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May 28, 2008

Club Helps Alabama School Kids Get Green

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Nineteen sixth-graders from D.C. Wolfe School in Shorter, Alabama, attended a 3-day environmental workshop at the Camp McDowell Environmental Center in northern Alabama this spring. Alabama Sierra Club leader Margaret Wade Johnston, director of the Environmental Center, secured a grant from the Club's Building Bridges to the Outdoors Project to fund the workshop.

The program was followed by a field day sponsored by the Auburn University Environmental Institute, tied to the Camp McDowell workshop. One of the day's activities was for the kids to create a "quilt of environmental learnings," below, based on what they learned at the camp.

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"Even though they live in a rural area, a lot of these kids don't get to spend much time outdoors experiencing nature," says Kay Stone of the Auburn Environmental Institute, who administers an environmental science and arts program in Alabama's Black Belt, and who put Johnston in touch with the D.C. Wolfe School. "This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of them."

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The Camp McDowell workshop combined classroom learning with hands-on outdoor activities like pond and stream ecology, nature journaling, and rock quarry geology. "Many of these kids have never been away from home overnight before except to grandma's house," says Stone, "but when it came time to leave, most of them practically begged to stay."

"We at McDowell Environmental Center love teaching children from all walks of life," says Wade Johnston, "but the D.C. Wolfe children were amazing. We all fell in love with them! It was wonderful to see students who asked us, when we visited the school a few months ago, if they were going to see dragons and tigers at Camp McDowell, become comfortable in nature in only three days! One of the McDowell instructors teared up as she shared memorable connections that happened for young people that week."

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All the kids who participated took home a Sierra Club t-shirt. "The Club was so generous to provide funding, including chartering the bus to get the kids to Camp McDowell, since their school has none," says Stone. "And the art project was amazing."

The week after the follow-up field day, the kids presented the quilt to their school. "Now their teachers are using vocabulary that the students learned in their environmental studies," Stone beams.

Aldcwolfequilt

Camp photos by Laura Catherine Conville of the Camp McDowell Environmental Center. Quilt photos by Kay Stone.

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