Education Newsletter February 2021
One month into 2021, we welcome all educators to join us as we move forward and set a positive vision for the year. Teachers and students have incredible opportunities to use the Eco-Schools USA program framework to lead the way, advocating for change starting at the local community level.
Food insecurity, energy justice, and safe access to the outdoors – these long-standing inequities have been amplified during the pandemic. Compounding the pandemic’s stressors are student’s and family’s access and continuity to school. As such, our program’s alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals becomes more crucial than ever. We encourage educators to continue facilitating Eco-Schools USA pathways’ essential connections and the three dimensions of Education for Sustainable Development: equity, economics, and the environment. As we begin to move further into the new year, we invite you to learn more about our Equity and Justice commitment.
This month’s continued focus on the Eco-Schools USA Energy Pathway opens up age-appropriate learning opportunities that start with simple energy conservation measures. Delve into more complex issues related to renewable energy, energy justice, and the impacts of excessive heat and climate change on vulnerable communities. Remote learners can access the Eco-Schools USA at Home Energy Audit & Action Plan to assess their energy footprint at home and make a plan to conserve energy. The resources also include links to related activities grouped by age.
Use the energy pathway to introduce middle and high school students to topics related to the impact of urban heat islands on energy use in low-income communities, or effective use of mapping tools to better assess issues relating to energy justice. Look no further than the National Wildlife Federation blog for a recent story about the need to incorporate Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping (EJSM) tools into policymaking to help build healthy and resilient communities.
Educational resources such as the Point of No Return documentary—based on the story of the first solar-powered flight around the world—can also serve as a dynamic jumping off point for students to collaborate, build, and innovate sustainable solutions. The NGSS aligned STEM enrichment curriculum explores clean energy and sustainability and is available for K-12 classrooms and distance-learning. A limited number of Title 1 schools can receive the program at no cost. As always, follow Eco-Schools USA on social media to learn more about the Energy Pathway and SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy.
Take Learning Outside
Students may not be physically in classrooms at the moment, but there are still opportunities for student leadership and community building from wherever they are learning. The National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge™ offers students a way to use their voice to build on the increased gardening momentum during the pandemic to promote community-wide support for creating sustainable habitat for the monarch butterfly and other critical pollinators. The pledge requires mayors and other heads of local or tribal government to commit to taking at least three specific actions from a list of 30 to be completed over a year. Pledges are being accepted now through March 31, 2021.
How can youth advocate as part of the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge?
- Photograph existing pollinator gardens at school and other community spaces! These can demonstrate an existing commitment to sustainable monarch conservation. You can also include those photos in a letter-writing campaign, like the one detailed below.
- Coordinate a letter-writing campaign. This campaign could be to encourage your mayor to sign the pledge and take action for the monarch butterfly. If your city already has a pledge in place or in progress, thank your mayor and local leaders for taking the pledge and for the work they are doing as monarch butterfly stewards!
- Generate community interest by organizing participation in a community science activity to help monitor monarch migration and health.
Explore the helpful National Wildlife Federation tip sheets for creating pollinator gardens and attracting butterflies. There are both English and Spanish language versions of several resources, including Jardín para Polinazadores (Pollinator Gardening) and Atrayendo Mariposas (Attract Butterflies).
Discover New Resources
Getting kids outside during this time of increased virtual learning is more important than ever. To support this commitment, the National Wildlife Federation’s Green Hour program provides kids safe & easy activities to do outdoors.
The National Wildlife Federation’s Green Hour program is designed to encourage parents, schools, childcare centers, park agencies, camps, grandparents, and others to adopt a goal of one hour each day for children to play and learn outdoors in nature.
Each week new activities are added to the searchable list, along with a related Nature Notebook page. Encourage kids to create their own nature notebook using recycled materials or brown paper grocery bags. Recent activities include Be A Winter Photographer and Be of Service. Speaking of photography, did you know that young photographers have several opportunities to showcase their passion for wildlife and nature? The Ranger Rick’s Your Best Shots Photo Contest is an ongoing opportunity for younger kids, while youth 13-17 can enter the National Wildlife Photo Contest now through March 28, 2021.
Keep in mind that safe access to nature and the outdoors is not a reality for all students and their families. Be prepared to make modifications to the activities to better suit the students and their families.
To learn more about inequities in accessing nature, visit our Creating Safe Spaces Initiative webpage and consider watching the roundtable discussions.
Learn About Wildlife
Winter is the perfect time to learn about beluga whales and how they communicate in the often dark, icy Arctic waters. Use the Belugas story in the February issue of Ranger Rick® magazine to introduce young students to the topic of echolocation and to talk about why belugas have the nickname “canaries of the sea”. Include the educational extensions in the February Ranger Rick Educator’s Guide in a lesson about different forms of energy like sound, heat, and motion. After the lesson, ask students to create an infographic detailing the type of energy, source of the energy, and an illustration. For further research about whales, explore the National Wildlife Federation Wildlife Guide.
National Wildlife Federation
- Youth 13-17 are invited to enter the National Wildlife® Magazine photo contest between now and 3/28/21; find more information along with wildlife photography tips & resources
- Students can work on pathways like Consumption & Waste, Biodiversity & Watersheds from outside the classroom with the Eco-Schools USA at Home resources
- Virtual course: Climate Change: Building climate science knowledge to enact local change (grades 9-12)
- Early Childhood Health Outdoor’s (ECHO) resources, including How-To Guides and Nature Play at Home.
- Engage high schoolers in conservation projects, policy & action by signing up for access to a free annual digital subscription to National Wildlife magazine.
- Find virtual classroom resources for at-home learning, including learning activities, educational videos, Ranger Rick Family Guides, & wildlife and pollinator craft activities.
Grants | Award Opportunities
- Applications are now being accepted for the 12th annual Craig Tufts Educational Scholarship Award for youth 8-18! Application deadline is 3/19/21
- The EPA is now accepting nominations for the 2021 President’s Environmental Student and Teacher Awards; applications are due by 2/19/21
Other Resources & Opportunities
- Resources for Black History Month from Teaching for Change
- Take action for wetlands on World Wetlands Day, 2/2/21; learn more about the Watersheds, Oceans, and Wetlands pathways.
- The Great Backyard Bird Count is happening February 15th-21st.
- Engage students in hands-on environmental STEM activities inspired by the Point of No Return documentary. Learn more about the initiative.
- Educators can participate in the NOAA Planet Stewards Book Club; explore the upcoming titles for 2021.
- Youth 11-18 can enter the 10th Annual Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest “Water Rising.”
- Participate in GLOBE Measurement Campaigns. These campaigns are great for virtual and in-person learning experiences.
- Learning about air quality? Explore STEM Online Learning Videos from General Motors, including How to Measure Air Quality Near Your Home.
- Opportunity to learn more about marine ecosystems across the USA with the National Marine Ecosystem Web Portal from NOAA
- Get outside with Green Schoolyards America free Schoolyard Activity Guides.
- The World’s Largest Lesson – Introducing the Sustainable Development Goals to young people.