As the 39th anniversary of Earth Day 2009 draws closer, some of the nation’s youngest citizens are lending a helping hand to the environment during the fifth annual National Environmental Education Week, which started April 12 and will run through April 18.
EE week, a seven-day lead into Earth Day, is the single largest organized environmental education event in the U.S. More than 2,500 partners- including teachers, schools, museums and nature centers- have planned EE Week activities, reaching an estimated 4.5 million students.
Coordinated by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), EE Week promotes understanding and protection of the natural world by actively engaging K-12 students and educators in a week of environmental learning. In support of this year’s theme, Be Water Wise!, students across the country will participate in activities to reinforce the importance of water as a limited resource.
“The enthusiasm for environmental education is growing,” says Diane Wood, president of the National Environmental Education Foundation. “It’s an essential component of education. EE Week is an ideal way to integrate environmental content into class curricula and to prepare students for a changing world in which all jobs are rapidly becoming green jobs.”
In conjunction with EE Week, the EPA released the results of its first ever environmental education-air quality study, showing that environmental education programs are effective tools in improving air quality. Nearly half of all surveyed institutions hosting environmental education programs reported improvements in air quality, due to actions taken by students.
“This study shows a valuable connection between better environmental education and cleaner air in our communities,” says EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
In addition to a week of environmental lessons, field trips and activities, some students are taking environmental education a step further and incorporating what they have learned to their physical classrooms.
A great example is the work of the “Green Dream” team from Beachwood High School in Ohio. Made up of 20 marketing students and led by the school’s marketing teacher, the team raised enough funds to build the “Ultimate Green Classroom” at the Beachwood Community Center.
The LEED Certified room, made entirely of eco-friendly and energy efficient materials, became the national model for an eco-friendly learning space. The students are hosting the second annual Green Dream Showcase on April 17 and hope to raise enough funds to build an outdoor learning center for the community.