Wild Treasures: Sustainability, Naturally was one of the most challenging and thought provoking experiences that we, as teachers, have ever encountered for adolescents. Charlestown Middle School science and mathematics teacher Shawn Brodeur-Stevens
Wild Treasures Do It Yourself is a 5th-8th grade curriculum that can be done anywhere in the world. It includes all of the major phases of the local program, however, it is completely self-directed by teachers and their classes; it requires no direction, facilitation, or awards from Antioch University. All the curricula is available at this website and can be adapted in any way students and teachers see fit. The four primary phases of the curriculum: Challenge, Research, Proposal, and Action can be readily integrated into an existing science and social studies curriculum.
Wild Treasures’ Do it Yourself ends in June with a class of middle school students transforming the way their school operates.
It begins the previous September along a multi-station in-class challenge trail. There, small groups of students solve a variety of surprising problems that introduce them to 5 big ideas about sustainability: waste, exponential growth, cycling in nature, feedback loops and entropy. If they solve all the problems, they can proceed to the next phase of the program called Research. And depending on the resources and ingenuity of the facilitating teacher, students may also be awarded with classroom privileges or some other motivator. Of course, the more the award is connected to the Wild Treasures program the better.
During the next 9 months students apply the 5 big sustainability ideas learned along the Challenge Trail to achieving three milestones:
- Conduct original research about their school’s sustainability practices,
- Present a comprehensive proposal to their school board, detailing the necessary action-steps needed in order to improve their school’s sustainability practices (based on their research), and
- Transform their school-board approved proposal into measurable action.
Since Wild Treasures inception in the fall of 1999, more than 450 students from fifteen middle schools in southern Vermont and New Hampshire have participated in the local program facilitated by the Department of Environmental Studies Science Teacher Certification Program. These youth have become real agents of change in their communities while learning about and applying the principles of sustainability. Students have reduced their school’s solid waste, implemented school-wide energy conservation programs, initiated large-scale composting systems and started an organic lunch program.