Missouri Environmental Education News: August 2022

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

Table of Contents

  • Feature Article
  • Lesson Resources
  • Save the Date: Annual Conference
  • Vista Positions Available
  • Featured Events, Grants, & Workshops
  • JEDIA: Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility
  • Green Schools Corner
  • Missouri Nature Phenomena This Month
  • News from the Field

Dear MEEA Members,

Over the past month, the extreme weather patterns that are becoming the norm hit our state hard, with the whole state battered by blistering heat and St. Louis buffeted with 2 major flash floods in 72 hours. Also during the same month, our federal government signaled that it may be finally taking meaningful action on climate change in the near future–and that EE may be recognized as part of the solution. That is cause for hope, and I really need a dose of that! 

Our membership gives me hope. Together, you impact so many people, from young people to adults. You have the passion to inspire others, and you have important knowledge to share. MEEA is here to help you access the tools and resources you need to positively impact the learners you encounter each day. We’re also here to help expand Missourians’ access to environmental education and to help more educators become excellent EE practitioners who inspire positive change. To do this, we need to grow our membership and we need to build community among our members. 

That’s why I’m so excited to share with you our new membership model, launching today! This new model provides an avenue to generate significant income for MEEA, while creating a “Pay What You Can” option for both individuals and organizations. This has been a long time coming. The Board spent months deliberating before landing on the new structure. Then students from the Consult Your Community WashU Chapter and Chris Mesfin, a Rock Bridge High School 2022 graduate, helped us create the “Our World, Our Future” membership campaign to invite high schoolers and young adults throughout the state to join MEEA. And finally, Andrew Covey, IT consultant extraordinaire, has helped us take all these ideas and integrate them into our website. 

We will be running this membership drive throughout August. Join or renew your MEEA Membership today or anytime in the month of August and it will be good through 2023. Please follow our FB, Instagram, or twitter accounts in August and share the opportunity with others who understand the incredible power of EE and the great potential that comes with a big, bold EE community across our great state. 

I’m not a part of MEEA to make a tiny impact. I want to make a big difference, and I know you do too. Early in the year, MEEA did a lot of planning on how to generate the income we need to realize our big goals. Last month, you met Jamin Bray, our newest staff member. This month, we invite you to help us continue the momentum. Renew your MEEA membership today. Together, we can bring environmental education to every corner of our great state!

Lesli Moylan, MEEA Executive Director

***If you are unsure if your membership is current, drop us a line @ moylan@meea.org.
***If you choose not to renew your membership, you will remain as a newsletter subscriber.

Feature Article: Talking to Kids About Climate Change

FEATURE ARTICLE and PHOTOS SUBMITTED BY:

Erin Graves, MEEA Board Member and Science Teacher at Herculaneum HS

 

 

Meet my grandson, Braxton. He’s 3 years old and more than anything, he loves to be outside playing in the dirt, exploring a creek, or discovering all the very cool insects under a log.  Even at his young age, he is learning just how amazing the Earth is and all the living things in it. Yet, I watch him and wonder, “Will he have trees, fresh air, clean water and soil to enjoy with his own grandchildren someday?”  Scientists have predicted that long-term effects of climate change will include a decrease in sea ice, fresh water and air quality, and an increase in heat waves, animal extinctions, population and weather disasters, just to name a few things.  I feel the need to apologize to Braxton and future generations for what we have done to the planet.  But, they don’t need my regret, they need our action.  Thus, I choose to not accept this fate, “It is said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world”.  As a teacher and a grandmother, I believe the most powerful tool to change the world is education. Education changes people and people can change the world.  The climate crisis can feel like an overwhelming topic for adults, so how do we talk with and educate children about it in a healthy way without creating anxiety or despondency?

Child psychologists have noted that similarly to other tough topics, such as drugs or sex, discussion of climate change should be approached in a sensitive manner that is developmentally appropriate.  Setting up a baseline for children to learn about more complex information as they grow will help them become ready to exercise their own voices on behalf of their generation’s future.(1)  For example, toddlers and preschoolers (age 2-5), like Braxton, are just beginning to learn about their relationship to the world. They have a natural sense of wonder, making it a perfect time to introduce them to the delight of nature. Some ideas to foster their curiosity are: taking a nature walk and discussing how all living things have a home that needs to be protected, or making a garden and talking about how to care for plants and how they give us fresh air, or engaging them in outside play regardless of the weather, explaining the benefits of such conditions as a rainy day that helps the plants grow.  Let them play in any kind of (non-dangerous) weather! (As the saying goes, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes”.)

