ACNW Environmental Education News

June 7, 2016

Dear Charter School Leaders, EE Coordinators, Teachers, and Board Members,
I hope your summer is off to a great start! This will be the last EE update until school starts up again in September. But don’t fear – we hope to see you at our EE workshop on August 1 & 2 at the Audubon Center in Sandstone. We heard from many of our schools this spring that teacher capacity is one of the biggest barriers to implementing high quality EE programs, and we want to change that. ACNW expects that each school will send one teacher, and will cover the cost (meals and lodging) of up to two teachers. (See below for additional details and to register.)
In addition, Cannon River STEM School in Faribault has shared their most effective practices for hiring and training people who will be engaged in the school’s environmental mission and help students move toward increased environmental literacy. In each EE Update, ACNW highlights effective EE practices we’ve observed in ACNW-authorized and other schools. Please let me know if you’re got something you’d like to share.
As always, please keep in touch! Do you have insights to share? Are you doing something really cool related to EE at your school? Are you struggling to implement a certain aspect of your contractual goals? Let me know! I’d be delighted to highlight your successes, and happy to be a thought partner in tackling your challenges.


Erin E. Anderson
Environmental Education Evaluator
ACNW Charter School Division
43 Main Street SE, Suite 507
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 331-4181


The ACNW Teacher Workshop is back for a second year! ACNW is offering a summer environmental education workshop at the Audubon Center in Sandstone in lieu of the EE track at the fall Leaders Retreat. Focused on environmental justice, the training will help teachers identify violations of environmental justice and engage their students in taking action, as well as building teacher confidence and capacity around other topics in environmental education. We are looking forward to another great workshop!
  • Date: Monday, August 1 (check-in at 11:00 AM) and Tuesday, August 2 (end at 4:00 PM)
  • Where: Audubon Center of the North Woods, Sandstone
  • Who: Teachers in ACNW authorized schools
  • Cost: ACNW expects that each school will send at least one teacher. ACNW will cover the cost (meals and lodging) of up to two teachers. Additional attendees may participate as space allows at $112/person.
  • Pre-registration is required. A registration form can be downloaded from the CSD website.
Cannon River STEM School was founded on the premise that instruction would be place-based. Internally, staff members strive to spend up to three hours a week outside using the environment as an integrating context. This time is in addition to 2.5 hours of recess in the nature-based play area. In order to achieve that objective, CRSS has found that hiring and training instructional staff is crucial to having them embrace the school’s mission and this goal. This begins with the job description. In required skills and abilities, the CRSS Job Description states: ”Ability to teach in an outdoor setting and to use the environment as an integrating context for learning.” Also in physical requirement, it states: “Must be able to be outside in all weather conditions with students and maintain a learning environment.”
When candidates come for an interview they are asked: “What is your comfort level with teaching outdoors and using the environment as a component of lessons?” and “Our expectation is that students will be outdoors for instruction at least three hours each week. How would you accomplish this and what would a lesson look like that uses the outdoors and the environment?” Often in the interview process, second interviews are necessary. If so, that second interview always includes a walking component on campus trails, discussing and brainstorming ways that the campus could be used by the applicant in the position they are pursuing.
Once a new employee is hired, a couple hours each of the three days of new staff orientation are directed in outdoor instruction. New teaching staff hike with existing teachers to discuss how the campus lands are and could be used in their curriculum. All areas of the 55 acre campus are covered…and in August this often happens in humid 90+ degree weather, full of Minnesota mosquitoes and Stinging Nettles! This is often when the school will emphasize its dress code: don’t wear anything that you can’t get dirty and that won’t protect you from mud, nettles, and the weather.
Finally, Cannon River STEM School’s staff development is intentional to model the kind of place-based learning that is expected from teaching staff. The welcome back workshop week in August is always outside, either on campus or at local environmental areas. Staff development has used campus lands at St. Olaf College and Carleton College, Big Woods State Park, and River Bend Nature Center. The school believes that staff development should model the kind of environmental education that students will engage in. 
To learn more, contact Nalani McCutcheon, CRSS Director, and check out this blog post from Herb Broda, author of Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning and Moving the Classroom Outdoors: Embracing Schoolyards as 21st Century Classrooms.

