Environmental Education for Kids running strong

Maggie Allen

Whether you are considering a career as a teacher or simply love kids and the environment, Environmental Education for Kids (EEK) is an ideal way to help educate local children.
EEK, a subdivision of the Campus Greens, began around 10 years ago, when Kryie Thompson ’00 founded the club.
“It began because Thompson felt there was a need to offer students the chance to learn about environmental issues,” Amy Molitor, Academic Assistant for environmental studies, said, “This group took interested Whitman students into the classroom and made the kids look at the world a little differently and learn facts on our local resources. Thompson collected students and took them to classrooms. There was a lot of energy at first, and now with Julia Lakes, it’s picked back up again.”
Julia Lakes, a senior environmental humanities major, has been a member of the club since she was a first-year, and is now the president.
Like many who belong to this club, she simply loves teaching kids about the environment and making a difference.
Others, however, join the club because they are considering a career a teacher.
Junior Katie Hallett, a biology-environmental studies major, is trying to learn what it would be like to be an educator.
“I think it would be great to get the word out there about the environment, especially to younger kids, and I think it’s great to be a leader,” Hallett said.
“Most students either want to teach or just love working with kids, and most have experience with kids,” Molitor said, “This is a good way to test if you want to be a teacher.”
Most students teach at the elementary school, but the club is considering of opening up to a high school.
There are many different opportunities to teach the students. With the new Campfire USA program, Whitman students can teach children after school with more active and hands-on activities.
“It’s pretty relaxed: you can go in and play games and give a little lesson on the environment,” Hallett said.
“It’s good now to have an afternoon time, but normally we would just go into classrooms and educate students on the environment,” Lakes said, “It’s hard to believe how much the kids already know, but making things hands-on makes it easier for them, even though you don’t need to water it down that much.”
“The kids know a surprising amount about photosynthesis and the environment in general,” Hallett said, “People underestimate how much kids can understand.”
There are also bilingual classrooms where students that speak Spanish can utilize their skills. Students can also go the juvenile justice center and teach environmental lessons.
“The difficulty there is kids can change from week to week, but this can also be very rewarding,” Molitor said.
Like other students, Lakes and Hallett both completed their internships through EEK. This is one way for environmental studies majors to complete the internship requirement.
“One or two people intern per semester and take on a leadership role in the club,” Lakes said.
“The internships are mostly associated with getting into the classroom for an hour and preparing for three hours,” Molitor said, “Much of the energy is into developing the plan.”
At the end of the internship, each student summarizes what the experience was like through a log that they fill out each week.
As for the future of the club, things definitely seem like they are heading in a positive direction.
“We are definitely seeing more people this year,” Lakes said, “It’s an exciting time for environmental education as a whole. I want to change the way our country is headed, and I believe the way is through our youth.”