Forming environmental education partnerships
Steve Hage, a teacher at the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley, Minn., uses partnerships to enrich his students’ learning experiences.
His school has an impressive list of partner organizations that encompasses groups far and wide, from the Minnesota Zoo and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, to the ends of the earth, including Inuit communities near the North Pole. These partnerships help Hage's students connect classroom content to real-world issues.
Hage offered a number of recommendations for forming successful environmental education partnerships.
Though teachers often find opportunities locally – such as nearby state parks – they might be unable to take advantage of them because of limited financial resources. Schools don’t always have the money to fund excursions. Hage makes outings possible for his students by having each student contribute a small amount, often two or three dollars, for transportation to local sites.
For funding larger programs, such as conducting scientific or community projects with local groups, Hage suggested seeking grant opportunities. State environmental education agencies and Web searches are easy ways to locate grants, but civic groups that give a portion of their revenue to charitable donations can also be good resources and potential partners themselves.
Reaching out to organizations for partnerships can be intimidating for some educators. In his experience, however, Hage has found that most organizations are very receptive to partnerships. A way to find particularly receptive partners is to locate citizen-science opportunities. Government groups often appreciate the help of teachers and students in collecting scientific data. This can provide students with fun and educational experiences as they monitor the water quality of a stream or identify and count frogs.
Finally, Hage suggested professional development as an avenue for finding potential partner organizations. While courses, workshops and other opportunities focus mostly on curricula, they also provide exposure to groups involved with environmental education.
Hage is happy to share his knowledge and experience with teachers interested in developing partnerships and can be contacted at email@example.com.