Cornell’s Civic Ecology Lab to Lead EPA Environmental Education Program

The Ivy League gets especially green around the southern shore of Cayuga Lake–never more so than when it comes to environmental education.

Cornell University’s Civic Ecology Lab has been chosen to lead the EPA Office of Environmental Education’s environmental education training program, to the tune of a 5-year, $10 million grant. The Civic Ecology Lab focuses on bringing environmental education to disadvantaged or traditionally underserved communities.

From Krishna Ramanujan at the Cornell Chronicle:

Traditionally, environmental educators have focused on pristine, natural environments while teaching in schools, nature centers and outdoor education centers. More recently, a new tradition is emerging in cities, with community development, environmental restoration and social justice groups also teaching environmental education, largely to minority and urban youth. Cornell’s “EECapacity” project seeks to link these two types of educators through workshops, online courses and other means, and to create opportunities to exchange ideas, practices and resources.

Marianne Krasny, professor and chair of the Department of Natural Resources and the project’s principal investigator:

Cornell's famous McGraw Hall and Tower (flickr | andymw91)

“Most young people today are going to experience the environment in urban neighborhoods,” said. “In the largest sense, we are trying to redefine environmental education practice within the reality of an urban society.”

The prestigious Ithaca, NY, school is no stranger to sustainability in higher education, having been featured in NWF’s Campus Ecology Campus Sustainability Case Studies five times to date, most recently for a 2010 “Sustainable Development: Green Jobs for the 21st Century” (PDF) course offered to high school students throughout New York State. Cornell also built New York’s first LEED-certified residence hall, participated in an award-winning Transportation Demand Management Program, and established a Cornell Sustainable Campus Initiative more than five years ago.

Two summers ago, Julian Keniry, NWF’s director of Campus and Community Leadership, reported from an American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Climate Leadership summit that Cornell was investing up to a gross $150 million over the next 30 years to achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals, with an eye toward achieving a net energy savings and creating more than 1,500 new jobs in the region.

The Big Red may not have won a conference championship in football in the last 20 years, but Cornell is at the forefront of exploring ways to make college greener and give back to the community.