Well it’s that time of year again – good old “back to school” time. With that fleeting “new lunchbox” smell and spiral notebooks still unbent, the coming school year represents a new beginning, brimming with promise. My kids and I have spent our free time this summer taking walks, hiking, paddling, learning and observing in wetlands. Is that all over now that it is time to return to school? Not a chance!
In celebration of the new semester, I thought I would share with you some resources to help kids stay connected with wetlands throughout the school year. And for those of you adult learners who feel like learning about wetlands this fall, I include some fun learning opportunities for you too!
If you are looking to integrate the study of wetlands into school curriculum:
- Project WET works with children, parents, teachers and community members to deliver water education that promotes awareness of water and empowers community action to solve complex water issues. Their offerings include water resource education materials, training workshops, provide assistance in developing water festivals, and experiential learning projects that lead to sustainable solutions on community water resource issues.
- National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA Program combines effective “green” management of the school grounds, the facilities and the curriculum through school-based action teams of students, administrators, educators and community volunteers. Their focus is on providing students with a unique, research and application based learning experience.
- Our Wetlands, Our World provides information and activities to help high school students learn about the importance of wetlands and to become involved in the restoration of these valuable, unique environments. It also helps bring State Content Standards to life by linking science concepts to local resources. The focus of the guide is on Upper Newport Bay in Orange County; however, much of the information is applicable to other wetland sites.
- Teachers can also work with local wetland centers and grantors to develop independent wetland learning projects, like the Growing Wetlands in the Classroom project by Lynnhaven River NOW and the Elizabeth River Project working with local schools. With creativity, good science, planning – the sky’s the limit!
If you want to create a more individual wetland connection for your own children, a youth group or homeschoolers, opportunities abound:
- Read books about wetlands with your kids. I wrote a blog about some wonderful wetland books for children in different age groups in my Wetland Wanderer Blog entry: Wetland Books to Foster the Next Generation of Advocates
- Watch and talk with your kids about online wetland science videos. A great example is Bill Nye the Science Guy’s “Wetlands” video on YouTube and use these discussion questions to think more about it.
- Visit a wetland. Wetlands are everywhere! Ask a local nature organization or check out a state map to find one near you. We like to visit both wetland trails and centers that include interpretive exhibits, information and programs. Great choices include wetlands at Audubon sites and National Estuarine Reserves.
If you find yourself in the mood to go back to “school” this fall to learn some more about wetlands, we encourage you to enroll in wetland-related courses at a local university, through a professional certification program or just dabble in the following offerings:
- Check out ASWM’s online calendar to see upcoming wetland-related learning opportunities across the U.S.
- Test your knowledge with the interactive online Wetlands 101 hosted by the nonprofit Environmental Concern, Inc.
- Take a virtual wetland wander over to the Swamp School where you can take both a number of free online wetland trainings and register for professional classes and certification trainings.
- Sign-up for the Wetlands Training Institute’s “Wetland E-Sessions” on wetlands delineations, regulatory policy, nationwide permits, and jurisdiction determinations.
- Get yourself up to speed on the latest science and best practices in the field of wetland restoration by participating in two free webinar series this fall: The ASWM Restoration Webinar Series and the USFWS Restoration Webinar Series.
- And stay tuned! The Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM) is going to be piloting a variety of new ASWM online training offerings on wetland topics in the not so distant future!
However you chose to connect, wetland education and activities abound both this fall and year-round. And yes, it’s back to school time – with opportunities for wetlands to be front and center!