February 2017 EE Update
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ACNW Environmental Education News

February 7, 2017

Dear Charter School Leaders, EE Contacts, Teachers, and Board Members,

Phil called it – six more weeks of glorious winter! As you count down to vernal equinox, join Climate Generation to learn skills for effectively communicating about climate change. The Institute for Non-formal Climate Change Education will be held March 13-15, 2017 at the Audubon Center of the North Woods. Registration is $180, which includes room and board. ACNW will reimburse the registration fee for up to two teachers from each of its authorized schools, as well as up to $200 of the cost for a sub. See additional details about the workshop, and how to get reimbursed, in the newsletter below.

This month, we’re featuring Excell Academy’s EE program. Over the course of the last few years, Excell has committed itself to building an effective EE program and creating environmentally literate students. For more information about Excell’s environmental education program, contact Sharleen Blanco, Environmental Education Coordinator.

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


Excell Academy for Higher Learning’s mission is to equip and prepare its learners for higher levels of education and to be positive productive citizens. Founded in 2001, the school is located in Brooklyn Park and serves approximately 390 students in grades PreK-8. As a charter school in an urban setting, Excell Academy’s approach to environmental education is to give its students meaningful exposure to the surrounding natural environment and improve its focus and integration of EE into all content areas. Staff and students have developed patterns that reinforce behaviors that benefit the environment, and are building a culture of self-evaluation in decision-making for the good of the environment. The school’s EE Coordinator, Sharleen Blanco, reports on one such effort to build a culture of environmental sustainability among students and staff:

It became apparent a few years after assuming the EE Coordinator position for my school that I needed support to grow the current program. As with many teachers in a charter school, I wear many hats. After attending our annual retreat this past August, I approached our school leader, Mrs. Sabrina Williams, and suggested we organize a team to support our school's Environmental Education goals. With the support of our administration and our school board, the S.E.E.D. (Science and Environmental Education Development) Committee was created! We quickly identified two areas of growth for SY2016-17. First, our teachers were happy to report their EE-focused lessons, but the old system of reporting at the end of the school year wasn't effective. Second, teachers needed ideas and an accessible way to integrate EE into their lessons. Since this past fall, we send out a monthly S.E.E.D. Newsletter to help support our teachers with ideas and celebrate our successes. Embedded into the newsletter is a link to a simple form that breaks down our EE Contract Goals into accessible language for all content areas. It allows our teachers to report on the who, what, when, and attach photos of their students. The data from this link is then sent to a shared Google doc spreadsheet that the S.E.E.D. committee can track school progress and offer encouragement to teachers on an individual basis.
For more information about Excell’s environmental education program, contact Sharleen Blanco, Environmental Education Coordinator.

Join Climate Generation to learn skills for effectively communicating about climate change at the Audubon Center of the North Woods. The Institute for Non-formal Climate Change Education is geared toward anyone interested in learning skills on how to communicate about climate change in non-formal educational settings. 

At this three-day Institute, you will engage in climate change activities and workshops, and get a chance to explore the beautiful north woods (as well as 24 clock hours). One full day will be presented by NNOCCI, National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation. They are highly skilled in communicating about climate science and want you to gain that confidence, too!

ACNW will reimburse the registration fee for up to two teachers from each of its authorized schools, as well as up to $200 of the cost for a sub. To be reimbursed for the sub and registration fee, you must submit a copy of the institute invoice, documentation that a sub was hired, and a one-page reflection outlining how you plan to share what you learned with other educators and how you will use what you learned in your classroom. These must be submitted by June 30, 2017.
  • Date: March 13-15, 2017
  • Who: Anyone interested in learning skills on how to communicate about climate change
  • Where: Audubon Center of the North Woods in Sandstone, MN
  • Cost: $180, which includes room and board; two graduate credits are available for an additional fee.
  • Learn more or register online
  • Contact Climate Generation if you have questions about the Institute; contact Erin if you have questions about the reimbursement process.
Project Green Schools honors and recognizes outstanding national environmental education and STEM education efforts led in schools and communities at their annual Green Difference Awards. Apply now for the 9th Annual Green Difference Awards 2017. Green Difference Makers can be principals, teachers, advisors, citizens, schools, students, or school groups/clubs. Learn more or apply online by April 7, 2017.

The recently launched Clean Water MN campaign aims to educate people about water issues and inspire them to take action. The campaign tells the stories of water-friendly actions being taken by area residents. This new campaign is an outreach program of the Metro Watershed Partners, to which Hennepin County belongs.
The campaign will add new stories monthly that can be shared via newsletters, websites, social media and more. The stories available now are:
  • Artist works to improve water quality in Lake Hiawatha
  • Como Lake residents rake leaves for democracy and clean water
  • Composting from garden to kitchen to garden
  • Low-maintenance landscaping
Additional features of the website include six actions you can take at home to keep water clean, Is My Lake Safe information, and features on adopt-a-drain programs.

