Missouri Environmental Education News: August 2021

Welcome to the lastest edition of MEEA's Newsletter
Lesli Moylan Photo

Table of Contents

  • Lesson Resources
  • Feature Article
  • Kudos
  • Upcoming Events, Workshops & Grants
  • MEEA News Highlights

Dear MEEA Members,

Wow, the world is a bit overwhelming right now, right? From the IPCC report on climate change to the suffering in Afghanistan to another school year with a full-on pandemic, sometimes I feel like my heart is going to burst from the weight of it all.  But that’s only part of the story, and I love that this job helps me remember that. Please check out this month’s kudos for some feel good stories.  I hope, if you are overwhelmed by the heaviness in the world right now, that reading these nuggets of information will lighten your load a bit.

Another way we’d like to lighten your load–with a mini-grant to offset costs for an EE project! Our mini-grants for educators is open for just a few more days, the deadline is Aug. 30. To be eligible for one of the three available $250 grants, you must be a Professional Member of MEEA. The cost is just $25 (or pay what you can) for a Professional Membership currently. It’s not a huge application-matter of fact, it’s great to be brief but clear, so you still have time. More details on the MEEA grants page.

One final note, the Board of Directors and I are planning some changes to our membership structure beginning in 2021 that will help us better serve you and generate much-needed revenue to sustain our operations. To help us plan, we invite you to take our member survey and share what you want from your MEEA membership. It’s fast, we promise.

Thank you for all you do, you wonderful educators and EE supporters! You are amazing!

Lesli Moylan, Executive Director

Article: Reducing Plastic Waste at School and at Home


 Laurie Davis, MEEA Treasurer and Educator Outreach Coordinator with City of Springfield Environmental Services 

Picture with blue water bottle contributed by Lesli Moylan (Want a MEEA sticker? Have a meetup with Lesli or a VISTA and we’ll bring you one!)

Picture with reusable lunch containers contributed by Laurie Davis
(and the picnic table outside her office)

A recent, pre-COVID, study by the World Wildlife Federation reports that US schools throw away approximately 530,000 tons of food waste every year. That equates to about 39 pounds of food waste per school per year. While there are many factors that contribute to food waste in schools, reduction is possible with the implementation of some “Low Waste Lunch” strategies. No matter what plan is being implemented as schools begin the process of reopening, low waste lunch strategies can be incorporated both at school and within students’ homes. Consider encouraging students and their families to try out one or more of the following practices. For older students, include tracking what type of an impact some of the strategies have on personal waste reduction.

Low waste lunch challenge:
How many of these ideas can you try? Track your progress—what do you notice after a week? A month? 3 months? 6 months?

Lunch box—choose to reuse! Whether you choose an insulated, soft side box, or a metal carrier, start your journey to low waste lunches by choosing a reuseable lunch box.
Storage containers—avoid those plastic baggies—invest in reuseable storage containers. Put your sandwich in one, snack items in another and you’re ready to eat anywhere!
Utensils-pack up your spoon and fork from the silverware drawer for those lunches that aren’t finger foods.
Beverage-Investing in a thermos will provide you with a lunch time beverage break that keeps your cold liquids cold and your hot liquids hot! Or choose to invest in a refillable water bottle to contribute to ongoing efforts to reduce use of single use plastic bottles.
Napkin-a reuseable cloth napkin will reduce paper waste from paper napkins or paper towels.

Now that the lunch box is assembled, it’s time to consider food options. The goal of a low waste lunch challenge is to reduce not only the solid waste generated from packaging, but also food waste. Consider trying some of the following ideas:
Subdivide servings. Buy the larger container of yogurt or chips or apple sauce and subdivide into smaller single serving sizes packed in your collection of reuseable containers.
Go natural. Try to include at least one item each lunch that is “wrapped” in its own packaging—oranges, apples, bananas for example.
Pack only what you know you’ll eat. Keep a supply of a non-perishable food item as a reserve snack just in case you underestimate your hunger level on a certain day. Foods like almonds, beef jerky, granola or dried fruit are good to keep stashed for emergency hunger moments.

