3 Ways the Eco-Schools USA Program Creates Student Leaders

Ten years and over 3 million students! Those are the latest impact numbers from Eco-Schools USA, a global program hosted by the National Wildlife Federation. The program has provided place-based learning opportunities for all ages to become sustainability leaders both at school and in their local community since November, 2009, and is celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary this year. Here are three ways the Eco-Schools USA program is creating student leaders in schools from coast to coast: 

1. A Student Driven Program to Support Transformative Action

The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow! The Green Team Superheroes at Wilmot Elementary in Colorado recently received the Presidential Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) in Washington, D.C., as a result of their leadership skills and transformative action project. Wilmot’s project was one of just ten chosen for recognition from across the nation in the K-5 category.

The award came on the heels of the school recently earning their Eco-Schools USA Green Flag Award. These young student leaders organized classroom energy audits, delivered presentations, and led discussions with the school principal regarding suggested energy-saving actions. In addition to the energy savings campaign, the Green Team Superheroes conducted a waste reduction campaign and organized a school-wide contest to promote healthy eating.

Photo Credit: Lisa Dewil

2. Opportunities for Cross-Cultural Environmental Studies

Beyond age, memes, and social media savviness, high school students from Taiwan and Southern California discovered how much they shared in common when they came together to tackle today’s biggest conservation issues on coastlines. For eight days, students converged on the campus of University of California, San Diego (UCSD) for the Student Conservation Leadership Summit, hosted by the National Wildlife Federation and the Ministry of Education Taiwan. Students found common ground as they developed environmental inquiries around the theme of “Watersheds, Oceans, and Wetlands – Water Connects Us All.” By the end of the Summit, students were able to appreciate and include the value of cultural knowledge in support of environmental science.

Student Conservation Leadership Summit
2019 Student Conservation Leadership Summit
Photo Credit: SCLS staff

Students discovered the unique needs and concerns of water outside and inside their communities by using the WOW (Watersheds, Oceans and Wetlands) Eco-Schools USA pathway framework. The Summit provided students with the opportunity to combine their cultural knowledge with scientific resources at the intersection of social and environmental justice. Students visited the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Birch Aquarium, and Torrey Pines State Reserve where Kumeyaay scholars, tribal elders, and members led the students through indigenous science and knowledge of their native land.

“Today we learned how important it is for our future to understand and apply both common and native knowledge.”

Rising junior, Azul Del Castillo

3. Connections to Relevant Issues Using the 12 Pathways

Photo Credit: Foundation for Environmental Education

The Eco-Schools USA pathways are considered the vehicles student leaders and their teams use to address school sustainability. Areas of focus include Biodiversity, Climate Change, Consumption and Waste, and Sustainable Food, and showcase the range of global issues confronting young people today and into the future. As an example, students from several Eco-Schools across the globe participated in the Youth Climate March earlier in 2019, and plan to participate again in the global Youth Climate Strike on September 20th. Additionally, on September 21st, young leaders from around the world will gather in New York City to participate in the United Nations Youth Climate Action Summit in efforts to bring attention to the critical need for climate action now and to showcase climate solutions.

Visit our website to learn more about the Eco-Schools USA Program

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