Earth education program brings new interning opportunities to CU students
The Earth Education program, based out of CU’s Environmental Center, has been successfully linking college students to younger students to teach classroom lessons on the environment since 1986.
Students can choose to volunteer with the organization or enroll in the two-credit course that serves as an internship. There are 17 available spots and endless volunteer opportunities open to all majors for the spring semester. The student learns techniques to effectively teach and then applies them to hands-on work in schools within Boulder, Broomfield and Lafayette. The organization has recently reached out to Swansea, a city northeast of Denver that is the most polluted area in Colorado.
“We want to approach a diverse population, but make it easy for students to commute between campus and their classrooms at the same time,” said Susie Strife, the Earth Education coordinator and a doctoral candidate at CU.
Once prepared with the knowledge of effective teaching skills, the students’ homework is to prepare a lesson plan pertaining to a variety of subjects including endangered species, water ecosystems, population growth, organic farming, recycling and much more. Nearly 70 percent of the student teacher’s grade is classroom work, and the schoolteacher plays a large role in critical analysis.
Lynn Twietmeyer, a fourth grade teacher from Douglass Elementary, said that her students look forward to seeing their college friends, Eric Cellucci, a senior environmental studies major, and Debbie Bock, a CU alumna, every week.
“It is wonderful to see how these children relate to Eric and Debbie. They are always happy to see them on Wednesday afternoon,” Twietmeyer said. “The activities are designed to include all types of learning styles with lots of hands-on activities. I am so happy to have given my children the opportunity to interact with these interns, and hope to continue next year and to encourage others at Douglass to do the same.”
Strife said most of the participants end up changing their major to education. While the interns are exposed to a possible career in education, local schoolchildren are exposed to role models who bring their expertise into the classroom and share their excitement about the environment, she said.
The student teacher is assigned to a classroom based on corresponding interests and meets with the class once a week for an hour. Local schools do not choose to participate in this program as a whole; instead, the individual teacher chooses to work with Environmental Education. CU students teach elementary, middle and high school students for 12 weeks.
Jesi Vandeputte, a senior biology major, said she enjoys her experience with Earth Education.
“From the college student’s perspective, I am exploring an opportunity that would almost be impossible to get,” she said. “I am learning how to be a flexible, creative and a motivating teacher, as well as enhancing my speaking skill. This is preparing me in ways I could not have imagined.”
This semester, Environmental Education had nearly 10 volunteers who engaged in the same activities as the interns. Some of them worked in an after school program that provided unique learning experiences such as testing water in local tributaries, building bird houses and creating a recycling station.
“The class ends up being a really good experience. It’s not easy, it starts out really hard, but it gets really good reviews all the time,” Strife said. “There is a mutually beneficial relationship between the local schools and the undergrads. While CU students provide a role model for young children, they also learn so much from the program.”