Student-led Environmental Stewardship Initiative

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Exciting New Program Gives Students Opportunity and Resources to Help Our Local Environment

Insights is excited to be partnering with two local high schools and several environmental organizations on a two-year mission to build a strong environmentally conscious future for the border region by providing young community members with skills and experiences to promote a new generation of conservational awareness; thanks to $100,000 in grant funding from the EPA.

Through spring 2021, supported by the environmental organizations, Environmental Stewardship Clubs at each high school will receive $10,000 to accomplish a hands-on student-led restoration project that solves a community environmental issue. This leadership program will also give students and teachers funding and opportunities for building networking relationships and incorporating several field trips into their curriculum, while their classroom education is enhanced with workshops developed and provided by environmental professionals.

We are proud to empower students with ecological compassion to make a difference for the planet we all call home.

Fostering Young Environmental Stewards…

 

In August 2019, Friends of the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park and Frontera Land Alliance kicked off the SESI program by introducing the concept of environmental stewardship to environmental science juniors and seniors at Horizon High School and Cathedral High School.

In this workshop, the director of Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, gave an inspiring presentation on restoration progress at the park over the last 18 years, while discussing the significance of why these actions are beneficial to more than nature. Frontera Land Alliance engaged students in a group carbon-footprint calculation activity, then prompted a discussion about how changes from small-scale to large-scale, can have positive or negative impacts on the quality of our water, land and air.

 

 

In September 2019, students excitedly learned about how to measure bird presence in an area and what this means to an ecosystem as researchers. Students practiced their skills identifying native and migratory bird species using a field guide in the this workshop hosted by the Trans-pecos Audubon Society, Friends of the Rio Bosque, and Frontera Land Alliance.

Students practiced identifying bird species in groups in preparation for field trips to Rio Bosque Wetlands Park and Keystone Heritage Park. These bird identification skills will be essential to student restoration projects, as they learn to pay close attention, make meaningful observations, and monitor health and changes to an ecosystem.

 

 

Students compared plant samples and used a field guide to identify native species they are likely to encounter on field trips or may need at a restoration site. During this workshop, Frontera Land Alliance taught students about the important role plants play in our region. Identifying native versus invasive species may be part of restoring an area.

  

 

 

 

In October 2019, the UTEP Centennial Museum provided a workshop in which students engaged in a mini-debate after being introduced to the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) factory with a short video tour and provided with local primary resources such as newspaper articles, magazine excerpts, and photos dug up from the museum archives to prepare their cases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They were split into three groups: 1) as pro-ASARCO, 2) as anti-ASARCO, 3) the questioners/jury. Each group had time to make their case based on research then were asked questions by the jury and debated. You can also see the mini-posters each group made to support their argument. Students experienced a special temporary exhibition of ASARCO history on a field trip to the Centennial Museum.

 

 

 

Students walked through the gallery of the special exhibition of ASARCO at the UTEP Centennial Museum. They discuss the environmental and cultural effects of the smelter, and interact with augmented reality (AR) in some parts of the gallery. They also spent time right outside in the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens practicing their native plant identification skills on a guided tour.

 

 

 

In October 2019, students and teacher enjoyed their first taste of field work as they learned how to perform 50-meter plant transecting and observed birds using binoculars at the Rio Bosque Wetlends Park. They practiced how to record environmental/ecological data, which they later analyzed and interpreted in another workshop. They also had quality bird identification and point count practice with experienced bird-hobbyists.

 

 

 

In January 2020, Green Hope Project taught students how to use the EPA’s EJScreen (Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Screen) mapping program to cross-compare environmental indicators (examples: cancer, hazardous waste proximity, waste water discharge) to demographic data (examples: education level, income level, age).This workshop was led by a real attorney, who gave students insight to how this tool is useful in her line of work. She also shared stories about local situations where citizens have used their voice to prevent environmental polluters from moving into specific regions of El Paso County.

 

 

 

Green Hope Project also led a workshop that asked students to consider what green infrastructure projects would be most beneficial in their community. They discussed the options and students determined how they would funnel funding towards implementation. Each group was awarded with $2,000 in Monopoly money to distribute as they saw fit to various project options. This is great practice for that $10,000 in club funding they will receive for a restoration project this year!

 

 

 

In early February 2020, students worked with volunteers to collect bird point counts and 50-meter plant transecting data on a field trip to Keystone Heritage Park, a beautiful refuge for local and migratory wildlife. The information collected was used a future workshop where students will learn what to do with this kind of data, what it indicates, how to analyze it, and how to measure outcomes using data. Data from Keystone Heritage Park will be compared to data collected from Rio Bosque to practice these skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During another workshop led by Frontera Land Alliance, students learned about soil erosion by executing a hands-on experiment using recycled soda bottles. They tested how 3 differing samples would hold up when water was introduced. The students compared their results and had a discussion about the role that water plays in erosion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for more SESI updates…

 

 

A Message from a UTEP Student:

“I initially went into applying to colleges with the goal of becoming an Agricultural Officer for Customs and Border Protection.  I hoped to become an Agricultural Officer because I knew they were at the forefront of reducing the impacts of trade and immigration (i.e. the introduction and spread of invasive species into the United States).  With this in mind, Environmental Science was the major that made the most sense, I would be able to obtain a degree that would give me an advantage in my future career field, and that would be able to be applied to other jobs in the event that being an Agricultural Officer didn’t pan out.  While studying Environmental Science, I realized that I actually enjoyed education and giving presentations on what I had learned more than I liked the idea of being an officer. I spoke to my advisor at UTEP who instructed me that I should look into internships, which is where I discovered that Insights was looking for interns.  Joining the Insights team was an amazing opportunity for me to be able to explore educating people about topics surrounding Environmental Science. I truly believe that I have found what I want to do, and hope that I can continue down the career path of being an educator for the foreseeable future.”

~ Linda Rudeck, Class of 2019, Bachelor’s in Environmental Science from the University of Texas at El Paso

 

Do you have skills in environmental education? Do you enjoy native bird and plant identification? Or do you have other naturalist skills to share; like animal tracking and identification? Then please consider volunteering to help guide students during our planned field trips. Sign up below for more information.

 

 

Executive Director: Meghan Curry, meg@insightselpaso.org

Program Manager: Gabriela Franco, gabriela@insightselpaso.org

 

 

 

This publication was developed under Assistance Agreement No. NE96878101-0 awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It has not been formally reviewed by EPA. The views expressed in this document are solely those of Insights and EPA does not endorse any products or commercial services mentioned in this publication.

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