Guest Post: Jan Sneddon, Director of GM GREEN at Earth Force
We have so much to be thankful for here at Earth Force. Through this GM GREEN Series, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the unique people and places that make this program tick. Last month, we met a long-time Detroit educator who is packing even more of a punch through GM GREEN by building on her decades of experience with hands-on learning.
This month, we’re exploring three programs in Texas that all have one thing in common – the school districts are invested partners in GM GREEN.
In 2010, Earth Force connected with an educator named Tracy Hollis, who was the program coordinator at the Kirby Creek Natural Science Education Center and has since retired. All Grand Prairie Independent School District K-5 students attend the Center annually for hands-on experiences using the environment as a context for learning. Tracy immediately saw the power of GM GREEN to build on the work happening at the Center, to extend environmental education experiences beyond grade 5, and to connect their work more deeply to local water resources.
Five years ago, GM GREEN expanded into Arlington and Mansfield, Texas, building off of the partnership model established in Grand Prairie. Through financial and mentor support from the GM Arlington Assembly, a new community partner was engaged, the River Legacy Living Science Center, along with the Arlington and Mansfield Independent School Districts.
These three communities are contiguous and located within the highly urbanized and populated Dallas – Ft. Worth Metroplex, in the upper reaches of the Trinity River watershed. The Trinity River watershed encompasses 18,000 square miles (7% of state’s land area) and is the most populated river basin in Texas with nearly 8 million people.These communities and their residents depend on the Trinity River to meet their municipal demands, making the goals of GM GREEN hyper-relevant.
Based on the work in Grand Prairie, both Earth Force and GM knew that school district involvement was key to program success. The secondary science curriculum coordinators from both districts serve as program liaisons and planners. They are able to help classroom educators connect the Community Action and Problem-Solving Process to their curriculum and deepen the impact of the program.
By incorporating GM GREEN at a district level, sites take a holistic approach that is deeply connected to classroom curriculum. For example, in Grand Prairie, a group of educators and support staff invested time to do an Process Book Club, digging into the activity guide and determining how best to integrate the key concepts and activities into their classrooms.
This school year, in addition to every 7th grade student having an in-class water monitoring experience, Mansfield Independent School District high school environmental science classes from six high schools will be participating in GM GREEN. Eighteen educators attended a professional development around Process in October and their students monitored nearby waterbodies in early November. They will be working to learn more about local water issues and choose an issue they wish to address through the remainder of the school year.
To increase the impact and connectivity of these Trinity River watershed communities, Earth Force is working towards a GM GREEN Youth Summit, bringing students from each district together to share about the work they are doing in their respective communities and the impact it is having on the Trinity River. At Earth Force, we never stop working to improve how we engage youth to support the environment and our partners make that evolution possible; just another thing for which to be thankful.
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.