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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Pittsford, New York, USA

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Pittsford, New York, USA
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Registered: December 2019
City/Town/Province: Pittsford
Posts: 1
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Something about the openness, solitude, and curious beauty of nature has attracted me since I was young. I felt a kind of ingrained passion to take care of the environment and all its diverse inhabitants. I recognized the pleasure I experienced when exploring the outdoors, and I wanted these spaces to be preserved so that everyone could enjoy them for years to come, the same way I did.


As I got older and became more involved in environmental activism, I noticed that there is a significant lack of education around environmental awareness. People both young and old that I interacted with on a daily basis were unaware of what should be simple concepts such as the reality of where our trash ends up, recycling rules, the ability to compost at home, or other ways to lessen our footprint. This saddened me, because I know that in order for effective change to be made and action to be taken, the community needs to be educated and understand that there is a problem worth addressing.


As the president of my high school's Project Earth Club, I have been working for a few years on proposing a district-wide Zero Waste Initiative. It has been a challenging process to convince the administration that this initiative is necessary to improve our recycling and begin a composting program. Because change doesn't happen overnight, I decided that while waiting for the district to make its decision on the Zero Waste Initiative, I would focus on educating the younger generation. I wanted to teach kids the basic principles for how to be a responsible environmental citizen. My hope was that a seed could be planted within them, so that they would take this intrinsic knowledge and grow with it. In this way, a basic understanding is fostered of what it means to take care of the beautiful space we call home.


Some other members of the Project Earth Club and I decided that the best way to educate and share informative tips would be to create an interactive presentation, where the audience could actively participate and share their ideas. We partnered with one of the elementary schools in our district and were able to come in and present to the three first-grade classes in the school. Our audience was made up of many excited, curious, open-minded little faces, eager to see what three high school students (two Project Earth Club members and myself) had in store for them.


Our presentation started off with sharing some pictures of trash out in the environment, as a way to show that garbage doesn't just magically disappear when you put it in the can and take it out to the street to be picked up by the truck. From here, we introduced methods for taking better care of the Earth, so that we each have less of a harmful impact. Seeing as our ideas were directed towards first-graders, we used the three R's as a basis for understanding. Reduce came first, and we walked through what the daily routine might look like for the students. As an example, we asked what they do in the morning, and there were many enthusiastic responses such as brushing teeth and riding the bus. We emphasized the importance of reducing water, electricity, and emissions by turning off the faucet and lights when they are not needed, as well as finding alternative ways to get places such as walking, biking, or carpooling.


Next we focused on reuse, and there are many opportunities to use reusable items when it comes to packing for a day at school. Many of the students were proud to share that they bring reusable water bottles to school, and we asked about their lunches as well--did they eat their food from containers and alternative baggies rather than filmy, single-use plastics? We brought props as visual examples so the first-graders could see what some reusable lunch items looked like. In many cases, a first-grader isn't making some of the decisions we discussed, but if they are aware of these concepts, they can bring this knowledge home and share it with their parents. Seeing as young kids like to accompany their parent to the grocery store, we reminded them of the importance of bringing reusable bags when they go shopping. We also made a push for the students to embrace hand-me-downs. Our goal was to convey the idea that sharing clothes and toys from an older sibling, for example, can be fun and cool! This way we bring fewer new material goods into the world, because so many perfectly sufficient ones already exist.


To finish off the presentation, we covered recycling. Currently, rules for recycling are ever-changing, so we focused on the simple items that can almost always be recycled. We encouraged the students to be actively involved in this process at home, because their interest will only fuel their parents' dedication to it as well. We introduced composting as a form of "food recycling" and fortunately many of the students are already composting in their classrooms (thanks to a passionate teacher who believes in the cause). We suggested that they ask their parents if they would be willing to compost at home, because it can be a fun family project that involves help from everyone.
We had some open discussion at the end where the first-graders happily shared the ways in which they are already helping to take care of Mother Earth. It was encouraging to see their enthusiasm and excitement for the issue, and the whole experience gave me hope. Hope that maybe by educating and inspiring young people in our community, we can raise a generation who deeply cares about our environment, and who will challenge people in power to make effective changes in policy. This feeling was surely in the air as the first-graders filed out of the auditorium dancing to Jack Johnson's song, "The Three R's."


This environmental education project has fueled my desire to continue to be an active citizen, educating both myself and others on some of the most pressing issues of our time. I hope to broaden my understanding of other environmental challenges that our society is faced with, so that I may gain new perspectives on the environmental movement as a whole. I am currently taking a gap year before college, and it has given me wonderful exposure to a wide range of environmental issues. I worked on an organic farm where I learned about the intricacies of the modern food system, and I interned at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology where I studied the changes in larval fish populations. These two experiences have already expanded my horizons, and they motivate me to go deeper in my learning when I attend the University of Vermont next fall to study Environmental Science. I'm looking forward to seeing how my past and future experiences inspire me to make change, and how I can foster an engaged community.
Date: December 30, 2019 Views: 1170 File size: 15.8kb, 166.4kb : 750 x 1034
Hours Volunteered: 20
Volunteers: 3
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 18 & 17 to 18
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