Live video feeds from across the world are now available documenting nests, rookeries, feeding stations and every other basic stomping ground for a host of species. Live web feeds can go a long way towards student engagement in the classroom. While traditional field experiences are important, live viewing online can still offer opportunities for data collection, journaling, and observation skills as students have daily access to mating, nesting, hatching, and fledging behavior. 

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology maintains one of the most comprehensive live bird cam collections with over 15 different species available for viewing. These cameras catch birds in the act of everyday life including nesting areas and feeding stations from all across the United States. The Nature Conservancy's Live Lek Cam, featuring the booming and footwork of the Sage Grouse, allows the viewer to watch the fog lift as the sun emerges over the activity that is underway on the grassland.

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry. Has your school considered building an outdoor classroom, or has one that is underutilized? Karen Wood’s article, The Field of Dreams (and Other Outdoor Classroom Myths), first published in Green Teacher magazine, explores the myths and misconceptions that accompany creating a well-used outdoor classroom, as well as examples of hurdling those barriers to create a successful environmental education program. (Take a look at Myth #3: Once in motion, an outdoor education program tends to stay in motion.)

Healthy Schools Campaign and Openlands have released a new report: Green Schoolyards: A Growing Movement Supporting Health, Education, and Connection with Nature. This report documents the journeys and lessons of green schoolyard programs across the country and is informed by a rich dialogue that has been taking place at the national and local levels about how to help children, families, schools, communities, and our environments thrive. It shares information and stories, as well as tangible steps communities can take to develop their own green schoolyards.
In Teaching in Nature’s Classroom: Core Principles of Garden-Based Education, Nathan Larson shares a philosophy of teaching in the garden. Rooted in years of experience and supported by research, Larson presents fifteen guiding principles of garden-based education. These principles and best practices are illustrated through engaging stories from the field. Thanks to generous support from the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, paperback and e-book editions of Teaching in Nature's Classroom are available for free to educators around the world.
The Encinitas Union School District (California) has invested millions of dollars and thousands of hours into transforming itself into a green school district. However, your school can adapt their model for moving learners from awareness to action and make significant strides in increasing students’ environmental literacy:

"We call it our Cognitive Construct. The ideas within the Cognitive Construct are easy to grasp. Learners move from Acquisition of knowledge and skills to Analysis and ultimately Application. The Cognitive Construct also moves the learner from simple to complex learning in each area and from artificial to real world learning issues. The goal is to have all learners (students, staff, parents, and community) apply learning in complex, real world settings."
To learn more, check out this blog post by EUSD Superintendent, Dr. Timothy Baird: Making the Shift from Green Observers to Environmental Stewards.
The Minnesota Green Schools Coalition brings together the state’s strongest advocates for our children to create a Minnesota infrastructure of green schools – healthy, high-performing schools that are conducive to learning while saving energy, resources, and money. Membership is FREE and open to any teacher or school interested in participating. To join or to learn more, visit the GSC website.
KaBOOM! Grants
KaBOOM! creates great places to play, inspiring communities to promote and support play. The organization is currently offering three different types of grants – Build it with KaBOOM!, Build it Yourself, and Creative Play Grants. To learn more about each of the grant deadlines and eligibility, please visit the KaBOOM! Website.
Captain Planet Foundation
The Captain Planet Foundation offers grants for hands-on environmental education activities. Grants are intended to serve as a means of bringing environment-based education to schools and of inspiring youth and communities to participate in community service through environmental stewardship activities. Captain Planet Foundation will accept small grant requests for amounts between $500-$2,500. Preferential consideration is given to requests that have secured at least 50% matching or in-kind funding for their projects. Learn more or apply online. The deadline to apply is September 30, 2016.
Project Learning Tree Grants GreenWorks! Grant
Project Learning Tree is accepting applications from schools and nonprofit organizations for environmental service-learning projects through its GreenWorks! grants program. The program is designed to help students make their schools "greener" and healthier by, for example, implementing a recycling program, conserving water and energy, initiating a project to improve air quality, or establishing a school garden or outdoor classroom and integrating it into the curriculum. Grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded to support environmental service-learning projects. To be eligible for a grant, the proposed project must have secured at least a 50% match from another source (in-kind acceptable). The deadline to apply is September 30, 2016.
Native Plant Education Projects
Wild Ones, a nonprofit environmental education and advocacy organization, is accepting applications from projects that aim to enhance and develop an appreciation for nature using native plants. Grants of up to $500 will be awarded to projects that emphasize the involvement of students and volunteers in all phases of their development. Visit the Wild Ones website for examples of appropriate projects, complete program guidelines, and application instructions. Qualified applicants must have a site available for the project. The deadline to apply is October 15, 2016.
EE Mission Match Funds
ACNW offers up to $500 annually to each authorized school to help achieve your environmental education goals. FY16 funds will be available beginning on July 1, 2015. Schools can apply for these funds each year of their contract. Funds may be used to buy equipment, provide a match for an EE-related grant, hire a presenter, or pay for a field trip to the Audubon Center or any other EE-based location of your choice.

