October 15, 2008 - Clendenin, WV - Nearly 1,000 students from West Virginia schools will participate in unique, hands-on environmental education programs during the next three years, supported by a $460,426 grant from the Toyota USA Foundation to The Mountain Institute's Appalachia Program.
"Reading the Landscape," an environmental literacy curriculum developed by The Mountain Institute for local schools, includes opportunities such as stream sampling, cave exploration, orienteering with map and compass, plant identification and collection, and astronomy. Teachers will be able to select topics for their students, according to each grade's content requirements. Each program for participating schools includes both a field trip and in-school activities for lesson reinforcement.
"For more than 30 years, The Mountain Institute has offered outdoor education programs, most often at our Spruce Knob Mountain Center in Pendleton County," said Dr. Brent Bailey, Director of TMI's Appalachia Program. "This generous grant from Toyota USA Foundation allows us to expand our offerings, reach many more local students than we have in the past, and target key educational priorities through extended contact, not only on field trips but through reinforcement activities and professional development for teachers."
"The Toyota USA Foundation is proud to support 'Reading the Landscape'," said Patricia Pineda, Toyota's group vice president, national philanthropy and the Toyota USA Foundation. "Education has always been a priority for us, and environmental literacy is critical for the next generation of leaders. This program will teach environmental science in a comprehensive and innovative way."
A growing body of research increasingly points to the importance of outdoor educational opportunities for healthy child development, acquisition of problem-solving skills, reductions of behavior problems, and comprehension and retention of academic content. "Our staff of field instructors is highly trained, and challenges students to work together to master particular tasks," commented Josh Nease, TMI's coordinator for Reading the Landscape. "Our programs are educational, but they're also filled with adventure and fun. And our emphasis on group work and collaboration instills a sense of stewardship for the outdoors, as well as personal responsibility."
"West Virginia's abundant natural resources offer a perfect outdoor learning laboratory for exploring science, service, and stewardship," added Bailey. "With natural resources central to our economy, it is essential that our citizens understand the region's ecosystems and ecology, from the tops of mountains to river valleys, as well as their role in participating in decisions about how our resources are managed. TMI thinks that every West Virginia student should have outdoor educational opportunities as part of the standard curriculum."
Educators who wish to learn more about possible participation in Reading the Landscape can contact The Mountain Institute's Spruce Knob Mountain Center at 304-567-2632, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Toyota USA Foundation is a $100 million charitable endowment created to support education programs serving kindergarten through 12th-grade students and their teachers in the United States, with an emphasis on mathematics, science and environmental science. For additional information about the Toyota USA Foundation, visit www.toyota.com/foundation.
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