I was drawn to Washington for the natural beauty and the vast number of environmental education, conservation, and research positions that are here in order to protect and ensure that future generations will be able to experience and appreciate all that Washington has to offer. I have always wanted to see Washington and the Cascades, I never really imagined I would be able to live and serve here as a part of the team working to improve and promote the environmental stewardship of these areas.
I am serving through Washington Service Corps as the Americorps Intern with Cascadia Conservation District in Wenatchee WA. A portion of my service includes going out to schools across Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties to teach an environmental education program called “Wheat Week” to 4th and 5th grade classes. The program uses wheat as the teaching tool in order to talk about greater environmental issues we face such as storm water runoff, pollution, erosion & soil conservation, and energy production. I am extremely happy to be a part of this program and have the opportunity to teach it, programs like this one are the reason I moved from Wisconsin to Washington with Americorps.
This past week I got the chance to teach at Columbia Elementary in Wenatchee. I met some awesome teachers and enthusiastic future scientists (maybe)! The students here really looked forward to our daily Wheat Week lessons, they could hardly wait to investigate their terrariums and see how their wheat was changing and growing each day. Every day I would have multiple students run up to me and show off the new roots growing or a stem emerging from the little cup of soil. We recorded these observations in our “Kernel Journals” every day. They are so excited that they remember the names of the different parts of the plant that we labeled on the very first day, I have never heard “look! root hairs” shouted with such enthusiasm before. They took such pride in growing their terrariums and taking care of their wheat plants.
The vast majority of the students I teach are far removed from farming and the ideas and issues brought up during our Wheat Week lessons. When presented to them, these are awe inspiring for many of the students who have never realized how much work goes into farming or the amount of effort that many farmers put into being responsible stewards for their lands. At the very end of our week we write postcards to the Washington Wheat Farmers. Reading through the postcards before I send them out is one of my favorite things. The kids write about their favorite parts of wheat week, tell the farmers what they learned, and ask questions about being a wheat farmer.
Seeing the excitement and the enthusiasm that the students have is what motivates me. I see every classroom as an opportunity to advocate for and educate people about the importance of preserving the natural world and the environment. There is always a balance between us and the environment, which I do my best to explain to the kids. I hope that maybe one of them will find an interest or passion for environmental sciences and maybe someday help to solve some of the issues we face.
For more information about Wheat Week, check out Franklin Conservation District’s website!