Environmental Education Program FAQ
Why is Environmental Education (EE) a school-wide focus?
For over 300 years, Quakers have expressed a reverence for the natural world and felt called to care for the Earth. The unification of our campus and purchase of adjoining green space in Spring 2021 inspired us to reimagine our existing environmental education initiatives. As part of an ongoing collaboration with faculty, parents, students, and community partners, we are building a comprehensive program with an integrated EE curriculum across grade levels.
What is the Longleaf Center for Environmental Learning?
In April 2021, the school purchased an additional 2.8 acres with intention to conserve the green space for student and community use. After renovating the existing cottage and establishing nature trails, this area of campus became the Longleaf Center for Environmental Learning. This additional green space and learning center provide a unique place to focus on environmental stewardship and justice through interdisciplinary lessons for learners of all ages.
So, the Longleaf Center is not named after a donor?
While incredibly generous donations led to the purchase of the property and the renovation of the cottage, the Longleaf Center is named after the iconic longleaf pine, Pinus palustris, which grows throughout the property and around the cottage.
Who takes care of the Longleaf Center property?
- The Facilities Manager and Environmental Education Coordinator identify maintenance needs and prioritize new projects on the property.
- Teachers, students, and parent volunteers help with trail maintenance and other projects throughout the year.
- Our landscape contractor assists with regular mowing and other maintenance as needed.
How do FSW teachers and students use the Longleaf Center?
- Teachers can meet with students at Longleaf Cottage and use materials including microscopes, natural history items, and books from the growing EE library.
- Preschool through middle school teachers can use the Longleaf Center grounds for play and interdisciplinary lessons.
- The Environmental Education Coordinator facilitates weekly classes for students in preschool – 5th grade and collaborates with teachers and administrators to plan campus-wide activities throughout the year.
Is there a curriculum for FSW’s Environmental Education Program?
- Yes! Our program features a diversity of relevant environmental topics. Depending upon grade level and subject area, teachers may focus on lessons related to ecological systems and biodiversity, air and water quality, energy and climate change, stewardship of land and water, recycling, composting, sustainability, and environmental justice.
- The year-long curriculum for preschool through 5th grade is based upon the study of phenology or “nature’s calendar” as we observe the changing seasons and life cycles of living organisms. We also use the framework of thematic units that may extend through a quarter, semester, or be year-long in scope. Our lessons are often specifically created for our school campus, but also draw from well-known curricula including Project Wild, Project Aquatic Wild, Project Learning Tree, and others recommended by Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) and North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE)
- Middle School students engage in environmental education lessons as appropriate to subject and thematic focus.
But, what about teachable moments?
Recognizing that living organisms have enormous power to engage students, our natural environment leads to frequent teachable moments. The discovery of an eastern box turtle on our playground or a luna moth on a sweetgum tree may become a featured lesson of the day or inspire a meaningful mini-unit. Additionally, our playgrounds feature natural play areas and woodland trails that inspire children to build with “loose parts” and create imaginative games.
How does the environmental education program address issues related to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Belonging?
- We respectfully acknowledge who and what was here before us, recognizing that the land on which we learn has a long and ancient history.
- We benefit from indigenous knowledge and understand our continuing obligation to look after ancestral lands.
- To better understand how environmental concerns affect communities of color and other socially and economically disenfranchised people, we aim to research and learn more about this pressing issue of injustice.
- We seek to increase public access to green space, particularly for marginalized communities.
How do you engage with community organizations in southeastern North Carolina?
- Cultivating partnerships with community organizations strengthens our environmental teaching and connects our students to important initiatives beyond our campus. In the spring of 2021, our school was honored to receive a GreenPower Solar+Schools grant for solar education projects and STEM training for teachers.
- We have collaborated with the UNCW Recycling Services program and professors and students in the Department of Environmental Sciences.
- We are building relationships with Cape Fear Audubon, the NC Native Plants Society, Cape Fear Bird Observatory, New Hanover County Arboretum, Cape Fear River Watch, Island Wildlife, and NC Coastal Land Trust.
Can you provide some insight on how FSW envisions the Longleaf Center property and cottage being used beyond the school day?
- We are excited to create and offer weekend neighborhood programs and provide field trip space for out-of-town groups.
- We are in the initial stages of envisioning a teacher training program that reaches beyond Friends School of Wilmington, sharing our tools and inspiration to teach environmental conservation and justice.
- Planning and facilitation for these programs will be provided by FSW faculty and FSW’s Environmental Education Coordinator.
How will you know when FSW is achieving its goals for the environmental education program?
Our dreams for this program will be realized when:
- our teachers feel a sense of belonging and agency in facilitating environmental education lessons.
- we build strong partnerships with local organizations that add measurable value to our program including diversity and inclusion,
- FSW becomes known as a leader in environmental education for students and teachers throughout our region.
- these accomplishments contribute to a self-sustaining budget, ensuring that the school will thrive and grow.
What are the next steps in the process to accomplish these goals?
- Finish the physical renovation of Longleaf Center cottage.
- Establish indoor/outdoor spaces that are easy to use and feel safe and accessible for all
- Finalize and publish our curriculum
- Develop and implement a strategic communication plan to inform, educate, and inspire all of our stakeholders and sustain ongoing outreach
- Build an Advisory Council that includes leaders from local and state-wide organizations