Elementary age students (age 6-12) can begin to understand the concepts behind climate change. There are many great resources available to parents and educators that provide age-appropriate information to children (eg. MEEA, NASA, and National Geographic).  Educators can help students make connections about how their personal choices can affect the environment.  For example, there are many online carbon footprint calculators that children can do with their class or families and then discuss ideas on how they can lower their footprint.  Another way to empower elementary age students is to discuss things that can be recycled or reused instead of becoming waste. Complete the circle by helping them research and look for products made with recycled items. In addition, I have observed that children at this age are really interested in composting, worm farms and love gifts of experience (eg. biking, hiking, rock climbing, outdoor play).

It is important to listen to children of any age, yet during the elementary school years, children are beginning to show more empathy and are learning better ways to describe their thoughts and feelings. They are starting to think about the future and understanding more about their place in the world (2).  Parents and teachers should respond honestly and respectfully to their questions; we are their trusted source and children rely on us to address difficult topics.  Denying issues can contribute to a child’s anxiety or anger about climate change issues. Honest discussions will build their resilience and help them find meaning in climate change.  Having said this, we should also pay close attention to a child’s emotions and take time to deal with them. Let them know it’s alright to feel scared or angry but emphasize there are things we can do to reduce our impact and people all over the world are working on initiatives.  It is essential that children feel they can make a difference, assuring them they can be a powerful force in protecting the environment.  

Teenagers (age 13-18) are more aware of climate change and how it impacts their lives.  As a high school teacher, I try to show my students how climate change impacts all aspects of society including economics and health.  I use both current local and global issues to spark their curiosity, introduce the idea of civic responsibility and provide opportunities for positive activism.  While I do stress the importance of tackling climate change being a global responsibility, I take care to not to force this path on them, as many teens today are currently struggling with increasing mental health issues and I don’t want to inadvertently cause students to have additional anxiety or feel weighed down by responsibility. Teenagers need a reason to have hope for their future so they will be motivated to take action, however, I avoid the temptation to paint a rosy picture. I want them to learn to be able to face and cope with inevitable disappointments and roadblocks they will face.

In summary, we can communicate to children of all ages in a way that is honest, hopeful, developmentally appropriate, and action oriented. As a teacher, a mother and Braxton’s grandmother, I know what kind of ancestor I want to be. I believe by helping children understand the issue of climate change and how it affects their health and futures, we empower them to make a difference and become mindful adults.

1 L. Shinn, NRDC, 31 DEC 2019

2  National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 22, 2021

 

Lesson and Resources: What is causing sea level rise? Land Ice vs. Sea Ice

Author/Contributor: NASA Jet Propulsion Lab

Timeframe: 30-60 minutes    |    Type of Resources: Investigation/Inquiry (Lab)    |    Grade Band: 3-5, 6-8

NGSS/MLS:  2-ESS2-3, 3-ESS2-2, 5-ESS2-1, MS-ESS2-4
MO Show-Me Standards: 5-Environmental Problems

Description:

In this activity, students will learn about sea ice and land ice. They will observe ice melting on a solid surface near a body of water and ice melting in a body of water. Prior to the activity, students will predict what each situation will do to the level of water and then compare their prediction to what they observe.

Topic(s): Climate Change

Highlights:

Lesson involves demonstration or experiment done by students to see how ice melt contributes to sea level rise.

File Download (if available):
Website Link: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/teach/activity/whats-causing-sea-level-rise-land-ice-vs-sea-ice/

Other Resources:

https://www.climate.gov/teaching

https://www.climatekids.org/resources

https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/6-free-tools-for-teaching-about-climate-change

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/your-guide-talking-kids-all-ages-about-climate-change

Save the Date for the MEEA Conference!

Vista Positions Available

Current open VISTA positions:

 

  •  School Support

 

  • Communications/Marketing

Featured…

Events

Featured Event:  Association of Missouri Interpreters Conference, Sept 20-22, St. Joseph, MO

AMI Conference

 

Grants

Featured Grant:  MEEA Environmental Educator Mini-Grants (eight available); Proposal due Sept 15.

