Students in Arlington schools are learning about pollution in local watersheds through a new curriculum that combines environmental science with community activism.
The program, dubbed Protecting Our Watersheds, is giving students in three Arlington schools the chance to conduct field research into the health of local waterways. Yet, identifying ecological problems is only the beginning of the course. Students are then asked to find community-based solutions through fund-raising drives, petitions and by drawing media attention to the issues they've researched.
The genesis of the program is Earth Force Green, a five-day course for environmental educators funded by the Staples Foundation for Learning. The new curriculum is set to begin during the coming school year. Karen Crow Roark, a science teacher at Longbranch-Oakridge Elementary, said the course shows students the interplay between science and policy.
"It gives me new ways to broaden student experiments and show how science affects what society does to the environment," Roark said.
Students at Gunston Middle School will also be participating in the program. Jen McDonnell, Earth Force's executive director in the capitol region, added that while the new curriculum teaches practical science lessons, it further helps to shape the next generation of environmental stewards.
"Protecting Our Watersheds helps teachers help students apply scientific thinking to real-world problems but, beyond that, it takes students from simply being aware of water quality issues to taking meaningful action to address them," McDonnell said.
Launched in 2002, the Staples Foundation for Learning Inc. has awarded nearly $3 million in grants to nonprofit organizations. Joy Errico, the foundation's community relations supervisor, said Earth Force is "an exemplary organization with a proven track record of training teachers and students to become stewards of the earth and its resources, which is why we're delighted to fund these scholarships."