Santa Barbara children ages six through eight will be getting field trips, an adopt-a-panda program, and more, through a new nonprofit run entirely by UCSB students. The Fund for Santa Barbara’s Youth Making Change has recently allocated a $2,000 grant to Environmental Education for the Next Generation (EENG). The student-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization seeks to elevate environmental awareness among Santa Barbara’s young through interactive lessons in first- and second-grade classrooms from Santa Barbara to Carpinteria.
With the help of the grant, EENG will be able to provide its services free of charge: Teams of UCSB undergraduates will conduct experiments, field trips, and 45-minute interactive lessons. Topics will include “What Is Nature?”, species biodiversity, deforestation, climate change, local vs. nonlocal foods, and Adopt-a-Panda. EENG has developed 24 interactive lesson plans, each lesson closely adhering to the California State Board of Education’s Content Standards.
Ryland King, a second-year undergraduate at UCSB, started the program in August 2009, inspired by his involvement with the UCSB Environmental Affairs Board’s educational campaign at Isla Vista Elementary School. King saw the strong relationships being formed between the college instructors and young students. He saw both the benefits of the children receiving information from enthusiastic young mentors and also the opportunity for college students to teach in a classroom setting.
“To see a program be so fun, and provide such amazing benefits for its participants and instructors alike, inspired me to establish and expand the program to where to it is now,” said King. Credit for the vitality of the program, however, rests on the various volunteers, teachers, and students who have helped get it off the ground.
“I am working with the best team of directors and volunteers anyone could ever ask for,” King said. “Our program’s success in the classroom and the community would not have been possible without all of their phenomenal work.”
According to King, the program focuses on first and second graders because at this critical age children leap at any chance to learn something new. EENG instructors take the children outside of the classroom as often as weather permits. For example, the program has taken students to the Devereux sea cliffs to foster an appreciation for their local environments. King described it as “a fun, educational summer camp during the school year for the students”
“Spreading environmental awareness through our youth is an incredibly effective way to create change in the broader community. When children are informed and speak confidently, people listen,” said King.
EENG now operates bimonthly in 11 classrooms in seven schools from Santa Barbara to Carpinteria. For more information and to donate visit them online.