2018 In Review
Updated: Jan 30, 2019
OUR FIRST 18 MONTHS!
On December 29th we will take 12 children, many of whom have never been camping and some of whom have never traveled more than 40 miles away from Dallas, to Big Bend State Park during the New Year school break. There they will spend 7 nights under the stars. During the day, they will help restore a cabin damaged by weather and wildlife, they will help with trail maintenance, they will go on hikes, canoe on the Rio Grande, do some exploration, come to know nature like they've never known it before. These children are members or our Environmental League chapters and have earned the privilege of going on this trip by their efforts so far this school year in their chapter gardens, projects and clean-ups.
We are a 501(c)-3 non-profit organized in the state of Texas for the purpose of setting up clubs (“chapters”) in high schools, churches, and youth organizations to help get kids (especially underprivileged kids with little travel experience) involved in nature and environmental conservation. One of our primary goals is to help children develop a personal relationship with our natural world so that they can in turn relate better to environmental conservation. Toward that end, we raise funds and take them on camping and hiking trips, involve them in clean-up events, trail maintenance programs, and conservation efforts, and provide project-based learning opportunities around environmental programs.
In the last year and a half since we began, the children in our two Environmental League chapters have:
· Picked up 780 fifty-gallon bags of litter from the parks near their schools during 9 different clean-up events – (that’s 38,000 gallons of plastic trash, broken bottles, and other garbage!)
· Participated in the EARTHx environmental film competitions this last spring – and they WON!
o Scroll a little down from this link, https://www.earthxfilm.org/earthxfilm-2018-highlights/#aigpl-gallery-3, and you’ll see some of our kids from the Conrad High School chapter holding the check they won this last spring. The young man in the middle with the long hair, had never been outside of Dallas county in his entire 18 years of life – until we took him camping in the mountains of Arkansas on last summer’s “Big Trip”. He fell in love with nature on that 6 day trip and, like so many of our other involved students, wants to study environmental sciences in college. The lady on the right in the picture is Stephanie Jackson, who along with Michael Gauthier, Scott Boeckle and myself (not pictured) are the directors of the Environmental League.
· Participated in the EEI competitions this last spring and received funding for two projects! Additionally, The Environmental has established two gardens and runs the campus wide recycling program at Conrad High School!
· Helped to put on and manage the 2018 Trash Dash 5k to raise awareness of the incredible amount of litter that is seeping back into our communities from our landfills, uncollected refuse and other sources. 168 people signed up and ran in that race. It was a lot of work, but the kids raised an additional $4,000, which helped cover materials for their gardens and clean-up projects and, along with the prize from EARTHx, helped pay for the “Big Trip”.
· Competed in the Environmental League’s Conservation Cup (chapter vs chapter) for prizes and the trophy.
· Experienced a 6-day camping trip among the Arkansas mountains and lakes.
· Started on an aggressive project to obtain the parts for and build a “Precious Plastic” workstation (see: https://preciousplastic.com) to recycle the plastics the kids pick up into useful resources for their school (such as cafeteria trays, planting pots for their gardens, finisher badges for the next Trash Dash 5k, etc.).
Also in our first year, we worked with our graduating student members in guiding them toward collegiate environmental sciences programs and scholarships. As a result of the dialogues we’ve formed with certain colleges and universities, we are ramping that effort up this year to try to get more of our underprivileged student members environmental sciences scholarships.
In all, our vision for our youth members is outlined by these four bullets:
· Continue to introduce our youth to nature (how else can they care about the environment if they don’t know what the environment is).
· Teach our students that each one of them can have a good impact on the environment but that many of them working together can bring about change to project the environment (e.g, for her civic program in the EL last year, Ashley Serralde started a local No More Straws campaign that was so effective that it too won an award from EARTHx).
· Develop students’ critical and creative thinking so that they can in turn develop the strong solutions we will need in the coming years. Toward this end, all of the projects we get our students involved in are PBL structured (the chapter leaders giving only broad direction – the students have to figure out how to solve and what they’ll need to learn to solve the problems and then execute).
· Plant the seeds of conservation in the minds of this new generation that then grows up to be the politicians, businessmen and women, and professionals of all sorts, all with a greater respect and understanding of what impact we are having on our environment and what is needed to maintain our natural habitat.
Just last month, we received the news that the Environmental League was awarded a nomination for GreensourceDFW’s Green Projects/Program award: https://www.greensourcedfw.org/content/environmental-league
In addition to gaining our 501(c)-3 status this last year, we've also created a certification course for teachers, youth leaders, counselors, et al, who would like to lead an Environmental League chapter. We are now actively working on raising the funding to support our first full-time staff member who will coordinate events and resources between chapters as well as the training and implementation of new chapters.
In the short time we have been in existence, we have achieved a tremendous amount and are gaining great traction and relationships in the community. As we take this group of students down to Big Bend National Park next week, we are excitedly looking forward to all the wonderful things we have planned for 2019!
See you on the trail!