“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” —John James Audubon
Every April we pause to reflect upon our environment as part of the annual Earth Day commemoration. There are Earth Day celebrations and renewed efforts to recycle, reuse and restore in an effort to be more environmentally friendly. Here at Episcopal there are daily opportunities for students to learn more about the environment and their role in protecting our natural resources.
“Students love learning about the earth and how they can take care of it,” says fifth grade science teacher Eric DiMari. DiMari’s students recently embarked on a lesson on biomes that will require them to research and eventually educate fellow classmates on the biome of their choice. Earlier this year, DiMari’s students also studied Louisiana’s wetlands, the causes of wetland destruction and potential ways to save them.
In addition, third graders recently participated in a Mini Ecosystem Fair as part of their study of the Louisiana ecosystem. Experts from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Coastal Conservation Authority and LSU, along with Episcopal alumnus Rory McCracken '17 and Instigator Betsy Minton shared their environmental knowledge. The guest speakers brought soil and fur samples, fishing rods, photos and even live crawfish to provide students the opportunity to personally interact with nature.
“Why can’t we just send them water?” asked a sixth grade science student after learning about the water crisis in South Sudan.
Sixth graders are also learning about planet earth. Students in Stacy Hill’s science class recently completed an extensive study of earth’s most precious natural resource – water. Students learned about everything from condensation to conservation. They even had an opportunity to make their own water filters out of everyday objects. Hill says the lesson created an awareness among the students about the importance of access to clean water and a desire to help those who do not have that access.
“The coastal roots program is a great way to educate students of all ages regarding their own personal role in regards to the environment.” Betsy Minton, Instigator.
Each year, students in Lower and Upper School participate in the coastal roots program. Third graders plant the seeds of bald cypress and tupelo trees in cells on Episcopal’s campus. The seeds are then monitored and cared for by the Upper School environmental science students as they sprout and grow into seedlings. Once the seedlings are mature enough, students plant them in the Bonnet Carre Spillway to replenish vegetation in the region. This year was the first time the Lower School students had the opportunity to join their Upper School counterparts on the planting field trip. The fifth graders were excited to participate, and many even remembered planting the seeds as a third grader.
Why is it important for students to learn about their environment?
“The future generations are the future caretakers of the earth. The more educated they are about the planet, the more effective they will be,” answered DiMari.
Hill and Minton agree.
“Educating young people about the earth and environment gives students the opportunity to apply content knowledge to the world around them. It shows them how their class is relevant to the real world and hopefully guides them towards being environmentally aware citizens,” said Hill.
“Our Louisiana ecosystem is so fragile that it’s up to their generation to fix it. Hopefully learning more about the environment early on will inspire them to create innovations for change later on,” says Minton.
True to the Episcopal mission, the diocese has launched a Stewardship of Creation effort. Bishop Thompson has formed an environmental commission in an effort to bring awareness of the increasing challenges facing our natural environment and therefore the people of Southeast Louisiana. In a letter to the community, Joey Clavijo, Chair for The Bishop’s Environmental Commission, says the commission will lead discussions to draw upon individual gifts to bring about concrete actions to restore and sustain the environment. The group is asking members of the Episcopal community who are interested in participating to complete a survey expressing their interest. Click here to access the survey.
Every year, Earth Day is observed on April 22nd. At Episcopal, students are learning about their environment each day of the school year. We hope such focus and care inspires the next generation to preserve God’s creation.
Want to get more involved? Check out these helpful resources:
Calculate your household water usage - https://www.watercalculator.org/
The Red Stick Green Guide - https://www.brla.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2561
Baton Rouge Recycling Center - https://www.brla.gov/890/Recycling-Office
2018 Mayor’s Earth Day Challenge - https://www.brla.gov/1537/7590/Mayors-Water-Challenge
Teaching students to love and understand the natural world around them is an important part of becoming a global citizen. Having an appreciation of nature helps students gain empathy. They learn that the world is not their's for the taking but a precious gift that must be cared for and protected. In third grade our students spend several weeks every year learning about the diverse ecosystems that make up Louisiana’s environment, from the coastal plains in the north all the way down to the Mississippi river delta. They not only learn about the plants and animals but the importance of weather, climate, soil, and water and how each one affects all of the different ecosystems. They develop a deeper understanding of how every aspect of the environment is interrelated and that a change in just one part can impact the entire system.
We wove the theme of conservation throughout the entire unit. Students learned about fire suppression, invasive species, deforestation, pollution, and endangered species. It is easier to think about conserving places you have seen in person. Many of our students have experiences with forests and swamps but few of them have been to a marsh or fished in the gulf. We know that in- person experiences and hands-on learning "stick" the best. Since we couldn't bring the kids to the shore, we brought the shore to the kids. I set up an in house field trip by bringing a variety of guest experts to Episcopal to give the kids a taste of the gulf coast. With help from an Episcopal family and LSU I was able to set up six stations for them to visit and explore.
Finally Dr. Chris Greene shared some live crawfish with the students from the LSU Aquaculture Research Station. Students got to hold crawfish, find out about how they are adapted to live in the water and mud, and identify males and females by the size and shape of their swimmerets.
The event was a huge success thanks to our community partners' enthusiastic participation. The students learned so much and were extremely disappointed when the event was over. If you have a career or passion that you would love to share with our students please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @betsy_minton on Twitter.
Elizabeth "Betsy" Minton is the Science, Math and Creativity Instigator at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. She enriches instruction by generating interdisciplinary curriculum, spearheading hands-on, project-based learning and supporting faculty in the application of STEM education standards. In addition, she coaches the middle school robotics team and facilitates the middle school MakerSpace. She has over a decade of elementary classroom experience in general and special education with graduate coursework in literacy, special education, and technology integration. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Bates College and was a 2002 Teach for America Corps Member.