Learning By Doing: The Value of Environmental Education

Logan helps gather the plants the high schoolers have maintained throughout their school year. (Photo by Molly Finch)
From left to right we have Logan Kline, Sarah Carpe, Sheldon Mason and Adler (AJ) Pruitt

From left to right we have Logan Kline, Sarah Carpe, Sheldon Mason and Adler (AJ) Pruitt

Today’s post comes from Logan Kline, one of our Masonville Cove Baltimore Urban Conservation & Education Interns, in conjunction with the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD.

With dibble bars in hand, waders on, and plants at the ready, students from New York’s Chenango Forks High School charge into their native wetland with brave intentions to restore the plant life of their unique ecosystem.

Wood ducks, red-winged blackbirds, and copious bullfrogs rest in the murky waters of the school’s marshland and depend on native vegetation for food, shelter, and protection.  Without the pickerelweed, arrow arum, and wetland grass the students were attempting to restore, the rich wildlife of the school’s wetland would taper away until nothing remained but algae, mosquitoes, and moss.

As they absorbed information and tactics for restoring wetland vegetation, the students became aware of an overarching theme that I have come to be cognizant of throughout this internship program and my college experience: the importance of hands-on environmental stewardship coupled with education.

Thrown headfirst into wetland restoration, our high school and elementary school students asked thought-provoking questions that wouldn’t have struck them so significantly had they been answered in the dry safety of their classroom. When one of the older kids wanted to know something about the snails, there was no picture to bring up on a screen or diagram to pick apart; we reached into the water, grabbed a snail, and let them have an up-close encounter with the subject of their interrogation. Lessons and memories associated with hard work and indulging experiences have the potential to stick with our students and make a lasting impression on our youth.

For me, environmental education was the last thing I thought of when looking into careers that would put me in a position to change the world. College and its heavy emphasis on research immediately offered the prospects of becoming a lab worker, while the more liberal half of the college promoted policy work but I kept searching for a career choice that would take me out into the field while simultaneously giving me the opportunity to watch others absorb the beauty and importance of our environment.  I found what I wanted in environmental education.

Logan helps gather the plants the high schoolers have maintained throughout their school year. (Photo by Molly Finch)

Logan helps gather the plants the high schoolers have maintained throughout their school year. (Photo by Molly Finch)

Delving into hands-on experience working outside is an imperative step towards involving our modern generation in environmental stewardship and education. It’s been wonderful partaking in activities throughout this internship that that allow us to serve as ambassadors, spreading an important environmental message to students. As I form my own experiences and develop my unique passion within the environmental field, I’m realizing just how influential outdoor experiences are for our youth.

I can’t begin to explain how much I value the opportunities, specifically to witness environmental education that this internship has given me. We aren’t always wallowing around in wetlands or supervising students, but the moments we interact with the youth are my favorite by far. It is in these moments that I see the fruits of our labor and the blooming potential for a better, more environmentally friendly world.

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