ACNW Environmental Education News

September 1, 2015

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

The EE Update is back with the start of another new school year! I hope you had a great summer exploring Minnesota’s natural places and rejuvenating for the year ahead. As you head back to the classroom, think about buying green when you stock up on school supplies. Many office, school, and art supplies contain materials that may be toxic to your and your students’ health, including PVC, phthalates, and bisphenol A. When buying school supplies, look for products that are less toxic, are recyclable or have recycled content, and are reusable. The Green Schools Initiative has a webpage devoted to green back to school supplies and where to purchase them.
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 first ACNW EE Teacher Workshop was a great success: 48 attendees from 31 schools were fully engaged in experiential activities, workshops focused on integrating EE across the curriculum, and networking with one another. We offered ten sessions, including hands-on opportunities to get outside and explore, resources from partner organizations and other charter schools, and focused efforts to understand ACNW’s and your school’s shared environmental literacy goals. Based on your feedback, sessions had an overall average rating of 3.41 (on a four-point scale). Participants were excited by the opportunity to connect with teachers from other schools, began to plan for implementing their EE goals in the upcoming school year, and offered lots of great ideas and suggestions for next year’s workshop. We hope to see you there next year!
This summer, a few schools have asked if we will visit during teacher professional development to provide context for implementing the school’s EE goals. The answer is yes; we are willing to do this either before school starts or as ongoing PD throughout the school year. The presentation walks through what ACNW is and why we authorize schools, outlines our authorizing responsibilities, and focuses on understanding the role of EE in the contract and how schools can carry out those goals. We typically request 60 minutes, including time to reflect on the school’s EE goals and discuss them in teams.
Please contact Erin for more information or to schedule a session. We look forward to the opportunity to meet your faculty and staff.
Inspired by the EE workshop to green your classroom? Here are 24 more tips from Population Education, a source for K-12 curriculum and professional development to teach about human population trends and their effects on the environment and society, for creating a healthy learning space for your students (and yourself): 24 Ways to Make Your Classroom Eco Friendly This Year.
Does your school have a green purchasing policy in place? Green purchasing policies take into account the environment and health when making buying decisions for the entire school (or district). They can save schools money while protecting the health of students and staff. What’s not to love? More information, and sample policies, can be found on the Green Schools Initiative website.

Garden clubs around the country partner with schools to help children plan and maintain school gardens. Various programs include the Pollinators Live program, which engages students and teachers in creating diverse school gardens that incorporate native plants to attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other native pollinators. Learn more about National Garden Clubs' programming for schools.

Are you looking for ways to bring fresh produce to your school lunchroom, or need a home for food waste after meals? The University of Minnesota Extension Farm to School program connects schools with fresh, local food grown or raised by family farmers, as well as resources to engage students, training, and hands-on nutrition education for students. You can also send an email to to receive weekly updates from the Great Lakes chapter of the National Farm to School Network or to contact the Minnesota State Lead, Stephanie Heim.
Melinda Gray Ardia Environmental Foundation Environmental Studies Grants
The Melinda Gray Ardia Environmental Foundation will award grants of up to $1,500 to support environmental curricula that show a holistic approach; strive to synthesize multiple levels of learning (facts, concepts, principles); include experiential integrated learning and problem solving; and are founded on basic scientific principles, including hypothesis testing and experimental design. In addition, curricula must incorporate basic ecological principles and field environmental activities within a primary or secondary school setting and present controversial issues objectively, stressing the development of individual student opinions. Pre-proposals must be received no later than September 13, 2015. Upon review, selected applicants will be invited to submit full proposals by September 28, 2015.

