AT&T Foundation and NKU Partner on Middle School Environmental Education Program | Schools
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, KY (FOX19) - Northern Kentucky University has received a $22,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation to support school-based and field-based programs in waste management education in local middle schools.
The project will work with five local middle schools to teach students to reduce, reuse and recycle. Along with classroom instruction, teams led by students (with guidance of teachers, administrators and staff) will inventory their school to learn their school’s status regarding waste management – is the school conserving resources, recycling and disposing of items properly? Students then propose a school improvement project. This work is part of the Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools Program, a nationally recognized, state-wide program that is the only one of its kind in the nation.
The funding, which begins in January, will provide critical start-up costs such as personnel, operating, instructional supplies and local travel. The total cost of expanding NKU’s School- and Field-Based Environmental Education Program will be $280,000 over the next 5-7 years. The expansion will allow for increased personnel and operating capacity to serve the region. The university continues to seek additional corporate and private support, and fees are collected for field-trip participants, teacher professional development workshops and an instructional materials loan program.
“AT&T is proud to partner with an organization like Northern Kentucky University,” said David McFaddin, regional director of AT&T Kentucky External and Legislative Affairs. “This partnership, which meets at the intersection of education and environment, will help us to build on our commitment to supporting sustainability efforts across the U.S. We look forward to working with NKU to make a better tomorrow.”
School-based programs work directly with teachers to develop and deliver instructional activities and school-wide projects to reduce, reuse and recycle materials and waste products. Field-based programs include field trips for students to local natural areas to learn about their interaction with the environment.
NKU’s Center for Environmental Education seeks to improve the environmental literacy of citizens by providing environmental education to students at local P-12 schools and NKU, provide professional development to educators through workshops and credit-based courses, develop environmental education programs and curricula, present community outreach programs, and conduct research and program evaluations.
Dr. Steve Kerlin, director of the center, said the program funded by AT&T intentionally targets area middle schools and is about more than just environmental education. “We know that engaging students at this age level is critical to their interest and potential retention in high school,” he said. “If they find school exciting and see relevance of learning to their lives during the middle grades years, they are more likely to persist and remain in high school through graduation.”
The content taught through the project is tied to high school graduation nationally and in Kentucky. Environmental issues, including waste management, is part of the Kentucky Core Content Standards for Assessment. This includes the topics of conservation and recycling of resources and management of waste products. These topics are part of the science, practical living/vocational studies, and social studies curricula and standards.
Dr. Kerlin said Kentucky middle-level curricula is most closely aligned with the topics of conservation and recycling of resources and management of waste products. He said even more importantly, though, programs in this content area for students of this age range have the largest chance of creating an impact on academic performance and student engagement.
Students will participate in field trips designed to connect to their local environment, illustrate first-hand how their actions affect the environment and teach how to protect natural resources. This model empowers students to become environmental stewards – and to see that as individuals and school community members they can identify a problem, take action and make a difference. All the while, they are learning critical science content.
“Students at this age level become very excited about participating in activities that are meaningful and show evidence that they can make a difference,” Dr. Kerlin said. “Excitement and participation in school-wide programs, such as school recycling programs, provide students with a sense of ownership in their school and their education. As students feel part of their school community they are likely to become empowered to continue to be engaged in their learning and school community through graduation.”