ACNW Environmental Education News

March 1, 2016

Dear Charter School Leaders, EE Coordinators, Teachers, and Board Members,
We’re excited to announce that the ACNW Teacher Workshop will return for a second year. This year’s theme will focus on environmental justice, an issue that impacts many of the learners in your schools. Please mark August 1 & 2, 2016 on your calendar. The workshop will be held at the Audubon Center in Sandstone. ACNW expects that each school will send one teacher, and will cover the cost (meals and lodging) of up to two teachers. We will send out registration information in the next EE update.
In addition, Aurora Charter School has shared highlights from their environmental education program. This school year, ACS formed an EE committee to roll out EE mission match activities and help teachers track data. In each EE Update, ACNW will highlight effective EE practices we’ve observed in ACNW-authorized and other schools in order to provide opportunities for schools to connect and learn from one another, as well as feature the good work of schools that are increasing students’ environmental literacy. Please let me know if you’ve 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


Aurora Charter School (ACS) is a dual-immersion (Spanish/English) school located in an urban area of South Minneapolis. Within its population, 96% of students qualify for Free and Reduced meals, and 99.5% of students begin their education as English Language Learners. Some of the biggest challenges for ACS in implementing its environmental education (EE) goals have been incorporating EE within the existing bilingual curriculum, weaving EE into school-wide culture, and the limits of the school’s urban location. To combat these challenges, ACS created an Environmental Education Committee, which includes both teachers and administrators.
One of the EE committee’s main objectives for this year was to design a practical way to roll out its EE goals to staff, students, and families. Because change must be manageable, the EE Committee's intention was to introduce the goals and requirements in small steps so as to not overwhelm teachers, who already have heavy workloads. The committee started small by asking teachers to do one short EE-related activity per week during morning meetings and to add a Green Corner to their classrooms. The Green Corner would be meant to display EE-related student work, news, connections to EE lessons, etc. and would need to change each month.  In addition, to make it easier and to create school unity around EE, the EE Committee asked teachers to follow the theme of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" when choosing EE activities for morning meeting and for EE class projects. EE Committee members are currently documenting the success of this approach by taking photographs of student projects, interviewing students, and requiring teachers to include these EE activities and projects into their weekly lesson plan submissions.
The Youth Summit and Lobby Day is an opportunity for teachers and students to support a strong Clean Power Plan for Minnesota. Hosted by Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, in partnership with MPIRG and the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, the Youth Summit and Lobby Day are an opportunity for young people to share their perspectives on the Clean Power Plan, and call on the Governor, as well as state legislators to support a state plan that is both strong and just. Visit the Climate Generation website for more information or to register.
Shakopee High School had a vision to offer environmental education in a sustainable, outdoor classroom setting that could be used throughout the entire year. They decided to design and create the Shakopee Environmental Learning Center, which is located on the grounds of Shakopee High School. The school wrote a grant seeking initial funding for the building project, which included a learning center building, and later a wind turbine, solar panels, and surrounding landscaping. Once the initial grant was secured, the project procured additional grants and funding, paving the way for further expansion. Learn more about the SELC online, or contact Paul Nettesheim at (952) 496-5162 or

Tune in live to see nesting Great Horned Owls on the Cornell Lab’s live Bird Cam in partnership with Skidaway Audubon in Savannah, Georgia. Check out this short video of the male owl bringing the female a gift as she incubates their first egg.

Green Schools National Network shared this article, Improving the Air We Breathe, reprinted with permission from Green Teacher magazine and originally authored by Nel Smit and John Todd. It provides practical opportunities to involve students ages 10-16 in investigating indoor and outdoor air quality in their communities.

The Audubon Center of the North Woods is currently accepting applications for 2016-2017 naturalist interns. Naturalist interns instruct environmental and adventure classes, receive training in natural history and teaching, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the ins and outs of running a residential environmental learning center. Interns must have a B.S. or B.A. and be 21 years of age or older. If you know a soon-to-be or recent college grad, please pass along this opportunity. Learn more or apply online.