Project Learning Tree Environmental Education Project Grants
Project Learning Tree is accepting applications from schools and nonprofit organizations for environmental service-learning projects through its GreenWorks! Grants program. Grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded to support environmental service-learning projects that demonstrate service learning, exemplify the collective voice of the student body, and involve at least one community partner. To be eligible, projects must secure at least 50 percent in matching funds (in-kind is acceptable). (Your school’s EE Mission Match Funds can be used for this purpose.) The annual deadline to apply for a PLT GreenWorks! Grant is September 30, 2015.
Target Field Trip Grants
It’s become increasingly difficult for schools to fund learning opportunities outside the classroom. To help them out, Target launched the Field Trip Grants program in 2007. As part of the program, Target stores award Field Trip Grants to K-12 schools nationwide. Each grant is valued up to $700. Target accepts grant applications between noon CST August 1 and noon CST September 30, 2015. For more information, visit the Target field trip grant website.
Ann Bancroft Foundation Grants for Minnesota Girls
Grants of up to $500 are awarded to girls between the ages of 5 and 18 to help them realize a dream or fulfill their potential. Grants are given through two programs: Dare to Dream Grants (ages 10 through high school), which fund art, cultural, leadership, educational & outdoor/wilderness experiences; and Let Me Play Grants (ages 5 through high school graduation) which fund sport, athletic & dance equipment or participation fees. These grants are awarded directly to girls and not to schools or programs. For more information, visit the Ann Bancroft Foundation grant website. The fall deadline for this program is October 1, 2015.
Lowe’s Charitable and Education Foundation Toolbox for Education Grants
The Lowe's Charitable and Education Foundation has announced the opening of its Fall 2015 Toolbox for Education program, which supports projects that encourage parent involvement in local schools and build stronger community spirit. One-year grants of up to $5,000 will be awarded in support of projects that have a permanent impact on a school community such as facility enhancement (indoor or outdoor) or landscaping/clean-up projects. Toolbox grants also can be used as part of a large-scale project like a playground as long as the funds are used to complete a phase of the project that can be completed within twelve months of the award. The deadline for submitting applications for this grant cycle is October 16, 2015

School Garden Grants

The Jeffers Foundation has compiled a list of grants that are available to help you start or maintain a school garden. They have identified 13 opportunities with deadlines from now through early January. 

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.
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.
FREE Webinar: Phenology Showcase
Get insight, tools and tricks from other groups who are using phenology programs to meet science, outreach, and education goals. Specifically, this webinar will focus on Nature’s Notebook, a national, online program where students and naturalists record observations of plants and animals to generate long-term data sets used for scientific discovery and decision-making. The Science and Compassion of Wildlife Medicine 
As wildlife medicine is a new phenomenon, Phil Jenni, Executive Director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, will outline some of the larger cultural trends that provide historical context for this rapidly growing field and how this emerging discipline is connected to other socio-economic patterns, and why this work is not only important but socially significant in today’s world.
  • When: Tuesday, September 8 at 7:00
  • Where: Minnesota Zoo
  • Fee: FREE, but pre-registration is required
Enhancing the field trip experience with iPads 
The Minnesota Zoo is offering an opportunity to get your students acting like zookeepers, conservationists, exhibit designers, and zoo projects managers by using the same skills these STEM professionals use every day at the zoo. Transform a typical field trip to the zoo into an animal behavior research study or an animal exhibit evaluation through inquiry and observation all while using an iPad as a detailed documentation tool of student collected data. In this hands-on workshop, participants will use and explore iPad applications for building scientific skills within a zoo context. Deepen the learning that takes place between the classroom and the zoo through the use of authentic, real-world STEM skills. You must bring your own iPad.
2015 Living Schoolyards Activity Guide
Learn more about place-based learning and discover new strategies for getting kids outside with the 2015 Living Schoolyards Activity Guide, which was developed by Green Schoolyards America. The guide includes 40+ activities for all grade levels and covers a range of themes such as Art, Recreation, Health, Wildlife Habitat, Watershed Stewardship, Schoolyard Agriculture, Energy and Climate, Thoughtful Use of Materials, and Place-Based Understanding.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
The Minnesota DNR also has many programs and resources available via its website, including teacher trainings, curriculum, and outdoor experiences. They have great ideas for getting kids outside and offers an I Can… series which, while designed for families, can help you become more confident taking kids out to adventure.
County Environmental Education Resources
Check with your county for a wide variety of environmental education resources, project support, or funding. Many counties have free toolkits available for download, learning trunks and event displays to loan, environmental literature, newsletter articles and social media posts, ideas for tours and field trips, guest speakers, and videos. Some examples include Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Anoka County, Dakota County, Stearns County, and Carver County.
Master Recyclers/Composters
Some counties are beginning to implement Master Recycler/Composter Programs. Master Recyclers/Composters are trained on waste prevention, recycling and composting through an extensive six week course that features industry experts and field trips. After completing the training, participants commit to volunteer 30 hours, which could including helping you design and implement waste reduction projects or creating resources for your classroom. Contact your county’s Environmental Services Department, UMN Extension Office, or Soil and Water Conservation District to learn more.
Copyright © 2015 Audubon Center of the North Woods Charter School Department, All rights reserved.

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