The NWF Eco-Schools Challenge

Our latest issue of Ranger Rick magazine’s (rangerrick.org) extra cover jacket sported a short, almost hidden little column on “Empowering Students to be Environmental Stewards.” And it questioned whether our local schools were part of the “Eco-Schools USA Program.” This of course caught my eye.

What is this “Eco-Schools,” you say?

It all began internationally but arrived in the states through the National Wildlife Federation (nwf.org) and was launched in 2009. In the United States there are now over 5,000 schools participating! Go NWF and United Nations!

“Developed in 1994 by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), Eco-Schools is a response to the needs identified at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Today Eco-Schools is the largest global sustainable schools program, spanning 69 countries that together reach more than 50,000 schools worldwide. The National Wildlife Federation was granted host status in 2008 and, as the national operators in the United States, launched Eco-Schools USA in 2009.”

– Eco-Schools USA
(http://nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA/Framework/About)

Our neighborhood school already makes an effort with electronic fliers (to cut down on paper consumption), an outdoor learning garden (which they received a grant from a garden center for), the recycling program, a composting program in limbo (that just needs more volunteers!), and its semiannual walk/bike to work day. How can our school get involved with this Eco-School designation?

Checking out their website (nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA), it is chock full of educational material. This includes school audits which can even be formatted as a role-play for the students, forming a school volunteer and staff action team, integrating green STEM curriculum for K-5th and 7th-12th, and downloadable materials in full detail (with worksheet handouts and all), plus a timeline for recognizing dates (such as curriculum topics, recycling, walking/biking, water use, etc.).

As a member of the FEE, they are also a member of UNESCO and work with an educational focus on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals:

“Sustainable development cannot be achieved by technological solutions, political regulation, or financial instruments alone. It requires quality education and learning for sustainable development at all levels and in all social contexts. Education for Sustainable Development is about enabling students to constructively and creatively address present and future global challenges and create more sustainable and resilient societies.”

-Education for Sustainable Development, Eco-Schools USA
http://nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA/Framework/About

There is an entire page with downloadable, grade-specific action plans regarding sustainability topics (see below image from the website):

Action Plans or “Pathways to Sustainability.”
Each of these has grade specific downloadable material accessible on the website.

The project based learning monarch migration education is SPOT ON. And this is something to note for us Texans, since their only migratory pathway out of Mexico into the United States/Canada is through US!

https://www.nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA/Resources/Curriculum/Monarch-Mission

There are free courses to engage in with your students such as this one (click on image to link):

http://nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA/Resources/Professional-Development

All in all, I subscribed to their newsletter and will speak with school staff (especially regarding the school grounds, water conservation and the monarch program). I am looking forward to implementing more of the topics outlined in their Sustainability Pathways to help our kids better develop their futures.

(On the topic of ‘biodiversity’ – I knew that Bill Nye DVD was useful! I can’t discuss the topic enough with my own kids.)

Banner photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels.

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