Virginia’s Hanover-Caroline Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is working with teachers to expand conservation education opportunities within the Hanover County Public Schools district.
Hanover-Caroline SWCD staff facilitated a Project Learning Tree (PLT) professional development program for teachers prior to the start of the school year to guide teachers on how to integrate environmental education into their classrooms.
“It’s a great way to bring an interdisciplinary approach to caring for the environment, and it helps students connect to the environment in a way that is locally relevant,” Hanover-Caroline SWCD Education Specialist Karen Fetty said.
Fetty, who was a teacher in Caroline County more than a decade ago when schools were first beginning to incorporate environmental education, is helping Hanover Schools implement PLT’s GreenSchools Investigations this year.
PLT’s five GreenSchools Investigations help students “lead the way” in discovery by gathering data on their school’s energy, environmental quality, school site, waste and recycling and water. The investigations are hands-on interdisciplinary experiences that broaden students’ understanding of their local school environment and the actions they can take to conserve it.
While Hanover-Caroline SWCD has worked with schools at all grade levels, the conservation district is currently targeting its PLT GreenSchools efforts at the middle school level. Last year, the conservation district introduced all five investigations through its Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) Field Day with sixth graders. Students rotated between stations and performed various activities related to the five investigative topics.
This year, the Hanover School Board asked Hanover-Caroline SWCD to implement the Environmental Quality, Waste and Recycling and Water Investigations as pilot programs at one middle school.
“We want to help teachers and administrators create a culture of environmental literacy in their schools,” Fetty said. “The PLT GreenSchools Investigations encourage issue identification, research and locally relevant action projects, which extend MWEEs well beyond outdoor field days.”
“It’s really about learning how we can all be better stewards of our natural resources,” she said. “It’s also a lot about building relationships and finding champions in every school who will help create that climate of environmental responsibility and stewardship.”
Hanover-Caroline SWCD hopes to expand the program into additional schools and grade levels next year.