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Lesson plans for the environment

Taylor Eisenman, of the Record staff

As the people of Park City wonder, "where is the snow?" The members of Recycle Utah are spearheading a project to bring light to that question and many other environmental issues through new lesson plans available online for teachers at http://www.recycleutah.org/education .

Outreach director, Lola Beatlebrox, has been working on this project for more than a year with the help of Gaylyn Mooney, a former biology teacher in the Park City school district, and the guidance of Recycle Utah’s executive director, Insa Riepen.

Since 1999, Recycle Utah has worked with counselors’ "healthy lifestyles" curriculum to come into classrooms once a year to increase students’ awareness of environmental issues.

The success of these in-school programs spurred Riepen and Beatlebrox to develop online lesson plans for specific grade levels that teachers could incorporate into their agendas while still meeting Utah’s education core curriculum requirements.

Mooney was brought on to search the Web for different lesson plans and evaluate them to see if and where they fit into the core curriculum. "I did Web searches to find lesson plans by googling a specific topic," she said. "I would read several before I came up with one that was worthwhile and matched core curriculum standards, and then I would write about it for the Web site."

"Right now, we have about five or six lesson plans online as a pilot program," Beatlebrox said. "As we go through the year, we will find out what is useful to teachers."

"We would really like to work with teachers, on their terms, to make this project really, really sing," Riepen said. "We don’t want to steal their time; we want to give them something they can really use."

Unfortunately, at least for now, it seems that teachers aren’t interested. Recycle Utah with the help of Lori Gardner, director of curriculum and instruction for Park City school district, advertised their "Afternoon for Educators," an introduction to the Web portal and lesson plans, which took place at the district office from 4 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Not one teacher showed up to hear about the program. Teachers were offered continuing education credits, as well as cookies for attending. "It’s hard to get teachers to come to after-school events," Gardner said.

Gardner, Riepen, Beatlebrox, and Mooney hosted the event. The women were not daunted by the lack of attendance and instead, continued to brainstorm more ideas. "I’d like to walk through the Web site," Gardner said. "I’ve got some ideas for what we can do to get this into the hands of teachers."

"What I really like is that it ties back into the core curriculum," she said. "It’s one thing to come in and present material like this, but if a teacher cannot make that connection to the learning overall, then it doesn’t work."

The Web site’s lesson plans cover grades K through 12, but Thursday’s meeting was strictly about discussing programs for middle and high schoolers.

For high school students, there are activities such as "Recycling in Spanish," which includes resources and a game with images drawn by a Park City high school student. "It’s a great reminder of what’s recyclable and what’s not," Beatlebrox said.

There’s also an "Urban Heat Island Effect" lesson where students measure the different ecological heat environments, from parking lots to forests. "When kids talk about how they want a car and how they should build new parking lots, they don’t even think about how that can heat up the planet," she said.

Mooney said some of the difficulties in creating lesson plans for older students are matching lessons to appropriate grade levels. In high school, students take classes at different times. "I tried to make them broad enough," she said, so that one lesson might incorporate several core standards, as well as one or more subjects, from math and science to geography, technology and economics.

In order to jumpstart this program, the group decided to look into having all the schools come together for a day and try to be as waste-free as possible. "Even if it’s just a small step outside what might be normal," Gardner said, "it gets people thinking."

Eventually, Recycle Utah would like to see an environmental curriculum implemented statewide. "Recycle Utah has really led the way," Riepen said. "We are the engine within this state. We are the engine that is going to drive this green train, and if we can come up with a curriculum that can go statewide, it is something Park City can own and be proud of, and it is something this state desperately needs."

"It is very important for the state to address environmental education better," Beatlebrox said. She commented that it’s not just due to the sustainability issues Utah is facing, but also because of the dramatically changing job market.

"The number of jobs in the environmental industry is going to increase, and environmental science is becoming more and more prevalent in college," she said "Instead of blue-collar workers, it is going to be green-collar workers."

Recycle Utah’s ultimate goal for the lesson plans, Beatlebrox said, is to create knowledgeable students who can make the right lifestyle choices, who live sustainably, and who take those sustainable practices into their businesses when they grow older.

Sidebar

First-ever Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award

Nov. 15 is America Recycles Day, and what better way to celebrate it than by presenting the first-ever Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award to Debra Weitzel, a high school environmental science teacher at Middle High School in Middleton, Wisc., who has been teaching since 1978.

She received the award at the North American Association for Environmental Education’s annual conference in Virginia, Va. The Bartlett Award was established by the National Education Foundation in honor of Richard C. Bartlett, who, for more than 40 years, has been passionate about inspiring environmental educators nationwide.

Eight judges from the environmental education community, chose Weitzel from a group of 45 nominees. Guidelines for the award include meeting the requirements of Tbilisi Declaration, a universal set of principles that define environmental education, including:

Foster clear awareness of economic, social, political and ecological interdependence;

Provide opportunities to acquire the knowledge and values to protect and improve the environment; and,

Create new patterns of societal behavior as a whole towards the environment.

Information provided by the National Environmental Education Foundation.


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