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.

Energy Pathway

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.

Solar panels

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.

Mural made by students and volunteers from the Apodaca Youth Directorate. Photo by Isabel Ortiz Soto.

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.

Aerial view of beluga whales in the ocean
Pod of beluga whales in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Photo by NOAA/NMFS/National Marine Mammal Laboratory.

Green Opportunities

National Wildlife Federation

Grants | Award Opportunities

Other Resources & Opportunities

Professional Development