans. I also made up a list of children’s books that relate to the environment with specific descriptions of what type of lessons they would fit into. Most significantly, I created a list of local WWPS teachers who have been involved in the club this semester to add to the lists I received from Kay and Kristen. All of these things are in the new EEK binder which will be handed down over the years and hopefully used often.
These are the main, specific actions I took this semester to make EEK a strong and approachable club.
After two Whitman students and I finished teaching our first EEK class at Edison Elementary in October, I realized that all of the work I have done for EEK this semester has been more than worth it. There is nothing quite like relating to fifth graders and seeing them understand the interconnectedness in the environment you are trying to teach. The three of us left the classroom glowing.
Working with and getting to know so many Whitman students has been a pleasure. The amount of knowledge, creativity, and general enthusiasm that is shared at EEK meetings are inspiring. As the students of local schools encourage us, we share our encouragement with each other. In doing this, I believe we are building the foundation for something very important here. Through education, we have the power to promote and inspire change.
Problems and Difficulties
Personally, I have learned a lot through contacting teachers. This has been the greatest struggle, especially since I did not anticipate that it would be difficult. Also, staying proactive has been hard. It is easy to put things off for a few days, but because the semester is not long and it is better to form relationships with teachers earlier on, this has been a bit of an issue. In terms of the students involved in the club, the biggest problem has been varying levels of commitment. Since we are responsible for going into local classrooms, students must be held accountable and commit themselves to the club. In the future, it should be made clear that it is not ok to back out of teaching the night before your group is supposed to teach. Also, everyone in the group should be involved in planning lessons and obtaining all the necessary materials. This has been an issue this semester and it is something that I have addressed at meetings to try and overcome.
Focusing now on the schools that I have tried to connect with, the difficulties have been in: skepticism about EEK, tight and binding curriculum, and teachers who are inconsistent or go back on their word after agreeing to participate. Teachers seem stuck in their ways and have a hard time seeing an
opportunity when it comes their direction.
Recommendations and Solutions
As the president of EEK this semester, I have had to deal with a lot of unanticipated problems and work out general kinks in the club. This has led me to many conclusions and I have come up with some ways to remedy the problems we are running into. I have already implemented some of these solutions and some are just tips for the future of what I think should be done next time.
Personally, I should have started planning earlier. I did not anticipate that it would be so difficult to contact and hear back from teachers. With this knowledge, I would have contacted them early and often to have things squared away so that students could begin to go into classrooms before they became overloaded with their own schoolwork. Creating a database of interested teachers will help in this process.
For the club in general, I think that we must continue to plan curriculum as a group. If a group knows a lesson plan ahead of time that they can use then they will not feel burdened with work for EEK. When we meet as a club, so many wonderful ideas come up and it becomes very simple to plan curriculum. I can then gather whatever resources and materials are necessary for these lesson plans so groups do not need to meet extensively outside of our regular meeting times. Also, all group members should be encouraged to attend regular EEK meetings so that we can discuss things as a larger group and they can then break into their teaching group to plan their lessons accordingly. This would prevent groups from having to meet outside of EEK meeting times and would allow for us to all share information together.
For the local schools, I hope to have teachers give us feedback at the end of the year so that we can know what we are doing well and what we can work on. Then, we can start to form better relationships with these individual teachers which will hopefully extend to include the entire science department of that
school or the whole school in general. I know that we do indeed have the means to do this successfully.
Resources and Contacts
Please see the binder that I have been working on for resources and contacts.
Resources (on-line and print), lesson plans, a list of suggested books to read, a list of teachers contacted, template of a letter sent to teachers, a wish list of things to buy, and other general information that has been collected this semester.
This binder will be combined with the old EEK binder once it is revamped.
With these resources and contacts, EEK will move forward more smoothly and quickly this year and for years to come, armed with the proper tools and dedicated student involvement.