Green Teachers Give Students Knowledge And Model Stewardship

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Several of Athens County’s rural school are ideally situated for outdoor learning opportunities, and many teachers have taken full advantage of those opportunities.

Learning opportunities don’t have to just extend to the basic facts, explained Joe Brehm, environmental education coordinator at Rural Action. They give students the “tools to become stewards of their environment.”

The Appalachian Green Teachers Program (AGTP) is implemented by Rural Action with some short and long-term goals in mind, encouraging teachers to use all the natural resources at their fingertips.

”Take Trimble, for example,” Brehm said. “The high school has enough forested land right behind the school to build a trail through it. Only a mile away lies the Trimble Township Community Forest, which the entire school district can use as a Land Lab.”

Rural Action, through the AGTP works with around 25 teachers in Athens County.

Some of the Athens County teachers who are involved in the program are Amrik Brar and Joe Stitt of Trimble High School, and Beth Pettey and Amy Braverman of Alexander Local Schools. These and the other Green Teachers may be found at any grade level. Pettey, for example, is a preschool teacher who teamed up with Rural Action to build a pollinator outside her classroom window.

As winter weather subsides, students in all the districts will be spending more time outdoors, learning more about their local ecology, and hopefully laying the foundation for long-term projects. One of the long-term goals of AGTP, said Brehm, is encouragement of sustainable farming, capitalizing on communities’ solid waste, sustainable forestry practices, and watershed restoration.

“All of these activities require understanding of the local ecology and scientific principles and so AGTP builds that foundation of knowledge and action.”

”We also facilitate workshops for educators such as Project Learning Tree, Project WILD, Project WET,” said Brehm, adding that through partnerships with Ohio University, teachers have chances to learn more about integrating environmental education into the classroom.

Some of Rural Action’s Americorps members are spending time in the classroom, putting together lessons, recruiting new Green Teachers, and taking the students outside.

“When one of us walks into a classroom around here, you can hear the kids whispering to each other, ‘Are we going outside today?’ The students have been able to associate us with the outdoors and that’s awesome,” Brehm said.