Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Know a Great Teacher?

You know the kind I mean. Loves kids, and loves teaching. The kind of teacher who encourages students to believe that they are special, and that they can do and accomplish anything.

The kind of person who, through their positive influence on kids, shapes the future.

That is the kind of teacher that we at Earth Explore work hard the entire year to find.  They're out there.  As parents we know them instinctively.  Our kids talk about them.  Love their classes.  Remember them fondly, as do we.  Through experience we know that this kind of teacher will help students to blossom on their away from home learning experiences. 

So if you know of someone like that, and most of us parents do, then do us both a favor and tell them about Earth Explore Adventures at http://www.earthexplore.com/. We provide rewarding opportunities for teachers to venture outside the classroom with their very own students, to share spectacular places and experiences with those kids, and learn and grow right alongside them. 

One of my favorite things all year is to witness this in action.  When I get the chance to join one of our groups, whether it be in Alaska, or Costa Rica, or Jackson, Wyoming...I see teachers and students interacting in ways not always seen in the classroom.  Relaxed, excited about what's to come, and loving every minute of it.  There is no pressure to learn, or to teach, or to have fun.  It just happens. 

Our teachers earn professional development credit on their trips.  Important for their careers, and for the requirements of many school districts.  But I'll bet they'd tell you that's not why they decided to do Earth Explore.  No, it was more likely the chance to travel and learn, and to see their students reinvented belore their eyes, and in turn, be reinvented in their students' eyes. 

Reinvented as someone who just loves learning.  Period.  And loves to mentor and encourage kids to learn as well.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Concrete Kills

Ok, granted, that is a bit harsh.  But close to the point actually.  A big new study out of the Netherlands comfirms in an empirical way what most of us (who love the outdoors) have long suspected.  That getting out in nature just flat makes you live longer.

Actually, it's more than that.  The health study of almost 350 thousand dutch people found that even being in close proximity to nature...has big benefits.

One of the major findings; that living near (within 1 km) to a park, or any green open space, significantly reduced people's anxiety and all forms of stress.  And, as we know, stress has been found to be a contributing factor in everything from hives to bad digestion, to cancer.

Another very interesting finding of this study.  When people of all kinds and income levels were living near nature, the gap between the health of rich and poor lessened.  You might say that beautiful surroundings, bring enhanced health to everyone, but especially those with less access to the best health care technology.

As you might expect, the study has huge implications.  Not only on how we live, but where, and why.  Already urban planners are looking at the findings, which could have a great impact on how neighborhoods of the future are planned (with more parks we presume), and how aging neighborhoods are brought back to life.

With health care costs running amuck, it may well be in our best interests as a society to give these findings a hard look.  Developers may not make as much money leaving open space for parks, but the human and societal cost of not doing so may be far greater.  It may kill us.

Read the article at Nature and Health Study

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Scenes from the Summer




Myself and the rest of the EE staff are still checking out pictures from this past summer's adventures. The photo contest winners will be posted soon. For now though, here are a few scenes I'd like to share. These kids will be going forward with a new understanding of the importance of the Earth's fragile environments, and their own power to make positive change.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

The Power of Active

It used to be that it was enough just to get outside. We remember it as kids. Get a little dirty, connect to nature a bit, and get back to your life. But today, young people don’t have it so easy. It’s becoming clear that if the onrushing generation is to turn around the myriad of global challenges we face, they must not only get outside, but also carry what they learn with them always.

We’re talking here about environmental education, and, no, I don’t mean tree hugging. It’s clear that no isolated movement, no fractional part of our global community getting on board, will be enough. These days we have a challenge to make it both cool and mainstream for young people to connect to nature, advocate for their planet, and not just view it from the window of an SUV.

The good news is that change is happening. An awareness is slowly emerging that "green" doesn’t have to be an extremist view. That what we need is everyone advocating in their own way for this small piece of cosmic real estate that we share.

We see the change every day when students take to the field. When they see a chunk of glacial ice fall from the front of the Exit Glacier in Alaska’s Kenai Fjords National Park, it’s no academic exercise. It’s a real experience of the importance of what is happening, and informs in a gut-level way that no DVD or textbook can. When students witness bleaching of pristine corals off the Kona coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, or hear about tundra changes in Alaska’s Denali Park, they know that this is real, that the world is changing, but also that they have the power to help shape the future.

Active is good. More than that, getting kids active is an essential part of what will help us turn the corner to make this generation, and future ones, different from our own. In the past two decades operating hands-on programs, we’ve found time and again that "doing" leaves a deeper, more lasting impact that hearing, or seeing. The old truism that "what touches the hand reaches the mind" is something that can’t be denied. And doing it is a powerful force for motivation and change. Maybe the best tool that we have.

I for one am optimistic about this generation. Inspiration and idealism is certainly not a thing of the past. Young people energized through active experiences in nature are a powerful force for real change. Among our students we’ve seen it inspire leadership, and advocacy. Our students have gone on to share their experiences with friends and family, and incorporate the knowledge gained into their lives.

There is an urgency now that never existed before, of course, but it is a challenge that I believe young people can handle. If I feel like getting inspired and hopeful, I know what to do. I join a group of young people mixing it up with nature. I always come back in a better mood.

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