Students Translate Environmental Learning into Community Action

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Students Translate Environmental Learning into Community Action

Civic action is often the missing piece of STEM puzzle, says Earth Force’s GM GREEN director
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Read how students are translating environmental learning into community action from @earthforce's @GM GREEN director http://bit.ly/1OARduv

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Jan Sneddon is director of GM GREEN at Earth Force, an international non-profit that believes young people should play a central role in building environmentally resilient communities.

Friday, December 18, 2015 - 10:55am

CAMPAIGN: GM Resource Preservation

CONTENT: Blog

In November, GM GREEN students from Southeast Michigan attended a Student Congress. Organized by the Clinton River Watershed Council, a nonprofit advocacy group and GM GREEN partner, the event gave students an opportunity to share their environmental investigations with peers from other areas within the watershed and to think about the positive impact they can have on their local environment.

Through GM GREEN, the students conducted water quality monitoring earlier this year with mentors from CRWC, Earth Force and GM’s Warren Technical Center, Warren Transmission, and headquarters in Detroit to use their findings to create lasting solutions for pressing water quality issues in their community. GM employees provide career connections, build on STEM skills, and assist students in using the content they learn within the classroom in the real world.

The Student Congress creates a critical opportunity for young people to connect with their community and other students who are studying similar STEM topics to ask a simple question: “how do we solve this environmental issue?”

What sets Earth Force, and GM GREEN, apart from most environmental/STEM programs is our focus on youth civic engagement - the key to creating true environmental change. And that environmental change isn’t just happening while students are participating in GM GREEN, it’s instilled in them for a lifetime.

Civic skills are often overlooked as a critical piece of the STEM puzzle. Exceptional STEM professionals understand that active listening, critical thinking, and strategy are important skills to incorporate during the problem-solving process. Once a solution has been developed, problem-solvers need to build consensus, speak to different audiences, and understand different points of view to translate solutions into action. This may include presenting to organizational peers and leadership, speaking at community meetings to inform stakeholders, and adjusting one’s personal ideas to build greater community buy-in. Skills like these aren’t always inherently taught in the classroom; it needs to be intentional.

The Student Congress, and other GM GREEN youth summits – we held six this year in GM GREEN communities throughout the U.S. and Canada – build on students’ environmental investigations like water quality testing and creates a platform for students to develop and showcase civic engagement.

Fourth graders from Great Oaks Elementary presented to peers and community members on the history of the Salt River and its current water quality condition. They encouraged attendees to see the river as a valuable community resource and that it’s the responsibility of everyone. The students were well informed, articulated their ideas clearly, and showed commitment to improving their local environment. 

Jan Sneddon is director of GM GREEN at Earth Force, an international non-profit that believes young people should play a central role in building environmentally resilient communities.

Keywords: Environment | Clinton River Watershed Council | Earth Force | GM | GM GREEN | GM Warren Technical Center | General Motors | STEM | Student Congress | Water

CAMPAIGN: GM Resource Preservation

CONTENT: Blog

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