Urban Ecological Literacy Youth Workshops

We are currently securing funding for this hands-on workshop series and have launched a indiegogo crowd-fundraising campaign so we can begin the program in 2013.  Click here to see the campaign.

The program will provide free workshops for K-12 school groups.  If you are a parent,  educator, or are interested in helping make this happen, please contact us!

The workshop topics are (full descriptions are below):

  • Aquaculture and Aquatic Ecosystem Science
  • Energy
  • Sustainable Food Systems
  • Waste

Through hands-on educational experiences, students will be encouraged to use critical thinking skills to develop innovative solutions to the environmental issues confronted by their communities, like

  • Climate change
  • Waste management
  • Environmental degradation
  • Food production
  • Fossil fuel depletion
  • Toxins in the environment
  • Health and nutrition

Students will see

  • The dynamic relationships between living ecosystems taught in hands-on format
  • Ecological relationships demonstrated on a small scale by actual living organisms
  • A living laboratory that will foster an understanding of environmental science
  • How their consumption of food, energy, and production of waste are related to and dependent upon global ecological processes

Aquatic Science

The one to two hour workshops will be appropriately tailored to each age group, kindergarten to twelfth grade. Workshops can also be adapted to more closely augment what a particular class is covering in the classroom. In all of the workshops, critical thinking and problem solving skills will be cultivated through group discussions and brainstorming sessions. Each workshop will end with a hypothetical design charrette, in which students will be challenged to develop creative solutions to the environmental issues impacting their communities using information learned in the workshops.

Learning about compost

The Radix Center is located in New York State’s Capital District.  Its three main cities are Albany, Schenectady, and Troy.  The School Districts for each of these cities are respectively ranked 658th, 672nd, and 683rd out of New York State’s 697 school districts.

RadixCenter workshops will support struggling schools by providing an educational experience meant to excite and inspire students – an experience that could change the course of lives.

Budget

This funding will allow us to offer these workshops to area schools for free.  The budget will cover personnel (outreach to schools, preparing for and teaching the workshops) supplies, and insurance.  To offer 2 classes a week, our total budget is around $10,000 per semester.  This campaign is to get us started, we will use this assistance to help leverage other support from foundations and local businesses.  If less money is raised, the number of classes will be scaled back accordingly.

Workshop Descriptions

Aquaculture and Aquatic Ecosystem Science

Using a modeled aquatic ecosystem, this module demonstrates the relationships between the biological, chemical, and physical components of an aquatic ecosystem and its inhabitants. The model ecosystem will be contained within a greenhouse and will consist of a series of tanks filled with re-circulating water.  Each tank will represent a different type of freshwater aquatic environment, such as a pond, stream habitat, or wetland, and will contain an array of organisms found in each of those ecotypes.  Wastes produced by fish living in the tanks will be converted by the activity of microorganisms into nutrients for plants co-habitating the system.

By studying and interacting with this simulated ecosystem, students will develop an awareness of

  • nutrient cycling and contaminant transport in aquatic environments,
  • the role of sewage and agricultural runoff in the eutrophication of bodies of water,
  • fish biology,
  • the hydrological cycle,
  • the importance of watersheds,
  • aquatic invertebrate’s function as indicators of ecosystem health,
  • the connection between the health of local aquatic environments and drinking water quality
  • small scale aquaculture’s potential as a susainable alternative to the depletion of global fisheries and its promise as a “green” urban micro-industry.

Aquaculture System by Mary Darcy

 Energy

This module will take a critical look at global energy issues and assess the pros and cons of conventional and alternative energy sources.

Emphasis will be placed on renewable, non-polluting, and locally producible energy sources, such as solar, wind, and biofuels.  Functioning examples of each of these technologies will be on display, including:

  • a passive solar oven,
  • wind turbines,
  • waste vegetable oil burning vehicles,
  • small scale biogas digesters, and
  • technologies that efficiently and cleanly use wood for heating and power generation.

The idea that technologies may either be environmentally harmful or benign depending on their use, scale, and context will be stressed.  Additionally, the causes and impacts of global climate change will be discussed, particularly within the context of energy use decisions.  Furthermore, students will become familiar with such critical concepts as carbon neutral and carbon negative energy strategies.

 Sustainable Food Systems

This module will cover issues of local sustainable food production, including methods for raising vegetables, mushrooms, and small livestock.  An emphasis will be put on creating intensive, small scale food production systems that can be carried out with limited access to space. Broader issues of food security and nutrition will be integrated into the discussion.

Students will learn the basics of small scale animal husbandry, including feeding, cleaning, and sheltering chickens, rabbits, and goats.  The use of easily accessible waste products as feed stocks and the appropriate integration of animals into an urban environment will be examined.

Students will also learn about the fungal kingdom and the ecological significance of fungi in the environment, particularly their role in waste reduction and nutrient cycling.  Mushroom’s potential to turn waste products into valuable protein sources through fungi’s metabolic processes, and the role fungi can play in the remediation of toxins will be covered.   Students will inoculate a straw-filled bag with oyster mushrooms, a common edible mushroom species, which afterwards they can bring back to their own classroom to watch grow.

In addition, organic vegetable gardens and a functioning rainwater collection system for use in conjunction with food production will be displayed.  Students will become aware of the impacts of soil erosion and the importance of good soil conservation practices.  Class participants will become familiar with the concept of brownfields and possibilities for remediation and reuse of brownfields for urban food production.

Waste

This module explores how common organic waste products can be converted into soil, energy sources, and feed stocks for animals.  Class participants will:

  • learn the basics of home-scale backyard composting, such as determining the proper balances and sources of carbon and nitrogen.
  • witness and interact with a worm composting system that converts food wastes into a nutrient rich fertilizer which improves soil quality and can be used in the remediation of soil-based toxins.
  • observe a black soldier fly composting unit, which rapidly converts putrescent wastes, such as meat and dairy, into compost and produces insect larvae as a feed for chickens and fish.

Larger discussions will be incorporated that examine problems with conventional waste disposal, and how organic waste buried in landfills contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

One thought on “Urban Ecological Literacy Youth Workshops

  1. Pingback: Help bring local school groups to the Radix Center « The Radix Ecological Sustainabilty Center

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