Join the Minnesota Green Schools Coalition for a Green Schools Roundtable. Participants will share success stories, discuss barriers, seek solutions, and create collaborations among peers, with the goal of achieving greener, healthier schools in Minnesota. Facilitators will help guide the conversation. Organizers will share and collect information leading up to the event to prepare everyone for a robust discussion. Teachers, administrators, facilities managers, non-profit coordinators, community leaders, and advocates are welcome.

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.

Lowes Toolbox for Education Grants
The Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant program is funded by the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation, and supports grassroots community and school projects in the communities where Lowe’s does business. The Spring 2017 grant cycle will open on December 18, 2016 and close on February 9, 2017. Visit the website to learn more about past grant recipients, view sample projects, and download a pre-application checklist.

Fiskars Project Orange Thumb Garden Grants
Project Orange Thumb is a community garden grant program that provides tools and resources to help communities reach their goals for collaboration, neighborhood beautification, and healthy, sustainable food sources. Thirty recipients from this year’s applicants will be selected to receive $3,500 in gift cards and tools to help support their goals of neighborhood beautification and horticulture education. To be eligible, the garden initiative must be for a not-for-profit or 501(c)(3) organization within North America that has not received a Project Orange Thumb grant in the past. Apply by February 10, 2017. Learn more or apply online.

Hennepin County School Recycling Grants
Funding is available for projects that implement or improve recycling and organics recycling programs in schools. The county’s funding priorities include recycling organic waste and recycling and waste reduction improvement and innovation. Learn more about the school recycling grants online. Applicants are encouraged to contact Kira Berglund, School Recycling Specialist, at (612) 596-1498 or via email to discuss their project before applying. Applications are due by 4 p.m. on February 28, 2017.

EcoTech Grants
EcoTech Grants were created by the Captain Planet Foundation to combat the notion that students needed to choose between “the screen” or “the green,” and to encourage educators and students to explore the role technology can play in designing and implementing solutions to some of our most pressing environmental challenges. EcoTech Grants are specifically offered to engage children in inquiry-based, STEM-related projects that leverage technology and/or use nature-based design to address environmental problems in local communities. Apply by March 15, 2017. Learn more or apply online.
FREE Green Teacher Webinars
Green Teacher's upcoming webinars are an interactive way for educators to continue learning about key environmental topics. These professional development webinar series feature some of the most important thinkers in the field of environmental education addressing vital and relevant topics. 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.
  • February 20: The Power of Positive, Inspiring Solutions
  • March 27: To Unplug or Plug In (Digital Technology and EE)
  • April 12: Time to Depave Paradise?
  • September 27: Best Practices in School Gardens
  • October 25: Eco-System Monitoring Programs
Free Webinar: Decolonizing Environmental Education
Join NAAEE's monthly webinar series (Bringing New Ideas and Innovation to the field of EE) on Tuesday, February 28 at 2:00 PM. Angela Mooney D'arcy will present “Decolonizing Environmental Education: Building Relationships with Indigenous Peoples.” She is the founder and Executive Director of the Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, a Los Angeles-based, Indigenous-led organization that works to build the capacity of Tribal Nations and Indigenous peoples to protect sacred lands, waters, and cultures. Be sure to register, even if you are not able to make it – NAAEE will send a recording of the webinar. 2017 Citizen Science Association Conference
The 2017 Citizen Science Association Conference will be held May 17-20 in Saint Paul! The conference provides a venue for citizen science researchers, practitioners, community members, and theorists to come together and share knowledge and best practices in the interest of advancing the field of citizen science. Educators engaging in citizen science in their classroom are encouraged to attend and take advantage of the workshops, events, and networking opportunities offered during the conference. More information about registration, hotels, and travel can be found on the conference’s website.

Summer Institute for Climate Change Education
Join Climate Generation for its 12th annual Summer Institute, designed to guide teachers through challenges teaching about climate change, and help teachers gain the confidence and competence to bring this relevant topic to today’s youth. Participants will have the opportunity to hear from leading experts from the University of Minnesota on their climate science research, engage with hands-on activities, and learn about how Climate Generation curriculum supports language arts, social studies, and science standards, including the Next Generation Science Standards. Click here to read more and to sign up.
  • Date: June 26-28, 2017
  • Who: Classroom teacher or non-formal educator interested in training and resources that support the standards
  • Where: Institute on Environment, University of Minnesota - St. Paul Campus
  • Cost: $150 participation fee, which covers meals, materials, and experiences. Additional fees for lodging, field trips, and additional curricular materials.
  • Register online, or contact Megan Van Loh for more information.
Calendar of Events
Incorporate environmental activities and celebrations throughout the year using a calendar of seasonal topics and environmental holidays.
Create a Literature Garden
Fed up with the four walls and fluorescent lights of her classroom, an English teacher found a way to connect her students to American writers and the nature that inspired them. Learn more and get inspired to create your own literature garden here.
Next Generation of Project WILD
Keep your eyes open in 2017 for the release of new Project WILD curriculum that will include activities on positive and negative feedback loops. In the meantime you can use their current offerings.
Copyright © 2017 Audubon Center of the North Woods Charter School Department, All rights reserved.

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