April 15-21 is National Environmental Education Week, a great time to recognize the role of environmental education both in and out of the classroom.
Increasing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) knowledge and expanding STEM education and career opportunities for students is a national priority. Student achievement in STEM is key to fostering a new wave of innovators who can creatively address complex 21st century challenges.
The environment is a compelling context for teaching STEM as it provides teachers with a diverse range of real-world challenges that engage students in meaningful hands-on opportunities to apply and reinforce STEM concepts across multiple subject areas.
Recognizing the role of the environment as a portal for STEM learning, EE Week's 2012 theme is Greening STEM: The Environment as Inspiration for 21st Century Learning.
In Emmet County, we're extremely lucky to have a wonderful naturalist - Anita Fisher -working for the Emmet County Conservation Board. Fisher's ability to interest children in the outdoors is immediately apparent if you've ever seen her in action. She keeps both kids and adults spellbound with her mastery of flora and fauna in our local parks.
Board director Eric Anderson always takes an active role in environmental education as well - whether its summer programs, during ECCB meetings or at community events.
Another great proponent of environmental education is our local Iowa Department of Natural Resources ranger Steve Reighard who has worked hand-in-hand with the Friends of Fort Defiance and Gary Phillips' environmental studies students at Iowa Lakes Community College toward park improvements and environmental education projects like the native prairie, Whitetail Ridge, prairie trail and low-gradient trail project along Spring Creek.
We are indeed lucky to have such dedicated professionals making environmental education not just an idea but a practice here in Emmet County.
So if you're wondering what to do this weekend, take your kids to one of our local parks. It will be a memory you'll never forget.