February 08, 2006

Workshops focus on environmental education

by Karen Hine

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Thirty-four enthusiastic teachers, daycare providers and scout leaders participated in a Jan. 21 environmental workshop held at John A. Logan College in Carterville.

The Project Learning Tree workshop is a national environmental education program widely used among educators of students in kindergarten through high school. Educators receive certification for attending the workshop, making them eligible to receive grants to fund environmental projects and field trips. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources sponsors these workshops statewide, as well as sponsoring Project WILD (Wildlife in Learning Design) and Project WET (Water Education for Teachers).

Two more workshops are scheduled in February.

The Beautify Southern Illinois Regional Campaign and community colleges throughout Southern Illinois are coordinating these environmental education workshops. Paul Restivo, director of Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Center for Environmental Health and Safety, chairs the regional campaign.

Terry White, project services coordinator for Child Care Resource and Referral at John A. Logan College, helped coordinate the Jan. 21 event.

During the session, participants learned about activities they can use with their students to help them learn more about the environment. Sue Hirsch, an interpretive specialist for the Shawnee

National Forest, and Linda Hauser, an administrative support clerk for the forest, discussed various classroom activities that provide students with hands-on environmental education that tie into a workbook called Project Learning Tree Guide Book.

"The book is great. It is broke down so easily into categories. The material is all good and I highly recommend it," said workshop participant Kim Ross, who is from Mattoon.

Jennae DuBois, an SIUC graduate assistant for Beautify Southern Illinois who created these workshops, collaborated with White, Hirsch and Hauser on the program. She provided an additional workbook full of grant options, coloring book activities and environmental facts. The workbooks were provided with the help of Man-Tra-Con, a non-profit organization that helps with the funding of other non-profit organizations.

Luncheon speaker Deborah Simmons-Gray focused on the importance of service learning. A University of Illinois Extension educator, Simmons-Gray stated that service learning promotes better behavior in children and encourages them to continue volunteering throughout their lives. It gives children an opportunity to voice their concerns and work toward making a difference.

That message wasn't lost on Marty Thorton of Marty Thorton's Daycare in Herrin.

"We must realize that we impact other's lives," she said of her reason for attending the workshop. "We affect the kids we work with."

White called the workshop "a total success."

"We are providing real learning experience resources to take home and to the center of class and actually work with kids on activities," White said. "This is something to do again on a yearly basis to give more opportunities."

The next workshop is set for 8:45 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, at Southwestern Illinois College in Red Bud in the Performing Arts Room. To register, contact Karen Stallman at 618/282-6682, ext. 8133.

Another workshop will take place on Friday, Feb. 24, at Shawnee Community College in the Ullin River Room beginning at 8:45 a.m. Call Joyce Davault at 618/634-3309 to register.

These workshops have a $10 fee, which includes all workbooks, breakfast and lunch. For more information on these workshops, please contact Jennae DuBois at 618/453-7170 or jdubois@cehs.siu.edu.

These workshops will help achieve the goal of developing a comprehensive long-range strategy for assisting schools in implementing educational initiatives, which create positive environmental awareness and participation in maintaining a clean community.

Serving others is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it observes its 150th anniversary in 2019.