August 30, 2021 /
Jona Elwell

Nature Near Schools Program

It is no secret that here at Casey Trees we are passionate about youth education. Afterall, to grow a greater, greener city, we must work together, not just today or tomorrow, but day after day and year after year. When we teach younger generations about the value of trees and green space now, we will ensure that our city’s lush tree filled legacy continues. This is why we host annual TreeWise Summer Youth Camps, host School Tree Plantings, and develop engaging, tree focused educational resources for students and teachers alike.

Therefore, we are thrilled to announce we’re adding to our educational arsenal – we were selected as one of the providers for DC’s Department  of Energy and the Environment’s Nature Near Schools grant. Our project, Greenspace Mapping, will incorporate a Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) with 5th graders during the upcoming school year to enrich their outdoor learning opportunities and create environmental stewards.

So what is a MWEE (pronounced mee-wee) and how does it relate to our work? According to the Chesapeake Bay Trust: “MWEEs are learner-centered experiences that focus on investigations into local environmental issues that lead to informed action and civic engagement.” MWEEs incorporate hands-on learning to inspire and complete an action project. Our goal in facilitating the Greenspace Mapping MWEE is to connect students and teachers with their watershed, and to discover their role in maintaining green spaces near their schools to increase the health of our local ecosystem.

Joining with Clean Air Partners, we will host monthly investigations at four schools, both indoor and outside, that integrate Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These are innovative new standards intended to help students deeply understand core scientific concepts, to understand the scientific process of developing and testing ideas, and to have a greater ability to evaluate scientific evidence

Have you taken time lately to look at the human impact on your greenspaces in your neighborhood? What about taking time to consider how the four spheres interact? By utilizing tools like our tree maps, students will develop a stewardship project, which will culminate at the end of the school year in a student-led showcase. 

Through our investigations, students will be introduced to the four spheres (hydrosphere, geosphere, biosphere and atmosphere), greenspaces near their school, and tools available to address an environmental question, problem or issue. 

Overall, our goal is to empower the next generation of tree stewards to continue our hard work. When we empower kids to go outside and play, we are promoting their overall health, all the while developing their appreciation of the natural world that we all must learn to protect and care for. When we empower kids to understand their role in a community of shared space which is what our urban environment is, we are also empowering them to work together, respect and protect that space, and the people who call it home. When we empower kids to go outside and learn, we are also teaching them the skills necessary to become well rounded future leaders that will understand the value of their environment.

Stay tuned for how the year unfolds and what projects they develop.