Tying It All Together
Last week we had a great group of local teachers take a course through the Sally Ride Academy. It was called Resources In and Outside the Classroom: Differentiating instruction in the environmental education classroom. Long title, interesting topic. Needless to say, the week flew by. Here are a few of the highlights.
We introduced natural resources and the importance of covering this topic with students. If we don’t know where things are coming from and what ecosystems we are damaging by our use of items there is less motivation to reduce and reuse. Many adults don’t know that bauxite is the ore used to make aluminum and that it is devastating to the Brazilian and Jamaican rainforests. Also coltan, which mostly comes from the Congo, is endangering the mountain gorillas. If you don’t care about the gorillas, its also important to note that coltan is usually mined by hand by children under duress. One teacher said at the end of the day, “Before today I didn’t know where I could fit natural resources into my curriculum, now I don’t know where it wouldn’t fit!” For a look at global CO2 production, visit breathing earth, which also has a wonderful carbon footprint quiz.
Field trips to the Waukesha County Materials Recycling Facility and Retzer Nature Center. Once the importance of natural resources was covered, we looked at recycling as a way to save natural resources, energy, and money. Many of the teachers had never been to the MRF and it was an eye-opening trip! If you have a group in Waukesha County that would like to take a free tour of our facility, visit our website to learn more! Once we saw the impacts of recycling we talked about the amount of food and other biodegradable items that we waste. Natures way of recycling these items can be sped up through composting. After visiting the compost demonstration area at Retzer Nature Center everyone realized how easy it is to compost and several teachers are interested in starting their own bins either at home or at school.
Compost is so important because it is a great way to bolster the overall health of another huge natural resource: the soil. Everything that is alive on the planet depends on soil. We had a lot of fun activities to look at soil, including core samples and basic soil testing experiments. A wide variety of information on soils can be found at the NRCS website or on Waukesha County’s GIS mapping system. There are several hundred soils just in Waukesha County, each with their benefits and problems.
One of the biggest threats to good soil is erosion. We have a model that shows erosion as well as point and non-point source pollution that can be checked out for use by Waukesha County teachers once they have been trained on its use. This activity was a lot of fun and we also showed how compost is the up and coming way to slow erosion and water pollution. Erosion is bad not only because it quickly washes away good soil that took a very long time to form, but it also pollutes water ways. This transitioned us onto topics of water pollution and using a groundwater model.
Although it may seem like natural resources, compost, recycling, erosion, soil, and water have very little in common, they all link together to assist us in having a healthy environment. If you have any questions about presentations, participating in a future workshop, or any other questions related to educational resources for local teachers, please e-mail me!