Activity-plastics scavenger hunt
Grade level-3-8

Teacher info-A large amount of waste comes from packaging. Plastic packaging in particular is a challenge. Some plastics are not recyclable, and while their light weight makes them ideal for easy transport, it also makes plastic packaging susceptible to escape out into the environment. Plastic waste that ends up on land eventually makes its way into a water source, which frequently then ends up in the ocean—where it lingers and slowly degrades into microscopic pieces scientists refer to as microplastics. These microscopic bits of plastic are being found in a variety of sources and are entering food, water and air environments resulting in human consumption. https://www.consumerreports.org/health-wellness/how-to-eat-less-plastic-microplastics-in-food-water/ (April 30, 2020)

Challenge students to begin thinking about the amount of plastic they encounter on a daily basis by having them do a plastics scavenger hunt at home. Provide students with the data collection form and give them a week to document their findings. On the designated due date, have students bring their form and do a data analysis appropriate to the grade level. Younger students may be encouraged to contribute findings to a whole class summary, while older students could be tasked with presenting their findings in graph form. Following data analysis, challenge students to consider some possible short and long term recommendations for potentially reducing plastic packaging.


Kudos to NAAEE for putting together a toolkit for Affiliates to distribute information about the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds that are being disbursed in a few allotments over the next couple of years. More than $3 billion will go to Missouri DESE overall (started in 2020 and will continue for 2-3 years). This is an amazing opportunity to share with many audiences that these funds can and should be used for outdoor learning and environmental education. Stay tuned, we’ll get a new webpage up about this asap.

Kudos to Liz Petersen, MEEA Member Extraordinaire, for being appointed to NSTA‘s Middle Level Science Teaching committee this summer! Congrats, Liz, MEEA is so lucky to have you on our team!

Kudos to the Missouri Green Industry Alliance (MoGIA) for coordinating the planting of two oak trees on the Missouri Capital grounds to celebrate our state’s bicentennial. These two trees replaced two ash trees on the grounds and were grown by Forrest Keeling Nursery, a wonderful grower of many woody plants that are native to Missouri. This was no small feat, and an exciting part of this project is a completed tree inventory of the grounds, which hopefully will inform the selection and placement of even more native trees in the years ahead. Photo credit: Dan Burkhardt of Magnificent Missouri.

Kudos to Alexis Nikole Nelson for her funny and educational tik tok videos all about foraging for wild edibles. Alexis says, “As a Black woman, I just want to yell into the heavens about how accessible this information should be and how accessible so many of these foods are.” Check her out, you’re sure to laugh while you learn.

Kudos to the Sustainable Backyard Network for their peer to peer education channel on YouTube. What a great resource for Missourians looking to learn how to make their backyard a force for good in the world. And Kudos to the Jefferson SWMD for their funding support of this project! 

Kudos to the Heartland Conservation Alliance and the residents of Town Fork Creek and Wendell Phillips and supporting partners for their project to Restore Vacant Lots in KC. There are an estimated 5,000 vacant lots in Kansas City, MO. These lots contribute to blight in a majority of low-income urban areas of the city, but with the right collaborators and guidance from neighborhood leaders, the lots can be transformed into spaces that improve quality of life for residents. Learn more at https://www.heartlandconservationalliance.org/vacant-lot-mapping-tools

Kudos to the City of Columbia for their new solar farm! The 94-acre Truman Farm with more than 35,000 solar photovoltaic panels is soaking up the sun’s rays. The new Truman Solar Farm is a 10-megawatt solar farm that went online in early May and is expected to produce 23,567 megawatt-hours in the first year, learn more at the city of Columbia’s website.



Featured Webinar: Every School Can Be a Green School – Sept. 8


Featured Grant: MEEA Mini-Grants due Aug. 30!


Featured Workshop: Paul Andersen: Standards to Storylines