Workshops

Featured Workshops:

Discover Nature Schools

Spire Energy Efficiency Workshop for Educators, Aug 10 – 9:00 am & Aug 11 – 11:30 am (Virtual)

JEDIA: Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Accessibility

If we want to understand JEDIA and how important it is in Environmental Education, we need to start at the beginning.

This first video is a brief explanation from NAAEE, and the second goes into more detail about experiencing inequity, and how a disconnect from nature can affect human health.  Take a look!

Green Schools Corner

Missouri Department of Conservation: Discover Nature Schools (DNS) Update

Submitted by Mary Beth Factor and Wendy Parrett, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Curriculum Coordinators

Thank you to those that attended Conservation Educator Training for the new Bears Through the Seasons Kindergarten curriculum! Over the course of 2 days, MDC staff donned their homemade bear headbands, dove into the new curriculum, co-taught lessons from the guide, and learned the “bear” basics of this new Discover Nature Schools curriculum. Staff read-aloud from trade books, applied the teaching materials provided in the DNS Kindergarten Teacher Kits to lessons, and discussed future DNS workshop timelines to meet ever-changing school needs. Trained DNS Nature Unfolds teachers will receive email blasts letting them know that the curriculum will be available in August, and the new curriculum will be highlighted in the Discover Nature Newsletter sent on August 1st.

For more information about MDC’s Discover Nature Schools program go to: https://education.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature-schools

To learn more about the new DNS Kindergarten unit, visit: https://education.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature-schools/dns-kindergarten

 

DNS photo

Conservation Educators participate in DNS Kindergarten: Bears Through the Seasons teacher training.

 

DNS photo

Nature Phenomena This Month

Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation. Learn more at https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide

News From the Field

A Planetary Milestone

The World Population Just Hit 8 Billion, and Here's How It Will Continue to Grow - Scientific American:

A United Nations model predicts a slower rate of population growth than was previously estimated

 

According to the models of the United Nations (UN), the world’s population will reach 8 billion today—a mere 12 years since it passed 7 billion, and less than a century after the planet supported just 2 billion people.

The latest UN population update, released in July this year, also revises its long-term projection down from 11 billion people to 10.4 billion by 2100.

Demographers will never be sure if 15 November really was the Day of Eight Billion, as the UN has named it, but they do agree on one thing. Although the human population has grown rapidly, that growth is slowing—and, within a few decades, Earth’s population will begin to shrink.

 

 

To read the entire article, go to scientificamerican.com/article/the-world-population

News Worth Repeating!

Reminder for the holidays:

Missouri Department of Conservation, News from the Region, Statewide, Southeast
Published Date:  12/30/2021

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO – As the holiday season closes, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recommends offering your live Christmas tree – completely cleaned of all tinsel, lights, and ornaments – to fish and wildlife in your area, as they can utilize its branches as year-round shelter.

Salvador Mondragon, MDC Fisheries Management Biologist, said Christmas trees can easily be used to improve habitat in ponds, lakes, or even a backyard.

“Natural habitat is always preferred over artificial structures, and that makes live Christmas trees a great option,” he said. “Especially when larger trees aren’t available. But keep in mind Christmas trees won’t last long in a pond and will usually require adding on a yearly basis.”

Mondragon said clusters of 15 to 20 trees provide better fish habitat than one or two trees. He said to place trees in water depths where the tops are still visible from the surface, and that will ensure that the habitat is used year-round. The trees will provide added brush that gives fish resting areas, shade, and places to hide from predators.

Above water, MDC Community Forester Jennifer Behnken said recycled Christmas trees can be used for backyard habitat as “a special gift” for small wildlife, such as rabbits and reptiles.

“Real Christmas trees are a sustainable resource that provide a multitude of benefits until they are harvested for the Christmas season, including providing oxygen, air filtration, and wildlife habitat,” she said.

After the intended purpose for Christmas festivities, the trees continue to contribute the benefit of wildlife and natural resources, Behnken said.

“I place my living Christmas tree outside for brush habitat or for birds to take cover during the winter months,” she said. “It continues to break down as the year progresses, providing nutrients back to the soil and its legacy lives on in the natural world.”

Find information about live Christmas tree uses here.