MSJC offers first Environmental Education Academy for middle- and high-school teachers

​By Emily McKellar, MSJC student and Public Information & Marketing intern
Educational workshops recently held by Mt. San Jacinto College helped promote “environmental literacy” among middle- and high-school students.
Last week MSJC’s Career Technical Education offered free environmental curricula to 20 teachers and docents in the surrounding area. For four days local educators and groups teamed up for the college’s first Environmental Education Academy. Lessons were given at the Santa Rosa Ecological Plateau, Diamond Valley Lake, and MSJC’s Menifee Valley Campus.
Hands-on activities for participants demonstrated how they could integrate environmental awareness into any discipline. Facilitators from environmental education programs Project WET, Project WILD, and Project Learning Tree gave lessons on water awareness and conservation, wildlife habitat, and forest ecosystems.  Some lessons highlighted the types of career choices there are in environmental work.
The training was made possible by a grant awarded to MSJC’s Career Technical Education department, said project coordinator Lori Benson. As one of its objectives, the grant aims to provide career awareness opportunities for middle school students, improve career pathways from middle school to college, and provide staff development opportunities for teachers.
The workshops were designed to show teachers how to help students make responsible decisions about their roles in the environment, become aware of career pathways in environmental work and become environmentally literate.
“Environmental literacy means knowing how organic and inorganic components, including humans, of our environment work together sustainably,” said Kathy Havert, academy facilitator and environmental education consultant. “It’s extremely important that environmental education take a major role in the education of our children.” 
Havert said it’s important that students are familiar with the connection between the natural world and man-made communities so they can understand the causes of global warming, air pollution, rampant loss of species diversity, and more.
“These problems can lead to a dramatic reduction in the quality of life not only for humans, but lead to the extinction of vast quantities of organisms we rely on for food, clean air, water and soil, medicines, and places we live,” Havert said.
Havert believes that it’s not only science educators who are responsible for showing students how we influence our climate, resources, and the existence of life on Earth. She said that a multi-disciplinary approach can help students better understand the social, political, and economical value of environmental literacy. 
“All areas of education need to have a component that emphasizes our role as a part of our environment, not just in the sciences,” Havert said.
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Teachers Shari Alexander, Santa Rosa Academy in Menifee, and Sylvie Berkoben, Bella Vista Middle School in Temecula, learn how to bore trees at the Santa Rosa Plateau to look for signs of diseases during MSJC’s Environmental Education Academy.