Sustainability Resources for Local Educators09/30/2023 ● By Daniel Hiestand
Understanding why environmental sustainability matters is vital because real-world, climate crisis-related impacts are here and now.
Last winter, Lane County reached out to 2,000-plus county educators via survey and focus groups to gauge how much county students are learning about environmental sustainability topics. Nearly 500 educators responded to our survey, and 45 participated in focus groups.
The most significant takeaways:
- Eighty-one percent are unfamiliar with Lane County’s (and its partners’) sustainability programs.
- Fifty-three percent do not know if their district has a sustainability plan.
- Nearly 50 percent of teachers report their students engaging in sustainability topics.
- Twenty-nine percent reported rarely teaching sustainability; 26 percent taught at least once per semester, and 21 percent taught sustainability issues at least once a month.
- A lack of access to ready-made classroom materials was cited as the biggest roadblock.
To help address this feedback, Lane County hired marketing agency bell+funk to design, develop, and deploy an environmental education website for Lane County. The site, WasteWiseLane.org, is slated to launch in 2024. The platform will organize sustainability content (i.e., activities, curriculum, etc.) by grade, subject, and program focus and is geared toward teachers, parents, and district administrators.
“The project will deliver a future-focused digital strategy that elevates local sustainability educational resources and programs,” said Waste Wise Lane County Waste Reduction Supervisor Angie Marzano. “We want to make this as ‘plug and play’ for educators as possible. We aim to provide curriculum for educators in varying subjects—ranging from social studies to mathematics to language learning—that adhere to required benchmarks, such as Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).”
One of Waste Wise Lane County’s longest-serving partners, BRING, will be showcased along with partners such as Partners for Sustainable Schools on the site. The BRING Education program has served teachers and students in nearly every school district across Lane County for over 35 years. BRING provides waste prevention presentations, tours of Lane County waste-handling facilities, and other experiential resources to 3,000-plus students annually on average.
“This new website is so important to streamline access to teaching materials, field trip opportunities, and community partnerships,” said BRING Director of Education Emily Reynolds. “This content will enhance the relevance and effectiveness of an educator’s lesson planning, making it easier for teachers to engage students in real-world sustainability issues and promote hands-on learning opportunities in our community and beyond.”
Marzano said this site will cater to users with varying degrees of sustainability knowledge. “Our goal is to make it easy to use and highly accessible because widespread education is critical to making meaningful change for the future.” Stay up-to-date on the site’s progress at lanecountyor.gov/wastewise-schools or by following Waste Wise Lane County’s social media channels.