EPA grant expands environmental education opportunities in Missouri

Friday, October 28, 2011 | 5:26 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Missouri Environmental Education Association got $31,000 richer this week.

Thanks to a recent Environmental Protection Agency grant, the organization will be able to implementits plan to expand environmental education in the state. Facilitating communication and developing educational tools are the two main goals of the grant, with most of the money going toward staff salaries.

Missouri isn't without environmental education options. There are thousands of outdoor classrooms, field trip opportunities and organizations with programs available for educators, including the state's departments of Conservation and Natural Resources, said Jan Weaver, executive manager of Missouri Environmental Education Association.

The problem is a lack of knowledge.

"What we found was that lots of times people weren’t aware of how much was going on," Weaver, who wrote the grant, said.

Creating a centralized location for information is one way the environmental group aims to fix that. There will also be efforts to improve inter-agency communication, both in government and with private organizations.

Weaver said there will also be an emphasis on improving environmental education in the classroom.

The grant will enable the creation of online "no-stakes" quizzes for teachers to assess students on environmental topics. Weaver will use the results of those quizzes, along with a survey of Missouri school districts, to find evidence of a correlation between environmental education and standardized test scores.

"If we can show that it makes a positive contribution to student achievement, it makes it easier for teachers, principals, and school board members to make the case for including environmental education," Weaver said.

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