This article, published by Green Schools National Network, summarizes recent research conducted by The University of Tulsa’s Indoor Air Program. Based on research conducted in a large school district in the Southwestern United States, maintaining adequate ventilation and thermal comfort in classrooms could raise a student’s average test scores to ‘commended performance,’ indicative of high academic achievement (considerably above state passing standard). In addition, adequate ventilation and cleanliness could reduce health symptoms that require a visit to the school nurse. The research helps to understand the potential benefits of effectively managing indoor environmental factors in schools.
Using millions of bird observations from participants in eBird and the Great Backyard Bird Count, scientists at the Cornell Lab generated an animated map showing the annual journeys of 118 bird species. Watch how the routes change in spring and fall as birds ride seasonal winds to their international destinations. See the map in motion and learn more. Use the numbered key to tell which species is which.
Bird TV ("Bird Teaching Video") are web-based educational resources created and hosted by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology for use by schools, nature centers, bird clubs, and community members free of charge. The topics covered in the various episodes encourage stewardship and examine the shapes and colors of birds, their songs, behaviors, physical adaptations, and human interactions.
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.
Ecotech Grants
The Captain Planet Foundation is accepting applications from schools and nonprofits for its Ecotech Grant program. Twenty grants of $2,500 each will be awarded to schools or nonprofit organizations for projects that use innovation, nature-based design or technology to address environmental problems in their communities. Learn more or apply online. The deadline to apply is March 15, 2016.
School Grants for Healthy Kids
Action for Healthy Kids is accepting School Grants for Healthy Kids applications for the 2016-2017 school year. Schools may apply for School Breakfast grants ($500 - $5,000) to pilot or expand their School Breakfast programs or Game On Grants ($500 - $2,500) to fund physical activity/nutrition initiatives. Visit the AHK Grants page for more information and register for informational webinars: School Breakfast (March 1) and Game On (March 2). The deadline to apply is April 1, 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 $500.00 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.
2016 School Garden Conference
Schoolyard gardens provide a hands-on opportunity for students to meet academic standards, engage with community partners, learn about agriculture, healthy eating, and connect with natural systems. Whether you are a beginner or schoolyard garden veteran, join the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and Master Gardeners at the 2016 School Garden Conference to learn innovative strategies, sustaining and engaging diverse learners in a thriving schoolyard garden.
  • When: Friday, March 4 from 8:30 AM-4:00 PM
  • Where: Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, MacMillan Auditorium
  • Fee: $75.00, which includes Arboretum admission, coffee, and lunch
  • Register online, or for more information, call (612) 301-1210 or email
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 one can obtain a certificate upon completion. Visit the Green Teacher website to register, or access their archive of past webinars. Spring topics include:
  • Inspiring Deeper Learning with Music (Thursday, March 31).
Action for Healthy Kids Webinars
Action for Healthy Kids is offering a variety of webinars this spring to help you create a healthy school. Sample webinar topics include:
  • Growing Your School Garden (Wednesday, March 9)
  • Creating Walk and Bike to School Programs that Engage Kids and Families (Wednesday, May 11)
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
Sierra Club John Muir Lesson Plans
Learning about John Muir’s life can serve as a launching pad to environmental studies from a variety of perspectives. Botany, geology, history, geography, language arts, visual arts, and more can be inspired by John Muir, as we discover that, as John Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  These lesson plans are aligned with the California Academic Content Standards, but can be adapted to meet other state standards as needed.

Earth Day Network
Earth Day Network recently launched a new website. Learn what EDN has planned for Earth Day 2016 (the theme is Trees for the Earth), creating a green school, and new topics in daily blog posts.

Indoor Air Quality in Schools Master Class Webinar Series
EPA’s IAQ Master Class Professional Training Webinar Series consists of ten 1-hour technical, core competency web-based trainings designed to build the capacity of school district staff across the country to start, improve, or sustain an IAQ management program.  Access these free on-demand webinars to help you increase your knowledge of best practices for creating healthy indoor environments.
Copyright © 2016 Audubon Center of the North Woods Charter School Department, All rights reserved.

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