Written by Earth Force President and CEO, Vince Meldrum
David Beckman, the President of the Pisces Foundation, published a blog post that really made me think. In it, he talked about how ‘we are committed to expanding opportunities for kids to get the environmental know-how they need to thrive.’ Pisces is one of the few foundations to make a commitment to environmental education, and we are all thankful for it.
This is the first time I have ever heard the phrase environmental know-how used to describe environmental education. I like the phrase, and I am going to borrow it. (I gave David a heads up, and he at least implicitly said he is fine with me using it.)
Explaining what environmental know-how means to me will help explain why I love it. Let’s start with defining know-how. Know-How is an expert skill, information, or body of knowledge that imparts an ability to cause a desired result. According to the Tbilisi Declaration, that desired result for environmental education is “people’s active involvement in the resolution of environmental problems.”
At Earth Force, we believe transformative environmental education teaches young people to use their environmental knowledge to influence those in power and drive sustainable change in their communities. Sounds a lot like environmental know-how, right?
We highlighted several examples of “environmental know-how” in action on our blog last month. Like the students from Wentzville, MO who persuaded their Board of Aldermen to sign into law an ordinance that requires the city to provide curbside recycling to all new multifamily dwellings. This happened because some astute sixth graders at Wentzville Middle School led the charge to improve access as a part of their Earth Force class. Thanks to these students, the City of Wentzville will divert an additional 1,000 tons of trash to recycling every year. It represents a change that will impact that community for years into the future.
Why do I find this story compelling? Because if these 15 seventh graders can change their community while still in middle school — think about their potential when they are adults. Everything we know about human behavior tells us that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Research around civic engagement bears this out – if people are involved when they are young, the likelihood that they will be involved when they are older skyrockets.
I agree with David – what our young people need is environmental know-how. If we want to develop young people committed to the collection of scientific data as adults, we should give them experience collecting data. If we want to develop young people committed to “bending the curve” on environmental challenges, we need to give them experience transforming their communities.
Vince Meldrum is an experienced leader with a 25-year history of transforming organizations through program development, innovative technology, and cross-sector partnerships. Vince’s expertise brings Earth Force into the center of the climate resiliency movement. With a specific focus on people, having built several large-scale partnerships, Vince offers a unique perspective on the role of community and youth in the future of our environment.