One of the core concepts of the Outdoor Education program is the principle of interdependence. A major element of this concept is the responsibility of all people to consider how their lives have an affect on the ecology of the planet. Through involvement in environmental action projects, students learn that they are able to make positive contributions to the health of the environment. School or class action projects are meaningful ways for students to make a difference.
Action projects involve many educational rewards for students. First, students have an opportunity for hands-on involvement in real issues facing their community. Projects require problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. A class action project also uses cooperative skills and allows students to see how their actions affect not only themselves but also their community and the natural world.
Conducting an action project generally requires initiation by the teacher. A teacher serves as a guide in helping students choose a project that is realistic and will have a positive impact. However, most of the brainstorming, planning, decision-making, and work should be done by the students. This allows students to experience the challenges and rewards of taking ownership of a project.
Action projects vary in time commitment. Some provide an ongoing opportunity for action throughout a school year or longer. Some suggested project ideas are provided below. However, the possibilities are endless. The needs and interests of each community and the group of students make each action project a unique experience. (Refer to the fundraising section for a list of resources for raising money or obtaining grants.) Also, be sure to publicize your action projects and contact Outdoor Education to let us know what your group is doing, so we can share this information with others.
A Recycling Program
Recycling has grown tremendously over the past years in response to the waste disposal crisis in our country. The benefits of recycling to the environment are clear by reducing the use of incinerators or landfills, conserving energy, decreasing logging demands, and reducing pollution. The majority of waste from our society is paper, and recycling programs should attempt to handle as many types of paper as possible. Schools can target two sources for recyclable items. They can set up recycling containers in the classrooms, offices, halls, and cafeteria of the school to collect waste. Students can encourage everyone to reduce waste and monitor the decrease in waste over time to evaluate the success of their program (i.e. the number of full dumpster loads removed per month). Recycling is most successful when well marked and conveniently located containers make recycling nearly effortless as using a trash can. The second area that an action project can target is homes within the community if curbside recycling is not available. A school can provide a drop-off time and location for parents and other residents to donate their recyclables to the school project.
Youth Enterprise Recycling
2666 Bay Rd.
Redwood City, CA 94063
Provides containers and pick-up service for aluminum, glass, office paper, cardboard, and newspaper; cash redemption for materials dropped off and possible pick-up services. Serves all of San Mateo County.
A Clean-Up Project
Students can choose a local natural area such as a park, beach, school grounds, lake, stream, marsh, etc. and adopt that site for clean-up or conservation. Trash and debris in aquatic ecosystems is dangerous for wildlife and unpleasant for visitors. Clean-up projects are a fun opportunity to be outside exploring a natural area. Most of all, students are able to see the benefits of their work immediately. Selecting one location gives students a connection to the land. It can be combined with public awareness campaigns about litter or the protection of natural areas. Classes can participate in water quality studies, bird surveys, or other environmental research projects in their area.
Provides information and materials for clean-up of bays, reservoirs, marshes, streams, and beaches. Provides data collection cards for monitoring pollution.
A Tree Planting Project
Trees are a very valuable part of the ecosystem as they provide oxygen, protect soil, provide animal habitat, and clean the air. However, urban and suburban development often results in the removal of trees for the development of sites. Many communities have begun urban reforestation projects to improve the ecology and beauty of the streets, parks, and other areas. Tree planting is a great hands-on experience of caring for the environment and contributing to the local community. Planting trees indigenous to an area provides natural habitat and food for animals. A planting project provides an opportunity to learn about botany and the role of trees in ecosystems. Two programs are available: Fruition, covering fruit tree education and distribution to schools, and Planting for the Second Hundred Years.
Hillary Hug or David Schrom
An Energy Project
Energy conservation is a money-saving and environmentally beneficial practice for all homes and institutions. Electrical power generation is a major source of pollution and other ecological problems. Coal and oil power plants pollute the air; oil drilling and transportation leads to oil spills, coal mining destroys land and pollutes water; hydroelectric dams drastically change river ecosystems; and nuclear plants are a public health threat and generate radioactive waste. Only a small percentage of our electricity is generated by renewable resources such as solar or wind power.
www.energy.ca.gov for ideas and information.
A School Garden Project
Building a school garden is a way for students to understand more about how the land provides food and the importance of caring for the soil. A school garden can expand into a community project, educating others, and giving people a chance to work together. In urban settings, container gardening is an option when field space is unavailable. A way to reduce and reuse waste would be to use old containers from residences and local businesses for plants. Composting is a natural method of recycling food waste into fertilizer and soil for a garden.
Life Lab Science Program
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
Provides elementary school science materials for use with school gardens, including ideas about designing and building a garden.
A School Compost Project
Students can compost at school whether or not you have a school garden. Composting demonstrates nature's processes of decomposition, turning organic waste materials into new soil, and allows students to become familiar with the nutrient cycle. Students can build a compost bin for use in the schoolyard to be filled with garden and food scraps. Students can also use vermiculture bins or worm composting to be filled with classroom food scraps. Composting reduces waste, allows students to observe and participate in the nutrient cycle, and provides great new soil for a school garden or for classroom planting projects.
www.recycleworks.org/compost/index.html for ideas, information, and access to composting materials.
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