Teaching Creative Problem Solving Tactics to NH Youth
Most would agree that the volume of information available to us these days can be overwhelming. Environmentalists, in particular, can be at risk for disseminating information overload, especially to busy students, who are inundated by a variety of sources.
For environmental educators, it is not enough to only provide good information, but also actions that students can take. While some may view this as a challenge, Wild Treasure took it for inspiration. In partnership with the Environmental Studies department of Antioch University New England, the organization engages students in 5th to 12th grade classrooms in southeastern Vermont and southwestern New Hampshire public schools—focusing heavily on underserved areas—to provide skills-based sustainability education and service-learning. This program, currently operating in seven classrooms in three schools, also aligns with standards in math, science, writing, and social studies. Additionally, participating classes that can prove that their research-based actions has enhanced their school or community’s sustainability practices earn a Governor’s Sustainability Award from the State of Vermont or New Hampshire (among other accolades) for their work.
Wild Treasures will use their TogetherGreen innovation grant to expand their reach to multiple classrooms in 10 schools over the next two years. “Staff will prepare teachers to implement curriculum by holding training workshops, demonstrating lessons and activities, creating resource kits, and providing online support for teachers to take a leap into action,” explained founder and Senior Project Manager Jimmy Karlan.
Expanded program components will include workshops to provide educators with the context, structure, and big ideas of the program (including lessons on the principles of sustainability for both students and teachers), but perhaps its most critical aspect is the freedom it gives students to arrive at their own solutions concerning local air, water, and other environmental challenges. Student-generated project ideas will include measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound environmental objectives.
“Because of rigid state standards in math and reading, lessons in sustainability are not a priority for many schools,” Jimmy added. “Moreover, very few students gain experience with concrete skills in creative problem solving, leadership, or civic engagement. We want to prepare today’s youth to solve today’s environmental problems as well as tomorrow’s.”