Contact: Gene Myers, WWU associate professor of Environmental Studies, (360) 650-4775.
|Fourth- and fifth-grade students at Bellingham's Columbia Elementary School, in conjunction with grad students from Western Washington University's Environmental Education graduate program, work on the visioning process for adding new wildlife habitat to their school grounds.|
|photo courtesy Gene Myers|
WWU’s Gene Myers, an associate professor of Environmental Studies and the instructor for the grad students’ service-learning practicum, said that he hoped the experience with the
“My hope is that they will see that kids rise quite easily to the challenge of understanding their own stake in the school’s grounds, as well as their ability, even at this young age, to work together on a complex research, design, and problem-solving exercise like this one,” Myers said.
Myers’ students are working with the pupils in the classrooms of Bill Palmer, Chelsea St. Claire and Shannon Sampson to help them research native plants; involve kindergarteners in choosing a tree species; and identify safety, maintenance and other considerations. The Western students will facilitate each class as the children synthesize their findings and create a site plan and rationale.
The grad students participating in the project are Annitra Ferderer,
Ferderer said that beyond the primary aspect of continuing to learn from and work with school-age children, the project was a chance to show the
“My hope is that youth empowerment projects like this will form dedicated young environmental stewards and spokespeople at a community level to encourage others to make a difference,” Ferderer said.
The classes' plans will be combined by a parent and staff committee and reviewed by the district.
Columbia Elementary School Principal Melissa Ferguson said the project has been a great way for the two groups of students – grad school and elementary school – to learn from each other.
“The playground renovation project was started five years ago (with help from a different group of WWU students) and has definitely had a positive impact for our school and the neighborhood. The synergy and community spirit created from this project has been wonderful and continues to show us how much we can accomplish when we work together,” she said.
The first step of planting will happen this winter, with more work in the spring.
For more information on WWU’s service-learning project at