To apply for these funds:
  1. Download the application from the CSD website. Your project must be pre-approved before you can receive funding.
  2. Complete the application and return to Erin. 
Once approved, funds will be released to your school only AFTER an invoice or other proof of payment is received. Our Business Manager is diligent in sending out funds within 5-10 business days. Proof of fund use is a requirement of the Audubon Center audit and funds will not be released without this.

Summer Institute for Climate Change
Climate Generation (formerly the Will Steger Foundation) is hosting its 11th annual Summer Institute for teachers. This year will focus on a new middle school curriculum resource tied to Next Generation Science Standards: Next Generation Climate. Hear from experts in climate science, participate in hands-on activities, and learn from other educators who have been implementing climate change education.
  • When: June 21-24, 2016
  • Where: Macalester College, Saint Paul
  • Fee: $150 early bird rate (includes breakfast and lunch)
  • Register online
2016 Educators Backpacking Expedition
Join Voyageurs Outward Bound School this summer for the 2016 Educators Expedition, a five-day backpacking expedition on the Superior Hiking Trail. This trip is exclusively for professional educators and youth workers, and requires no previous backpacking or camping experience. Participants will learn the theory and practice of experiential education in a supportive, energizing environment. This expedition will count as 25 CEU hours for most boards. VOBS will provide you with the materials you need to seek approval from your board.
  • When: July 25-29, 2016
  • Where: Meet at the Twin Cities Center; transport to trail head is provided
  • Fee: $650 (rate is subsidized by fundraising efforts)
  • Register online
Minnesota Association of Environmental Education Conference 
The 2016 Minnesota Association for Environmental Education (MAEE) annual conference Grow in the Open is scheduled for August 5 and 6 at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, MN. The conference aims to nurture the growth of environmental educators in Minnesota through concurrent sessions, field trips, and a keynote presentation. The call for presentations is now open for conference sessions that provide helpful information, program models and/or resources for participants, organizations and audiences. 
  • When: Friday and Saturday, August 5 & 6
  • Where: Saint John’s University, Collegeville
  • Fee: TBD
  • Registration opens on May 1
FREE Green Teacher Webinars
Green Teacher's upcoming webinars are an interactive way for educators to continue learning about key environmental topics. This professional development webinar series features some of the most important thinkers in the field of environmental education addressing vital and relevant topics. The next webinar, Transforming School Food, will be held on Tuesday, September 27. Registration is FREE and teachers can obtain a certificate upon completion. Visit the Green Teacher website to register, or access their archive of past webinars.
Aldo Leopold Foundation Teaching Tools
The Aldo Leopold Foundation was established to inspire an ethical relationship between people and land through the legacy of Aldo Leopold. The foundation offers a broad spectrum of educational materials and tools that teachers can use in their classrooms, including the Leopold Education Project, an interdisciplinary environmental education and conservation curriculum. Check out the website for a full listing of available resources.

Wow! The Wonders of Wetlands
This K-12 Guide is just one of several resources offered by Minnesota Project WET, which trains classroom and other educators in hands-on, interactive lessons that are focused on water and encourage critical thinking. The guide features more than 70 pages of background material followed by more than 40 activities. Every page is laid out with core text, photographs, sidebars, maps, and illustrations to make information clear and quick to use. Activities are organized into five sections: wetland definitions, wetlands plants and animals, water quality and supply issues, soils, and people. Learn more about Minnesota Project WET, as well as the national Project WET Foundation.

Create Your Own Recycling Sorting Activity
Interested in teaching your group or organization more about recycling? Create your own customized sorting activity with Hennepin County’s new do-it-yourself Recycling Sorting Activity guides. Groups can use the activity to sort through waste and decide which items are recyclable, compostable or trash. 
Copyright © 2016 Audubon Center of the North Woods Charter School Department, All rights reserved.
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