So we have announced the winners of both of our Go Green Youth Challenge contests for 2013 and you’re bummed because you just found out about them and would have entered, except you missed the deadline. Never fear, there are more contests where that one came from…just not hosted by us (at least not until next year). Here are a few that might hold you over until next spring, when the Go Green Youth Challenge returns. These are all youth contests with various age ranges that focus on an environmental/outdoor message. I will be on the lookout for more throughout the spring and summer. And of course, if you find any neat ones you would like to pass along, be sure to put a link to them in a comment on this post.
Jamestown Audubon Society’s Nature Photography Contest – Deadline June 30, 2013
- Age groups (aka Divisions): ages 8-18 and adult, open to entrants worldwide
- Categories: landscapes, plants or wildlife
- May submit as many photos as you like in any or all of the above categories
- $10 entry fee/photo
- Prizes: 1 cash prize of $100, $50 gift certificate for photo processing
- Click here for Official Rules
National Association of Conservation Districts Poster Contest - Deadline October 8, 2013 for local contests
- Contest Theme: ”Where Does Your Water Shed?”
- Open to K-12 public, private and home school students across the U.S.
- Entries are submitted to local contests first, then winners move on to the National Competition, click here to find your Conservation District
- All entries must be created by only one student (no team efforts)
- Prizes: National prizes are sponsored by NACD and include $100 for first place and $75 for second place for each age category; local prizes vary
- For more information click here
Ranger Rick “Your Best Shots” Photo Contest – ongoing contest, no deadline
- Open to any child 13 or under
- Limit of 3 entries per person per month
- Entries can be any nature shot; must be original, must be yours
- No entry fee, but you have to submit online
- Winners get their photo published in Ranger Rick magazine
- Click here for Official Rules
Have you ever heard of a Little Free Library? If you haven’t you’re not alone. I myself did not know this amazing program even existed until recently.
Begun by a group of enthusiastic entrepreneurs, this program promotes literacy and the love of learning while also building a sense of community that spans across generations. How this program works is amazingly simple. You either purchase or build a “Little Library;” mount it in a public, accessible place; stock it with books; spread the word and voila! A Little Free Library is born! The principle behind these libraries is “take a book, leave a book.” There’s no lending period, no rental fees. The idea is a continual book exchange. The contents of the Little Free Library can change every day depending on the amount of use. Many of these little libraries contain books for all ages. And if you want to start your own and need help, their website has a lot of helpful tips and resources, plus a host of people to contact if you have trouble.
Examples of Little Free Libraries
This is an international program with a global map. If you want to start your own Little Free Library location you can get yours added to the map, or you can use it to find ones near you. There is at least one location in every state in the U.S. and on nearly every continent.
This unique “little” idea certainly has an extensive reach.
Every child likes cartoons right? Well how about a cartoon that also teaches them something? That seems to be the thought behind the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resource Conservation Service‘s Whobuddies Adventures series.
So who are the Whobuddies?
Bubo, Otus, Tyto, Strix, Ninox and Asio are cartoon owls who really care about the environment. Each owl specializes in one particular natural resource and are bestowed with all the knowledge about that resource. And if you know your Latin, you may notice that each owl’s name comes from the genus of that particular owl. As their mild-mannered selves, they enjoy teaching others about the importance of conserving and protecting our precious natural resources. But when they are needed, they become their super-powered alter egos, taking on abilities specific to their assigned resource and jumping into action to get conservation efforts off the ground.
There are all kinds of resources available on the NRCS website, including activity sheets, discussion questions, a downloadable poster, two comic book stories and even narrated video versions of their comic adventures.
So if you’re looking for a different approach to teaching children about natural resource conservation, check out the Whobuddies. I’m sure they’d be happy to help.
|Bubo is a strong, powerful owl who really “digs” the soil. His main emphasis is to teach how soil conservation practices help in preventing soil erosion. Bubo relies on his awesome strength and power to move anything in his way. He is as powerful as a bulldozer and he doesn’t like it when soil is treated like dirt!
||Otus really knows how to have fun in the water. He also deeply appreciates clean water. He likes to teach others how to conserve this precious resource. Otus can remarkably turn himself into a liquid form which has its advantages. He can maneuver himself in and around any obstacle.
|Strix is a funloving and playful owl who’s heart goes out to all animals. He teaches the importance of having an abundance of wildlife habitat. Strix has the ability to communicate with all animals, and the animals all love his childlike play. They would do anything for their dear friend.
||Ninox specializes in science. He enjoys using his skills and intelligence in showing others how we all depend on plants every day. Ninox has a special talent with the elements of science. His customized formulas can animate any plant species.
|Tyto can be a little flighty at times, but he is all business when it comes to air quality. He gives the importance of clean air his fullest attention. Not only can Tyto cause himself to float, but he has the incredible ability to cause other objects to become lighter than air, too.
|Asio is a real dynamo who gets things done. She is very energetic in teaching others about the necessity of energy conservation and efficiency. Asio is lightening fast. Her super quickness is a huge benefit in helping her complete any difficult task.
*Whobuddies created by NRCS District Conservationist Brad Harrison. Art by RODGON.
