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Here's What's Trending in November


Our friends at the Green Schools National Network recently sent out their Green Notes newsletter, packed full of green schools using engineering design to solve real-world problems. Read below and follow the links for inspiration.

Students have an innate curiosity of the natural world and as such are natural engineers. They ask questions, build things and take them apart. At its heart, engineering is all about problem-solving. How can we take a problem or process and make it better? Used in the classroom, the engineering design process (ask, research, imagine, plan, create, test, improve) teaches students to develop a problem-solving (and growth) mindset. It teaches students to learn from failure, adapt, and think outside the box to create solutions.

In 2008, an international group of leading thinkers assembled by the National Academy of Engineering identified 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century. These challenges include several that relate to sustainability—improving infrastructure, developing alternative energy resources, increasing access to clean water, ensuring sustainable food production, and addressing climate change.

Read the full Green Notes newsletter.  

Unnatural Disasters: Climate Change and the Mounting Threat to People and Wildlife

Hurricanes, wildfires, floods—no matter where you live in the country it seems like lately, the news has been filled with extreme weather-related stories. The National Wildlife Federation recently launched an interactive story map which can be used as a starting point to launch a discussion about the impact of climate change on natural disasters in the U.S. The story map highlights some recent natural disasters worsened by climate change, along with economic cost estimates and impacts to wildlife. Access the map and related Climate Change, Natural Disasters, and Wildlife fact sheet.


As the weather gets cooler, it’s a good time to convene the Eco-Action Team and set plans in motion for a spring clean-up and planting in or design and building of your Schoolyard Habitat®. Not only will this space provide a place to restore and create new wildlife habitat on schools grounds, it can be used for cross-disciplinary outdoor learning and observation. The National Wildlife Federation outlines five steps for creating a Schoolyard Habitat:

  1. Start a Habitat Team. A successful team will include a cross-section of people, including students, teachers, administrators, parents, facilities personnel and community members, who can bring a variety of skills to the table.
  2. Choose a Site. Students can use mapping skills to design a garden. Include items like water sources, sun exposure, plants, buildings, sidewalks and how to define the outside boundaries. Be sure any wildlife has access to food, water, cover, and places to raise their young.
  3. Create a Work Plan. Have students use an age-appropriate tool to track their project.
  4. Involve the Community. One way to build support for your project is to include the community. Take this opportunity to search out experts in landscape maintenance, design, and installation, as well as possible donations of plants and other materials.
  5. Certify Your Schoolyard. Join the thousands of schools and certify your new habitat. Certification is free, with an option to purchase a sign for display. It's a great way to acknowledge all the hard work and dedication to visitors.

Visit the National Wildlife Federation website to learn more about Schoolyard Habitats and to find resources suited for outdoor learning.


Can you imagine using a block of ice or a tree branch as your bed, or trying to sleep while standing on one leg? The November issue of Ranger Rick® magazine has a story that highlights the sleeping habits of animals like bears, giraffes, sea otters, and whitetip reef sharks, to name a few. It’s a fun story to share with students as they learn more about the sometimes unusual habits of creatures that live both above ground and in the water.

The extension activity in the November Ranger Rick Educator’s Guide provides questions that students can use to further investigate animal sleep habits such as how long and when do some animals sleep. Students can browse through the National Wildlife Federation Wildlife Guide to learn more about their favorite wildlife.


During November, we turn our focus to the Biodiversity Pathway and related Sustainable Development Goal 14Life Below Water and Goal 15Life on Land. While implementing the Eco-Schools USA Biodiversity Pathway, students have the opportunity for outdoor, hands-on learning as they focus on assessing the diversity of plants and wildlife found on the school grounds and within the community. SDG 14 targets, stress important issues surrounding marine and coastal biodiversity, and provide students opportunities to brainstorm ways they can prevent and reduce marine pollution. Many SDG 15 targets focus on the role of forests in protecting biodiversity.

Follow @EcoSchoolsUSA on Facebook and Twitter to get more tips and information related to this pathway and to the SDGs. Remind students to share our tips and information during morning announcements, news programming and/or monthly communications. #GlobalGoal14 #GlobalGoal15 #Biodiversity


Stump Jump
A recent post on the National Wildlife Federation blog details how Nature Play Spaces can be used to help kids in an urban environment grow connections to the natural world. Young students at Windsor Hills Elementary School in Baltimore City got involved in planning the new space. Read Bringing the Joy of the Forest to the City for the full story, view some great photos and see how students and community worked together to receive the highest Eco-Schools honor, the Green Flag.


Over the years, we’ve received a lot of feedback from teachers about our program and resources. With that in mind, we are excited to be working with the National Wildlife Federation web strategy and content team to bring our audiences a new and updated Eco-Schools USA interface. 

As we move toward streamlined access to program resources, we are also in the process of updating our pathway audits to correspond with grade-bands K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Check out the new look in the Schoolyard Habits® and WOW pathway audits.


The Christmas Bird Count
Did you know that the National Audubon Society relies on the community to help conduct an important early-winter bird count? Every year, thousands of volunteer citizen scientists from around the country go outside and count birds in a 24-hour period. Data gathered from the Christmas Bird Count provides conservation biologists and ornithologists a view as to how birds are doing over time. This year, the count will be held Friday, December 14, 2018 through Saturday, January 5, 2019, with each local count happening on a single day. In addition, mark your calendar for the Great Backyard Bird Count, which will be held February 15 – 18, 2019.


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