On the 25th anniversary of GM GREEN, Earth Force formally expanded the program into Canada, welcoming seven new Canadian communities, many with unique climates, environmental challenges, and educational approaches.
One such community is Langley, British Columbia, sitting on the edge of urban and rural landscapes. Langley is located on the border of Washington state, just southeast of Vancouver, with beautiful views of the Cascade mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It’s a water resource rich community, with 11 major watersheds encompassing Langley.
As we explored how to best connect into the community, we met the Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS), a nonprofit that works to protect and restore the natural environment through education, cooperation, and action. They were already working to do many of the things that are core to the GM GREEN program, such as:
- Providing technical support to community volunteer groups conducting environmental work;
- Creating educational experiences for students in areas related to environmental sciences; and,
- Fostering community cooperation through partnerships among government, teaching institutions, community associations and businesses.
This intentional focus on connecting students to environmental experts, providing space for youth to experience the environment, and building community-wide partnerships created a solid foundation to overlay the deeper, more transformative aspects of the GM GREEN program.
Now, students are not just experiencing the environment — they’re changing it for the better. They’re working hand and hand with their community and General Motors’ mentors to create sustainable solutions to issues like stormwater runoff and habitat loss due to deforestation. This past spring, students from Yorkson Middle School did a water quality and habitat assessment along Yorkson Creek, near their school. Yorkson Creek is a coldwater stream that supports a salmon fishery. The rapid urbanization of the Yorkson Creek watershed is a concern for the future health of Yorkson Creek and the salmon fishery.
Students decided that habitat preservation and improvement would be their project focus. This decision was strengthened when the students returned from spring break to discover a huge swath of forest next to the school had been cleared for athletic fields. Together, they developed a variety of approaches to protect and enhance their watershed, including invasive species removal from school grounds and in the riparian zone of Yorkson Creek and marking of the school’s stormdrains.
An exciting new element going into the 2016-2017 year is that students who participated in GM GREEN in 6th grade, will participate again as 7th graders. We know that having multiple experiences to do GM GREEN matters. The more opportunities young people have to engage in environmental problem-solving, the more likely they’ll be life-long environmental leaders.
Author: Kristen Mueller
Kristen Mueller leads national communications, creating engagement and excitement around Earth Force, and its partners’, hands on, minds on programming. Specializing in traditional media and social media relations, she brings youth voice and leadership to the forefront of the environmental education field.