ACNW Environmental Education News

April 18, 2016

Dear Charter School Leaders, EE Coordinators, Teachers, and Board Members,
It’s Earth Week! There’s no better time of year to engage your students in taking action for the future of our planet. Are you a teacher with some room to grow in this area? We’d love to see you at the ACNW Teacher Workshop on August 1 & 2, 2016. This year’s theme will focus on environmental justice, an issue that impacts many of the learners in your schools. 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. Registration information is included in this update.
In addition, La Crescent Montessori Academy & STEM School has shared how they created environmental education curriculum using Albert & Brandt’s EcoJournals. The EcoJournals provide seasonally appropriate activities, topics and lessons, a guide for how to nature journal, and a cohesive fit with the Montessori method. 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.


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.
La Crescent Montessori & STEM School (LMSS), established in 1999, is located on the Mississippi River in southeast Minnesota. Its student population is 65-75 students in grades PreK-12. Intuitive to the Montessori philosophy is an emphasis on the environment; combined with the school's highly interested staff, LMSS is primed to build the bridge to stewardship by helping students understand self, others, and the environment. LMSS’s first steps in creating a strong environmental program began five years ago when staff became Project Lead The Way (PLTW) certified. As the program grew, the school sought affordable ways to expand its environmental courses that fit its rigorous academic standards and the Montessori philosophy.
During the school’s annual visit to River Education Days at Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge in May 2015, one of the staff members recommended the EcoJournal series written by Toni Albert and illustrated by Margaret Brandt. There are four of them, one for each season: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. The EcoJournals fit all of the school’s criteria, providing seasonally appropriate activities, topics and lessons, a guide for how to nature journal, and a cohesive fit with the Montessori method. Learn more about how LMSS is using the EcoJournals in its classrooms and across age groups.
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. Learn more about how ACS is building its environmental education program.
The School of Environmental Studies (SES), located in Apple Valley, MN, promotes a project-based learning approach with environmental themes. A group of juniors and seniors at SES decided they wanted to take on the challenge of gaining LEED certification for their school. Their goal is to obtain certification of the building under the LEED v4 for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance for Schools rating system, which would also make it the first student-led LEED-certified school under LEED v4. The project also serves as a national LEED Lab Pilot that is helping to help drive curriculum for K–12 students relating to LEED certification, environmental education and experiential learning. Learn more about the school’s process and LEED certification:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has posted a link to explore its new mural online. View the mural in its entirety and zoom in on any of the 270 species to view detail of its coloring and shape. One click uncovers each bird’s way of life, voice, and range, with sounds from the Macaulay Library and maps from eBird.
Friends of the Mississippi River has a new program to organize storm drain stenciling outings, cleanups, and presentations with youth groups in north or northeast Minneapolis, along the Mississippi River Gorge in the Longfellow or Central neighborhoods in south Minneapolis, and in Saint Paul. Using paint and stencils, volunteers mark storm drains with the message, “Keep 'em Clean, Drains to River!” and distribute educational door hangers to neighborhood homes and businesses. This hands-on service activity is an excellent fit for groups looking for an environmental stewardship experience. Learn more and plan a storm drain-stenciling outing
The Climate Education Week Toolkit is a free, easy-to-use, ready-to-go resource with carefully selected lesson plans, activities, and contests for K-12 students. It meets both Next Generation Science and Common Core standards. With the goal of educating and engaging K-12 students on climate change, this cross-disciplinary resource includes a range of activities from an energy conservation action plan to reading and discussing Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. The website also provides links to additional lesson plans, resources, educational videos, and action steps.
Melonie Shipman, retired Co-Executive Director of the Audubon Center of the North Woods, offers low-cost, in-school programs related to environmental education, wildlife, and wildlands. The hour-long “Traveling Naturalist” presentations are rich in images, activities, and stories and designed for a variety of audiences and age groups. Learn more, download a program flyer, or contact Melonie online.
STEMhero aims to help students prepare for, and get excited about, careers in STEM fields, especially those related to the natural resource challenges we hear about every day. STEMhero uses students’ own personal data (water, energy, health) to practice real-life STEM inquiry. Why? Because young people want to learn skills and take actions that they can immediately implement and that are clearly relevant totheir families today. Learn more at the STEMhero website.
The BEETLES Project has launched a new website, full of free resources to help teachers implement environmental education in their classrooms. All BEETLES resources are based on current research and understandings about how people learn, and tested by dozens of programs in diverse settings all over the country. BEETLES is one of many programs at the Lawrence Hall of Science, a public science center at the University of California at Berkeley. (Many ACNW-authorized schools use FOSS Kits, another resource created by the Lawrence Hall of Science.)
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.

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 features some of the most important thinkers in the field of environmental education addressing vital and relevant topics. Spring topics include:
  • Transforming School Food (Thursday, April 21)
  • Sustainable Homes and Renewable Energy Education (Monday, May 2)
Registration is FREE and participants can obtain a certificate upon completion. Visit the Green Teacher website to register, or access their archive of past webinars.
Earth Day Birding Festival
Celebrate the many birds of Minnesota at the Hastings area Earth Day Birding Festival. This is the fourth year the Hastings Environmental Protectors has teamed up with Carpenter Nature Center for the Birding Festival. Highlights include an introduction to birding, raptors identification, bird banding demonstrations, and guided bird trips in the Hastings area. Follow this link to view a schedule of events.
  • When: Saturday, April 23 from 8:00 AM-4:00 PM
  • Where: Carpenter Nature Center
  • Fee: Program fee is $5 per person or $15 per person, including a box lunch
  • Pre-registration is required. Call (651) 437-4359 to reserve your spot.

Every Kid Healthy Week
Join schools around the country for Every Kid Healthy Week, April 25-29. Find resources and activities, such as healthy foods taste tests, physical activity classes, and family fitness nights, and check out the Game On Activity of the Month for event ideas.

Action for Healthy Kids Webinars
Join Action for Healthy Kids on Wednesday, May 11 for a monthly webinar to learn about Walk and Bike to School programs that will get your students moving, and help them start their day ready to learn. Walk and Bike to School programs are a great way to engage families and community members in your health and wellness efforts. For school health teams and wellness champions.

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
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
Resources to Promote Earth Week
Hennepin County Environment and Energy has developed a series of social media posts to promote earth-friendly tips during Earth Week, April 17-24. Get Earth Week posts and images to share across your own communication channels.
Additionally, Do It Green! Minnesota is offering free handout kits featuring a Food Print GuideHome Water Audit Checklist, and Seed Saving Guide, as well as handouts on energy, pesticides and reducing trash. Some handouts are also available in Spanish. Past issues of the Do It Green! Magazine are available for free distribution as well. If you are interested in a Do It Green! Minnesota Earth Day Kit or distributing guidebooks at an upcoming event, please contact Kristine Kvamme at
Green Your Earth Day Events
Are you planning something big for Earth Day? Make your event greener with free event planning resources from Hennepin County:
  • Sample letters to vendors, requesting low impact materials and processes
  • Event recycling and waste reduction guide with steps to take before, during and after the event to make your waste reduction and recycling efforts a success
  • Questions to ask haulers and locations of waste drop-off locations
For more information, contact Carolyn Collopy at 612-596-0993.
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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