Laura Crowell, State Public Affairs Specialist, NRCS
Junior Citizen Planner curriculum teaches community land use issues to youth in fun ways
There are a multitude of reasons for educators to use fun, hands-on MSU Extension Junior Citizen Planner curriculum to teach youth about land use issues within their communities.
Posted on November 20, 2012 by Judy Ratkos, Michigan State University Extension
Michigan State University Extension’s Junior Citizen Planner program strives to develop responsible and involved citizens by educating youth through fun, hands-on learning activities within their communities on land use issues. The 33 lessons in the Junior Citizen Planner curriculum make it easy for kids to visualize the impact of development. Lessons are divided into five subject areas:
- Community and civics indoor activities
- Geography indoor activities
- Environment and land use indoor activities
- Outdoor community service activities
- Technology enhancement activities
Each lesson plan includes an overview, objectives, subject, skills to be gained, activity duration, background information, materials needed and step-by-step instructions with:
- Fun and creative teaching strategies and learning methods, including experiential and hands-on components
- Information on the pertinent Michigan curriculum standards – content and skills that are included in the Common Core State Standards which Michigan adopted in 2010 and is transitioning toward
- Unbiased background information presenting all sides of controversial land use issues in a fair and honest manner
- A design that builds knowledge and skills for inquiry, investigation, analysis, decision-making and action
- Evaluation strategies directed toward a variety of learning styles that assess student learning
- Adaptation ideas and technology extensions on activities to further student understanding and investigation
- Potential to spark ideas for projects that can be displayed at fairs or community events
- Additional data, facts, resources and reference material
The lessons are age-appropriate and really help youth appreciate the need to be thoughtful about land development issues. One activity, A Slice of Planet Earth, uses apple slices and fractions to create awareness of the very small amount of useable land we have proportionately to the whole planet. The debriefing discussion gives kids a chance to process and apply what they’ve learned to their local community.
The Michigan Map Road Trip activity is a great way for youth to really learn how to read a map and everything on it. It’s a fun activity because it is hands-on and like a game. Adults will likely learn some new things right along with the kids. Land Uses – There Are So Many is also often deemed a favorite. It teaches zoning in fun and meaningful ways that youth can understand.
Junior Citizen Planner is just one of many 4-H environmental and outdoor education programs that help young people develop a sense of stewardship toward our natural resources.
Related MSU Extension articles and resources:
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visithttp://www.msue.msu.edu. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).
Free. It’s one of the best words in the English language to most people. To an educator, it can be a valuable window of opportunity. The Natural Inquirer, a publication by the U.S. Forest Service, is a middle school science education journal. Think a more advanced Ranger Rick if you are familiar with that magazine. The articles are written by actual U.S. Department of Agriculture – Forest Service scientists who want to share what they do with students around the country.
Topics vary widely – from wildlife and habitats to outdoor activities to bio-energy and climate change, and everything in between. You can even do a keyword search to pull up volumes that may contain the topic you are looking for. And the best part? It’s absolutely free! The different volumes can be viewed on their website, downloaded to your computer, or you can order hard copies for your classroom. Their website also has many other additional resources for pre-K through 8th grade students.
So check them out if you’re looking for a unique addition to your classroom resources.
Can a computer game where you shoot paper spit wads at bugs really be educational? You bet it can!
Developed by the American Public Gardens Association
as part of its work with the Sentinel Plant Network
, the Plant Heroes website
is specifically designed for young learners and aims to increase their knowledge about plant pests and diseases and ultimately engage them in protecting the plants in their own yards, neighborhoods and communities from emerging threats. It is a valuable resource for public garden professionals, parents and educators looking for innovative ways to teach K-12 audiences about this important subject.
This website hosts a variety of games and activities based on the child’s age (Seedlings to Trees), ranging from coloring pages and crosswords to a video game where you’re protecting a garden from invasive pests by shooting them with spit wads. There are also comics and printable activities for each age group. But no matter the age level, the message remains…to inform kids about the threat of invasive species to our trees.
The website focuses on four main species, each threatening a different region of the United States, and the Plant Hero fighting in each region. In addition to the games, there is a colorful Field Guide with a handy slide show on each species. The Field Guide slideshow walks you through identifying each invasive at different stages of its development, what to look for in infected trees and what kinds of control methods that are being used. There is also a glossary to help you with the vocabulary and a list of contacts for the adults to report pest sightings. Kids can even join the fight and take the Plant Hero Pledge!
So check out the website and discover a different way to teach your kids about their environment.
Nature can make the perfect classroom. This is an easy activity to get kids to use something other than their eyes to connect to the world around them. Try it out on your next nature hike, camping trip, or even in your own backyard!
If you have difficulty reading the above image, click here to see the original pdf.
Need more? Here are some helpful links:
http://www.learnoutside.org/familyactivities.html - Every Student Learns Outside, PLT
http://www.americanhiking.org/hikingresources/kidscorner/ - American Hiking Society
http://www.outdoor-nature-child.com/ - Outdoor Nature Child.com
http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10369_45551—,00.html - No Child Left Inside, MI Department of Natural Resources (This is a national initiative so look for programs in your area. View the proclamation by the President here.)
And if you know of any other great activities you would like to share be sure to post a comment!