Hi, all! This is Claire. I wanted to update everyone on what we’ve been busy with here at the Office and events that you can attend to learn more about sustainability in Baltimore.
This past weekend, Ashley, Pam, and I, as well as Andrea (our boss), attended the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) Conference in Ocean City, Maryland from Friday through Sunday. The conference is mainly for environmental educators (i.e. teachers and educators at nature centers), and we were some of the only students there, but it was still a very inspiring experience that taught us a lot about green topics and how to incorporate them into schools. Some of the sessions that we attended ranged a lot, including:
- Wonders of Wetlands Facilitator Course: Ashley and I attended this all-day session on Friday. Wonders of Wetlands (WOW!) is a program that is meant to spread the word about how beneficial wetlands are to the greater world. Now Ashely and I are certified WOW! Facilitators, which means we can teach teachers about WOW! lesson plans at professional development days. We can also teach students about wetlands, which is a nice inspiration for future student engagement events. A few examples of what we learned:
- Wetlands, by definition, can be dry for 97% of the year!
- Some examples of wetlands that you didn’t think were wetlands: the beach, lakes, flooded woodlands, wet meadow, mud flat, and spring ponds (i.e. ponds that aren’t around for all the year).
- Where the water puddles in your yard is perhaps a site of an old wetland, before humans drained the land for settlement. You can put a rain garden here to help utilize the water!
- Wetlands are destroyed at a rate of 35 acres per hour.
- In Maryland, we have 591,000 acres of wetland, but we’ve lost 70% of our wetlands in our state alone.
- Wetlands are sponges, preventing flooding. One acre of salt marsh can store 1.5 million gallons of water!
- Wetlands can be used to filter our sewage! That’s right, wetlands actually save us $2.33 per 1000 gallons of sewage as opposed to conventional filtration by a wastewater treatment plant. Nature is actually better than our concrete buildings… but I knew you all already knew that!
- The Link Between Maryland Green Schools and Higher Student Achievement: Ashley attended this session, and the title alone explains it all. Getting your school certified as a Maryland Green School actually improves your test scores and your publicity. Did you know that one of the Office’s goals is to make every school a Green School? You can start now by applying for a Green, Healthy, Smart Challenge grant next September.
- Use Claim, Evidence, Reasoning to Examine Climate Change in MD: Pam attended this session and learned about how to talk about climate change in an engaging and educational way.
- Local Partnerships: Hel Students Take Meaningful Climate Change Action in Baltimore: Ashley and Andrea attended this session, which talked about how Lakeland Elementary/Middle School worked with TreeBaltimore and FieldScope to improve their local environment. Extremely inspiring for our student engagement events coming!
- Black, White, and Green: Inclusion Methods for Diversity in Environmental Education: Andrea attended this session and learned all about how to level the playing field in environmental education. One of my personal goals of the internship is to help children at disadvantaged schools get exposed to green environments and experiences because every child deserves a green education.
- The EcoJustice Classroom: Lessons in the Roots of Environmental Justice: Pamela, Ashley, and Andrea attended this session and made some really good connections to environmental justice experts and how to tackle the issue in Baltimore.
- Growing a Green Team Support System: I attended this session all about how Howard County schools built a Green Team system throughout all of their public schools. It was very inspirational for how we will structure our system in the City.
The list above is not nearly close to the total number of sessions we attended, but each of the speakers provided some sort of expertise that could be used in our experience in the Office as we work to involve more students in environmental efforts.
Now how can you get involved? Our Youth Sustainability Summit is coming up on Saturday, March 12 from 9:30-4. We will have several guest speakers, like Blue Water Baltimore, Parks & People, and multiple social justice organizations, all here to reflect on and tackle the questions:
How does sustainability connect to society and your everyday life? How does connecting to the environment meet community needs?
Please let any middle- and high-school Baltimore City youth who are interested in the environment about this opportunity. We will be publicizing more over the next few weeks. Included are lunch, snacks, environmental literature, and maybe even some s’mores around a campfire!
That’s all for now…