Resource: Earth Partnership for Schools Program (EPS)/RESTORE
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Title: Earth Partnership for Schools Program (EPS)/RESTORE
Resource type: Organization
Topics: Education
Keywords: schools, environmental education, classroom, sustainability education, K-12, nature classroom
Audience: All, Education
Region: Outside Minnesota
Summary: EPS/RESTORE is a K-12 professional development program enhancing teaching and student learning through restoring native ecosystems on school grounds and nearby natural areas.
Content: From the program description:

"The purpose of the RESTORE initiative is to help to reconnect children and nature by expanding Earth Partnership for Schools (EPS) to a broader nationwide audience, leading to improved teaching skills, enhanced student learning and citizen involvement in restoring local environments. UW-Arboretum's EPS program uses ecological restoration of school grounds as a means for reforming educational practice in science, math, social studies, language and the arts. EPS emphasizes inquiry-based learning, multiple intelligences, and interdisciplinary connections in a hands-on, collaborative setting. Likewise, Earth Partnership approaches can help build the capacity of non-formal educators, natural resource personnel, and citizen volunteers to work with schools and local environmental organizations to restore nearby native habitats and promote community stewardship of these restored areas.

Creating native habitat on school grounds can turn schools inside out. Children experience science, history, language arts, math, art, and music outside with nature. The restoration process builds a context for learning that makes sense to students. They study site history, measure physical & observe aesthetic features, analyze soil, and learn the biology of native eco-systems. They read literature, write journals & poetry, and incorporate into the restoration species and things--benches, stepping stones, water, structures--used for play as well as for restoration, research and pollution prevention.

EPS appeals to a wide range of learning styles and reaches kids who are considered at risk or in need of new educational strategies, a growing part of the school-age population. Television and the Internet show threats to endangered species and destruction by climate change, problems that seem big and far away. EPS offers students problems they can solve that are real and manageable. As a nine-year-old boy explained, The habitat in the world is getting less and less; by planting one tiny seed we can help the world. A teacher in urban Milwaukee expresses EPS's greatest impact: Kids need to feel important, to feel that they make a difference in this world. This program provides ways to give kids a sense of purpose and build competency.

UW Arboretum co-founder, Aldo Leopold wrote, When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. EPS nurtures this respect in children at a time when they are forming their view of the world, and invites their parents and teachers to strengthen their own commitment to the land and to their children's future. Some EPS schoolyard restorations are celebrating their 10th anniversaries. Young people come back to see what they did as elementary students. They have been inspired to study natural history and science, write about the environment, or become conservationists in local parks. EPS gives kids a window into a healthy future for themselves and the planet.

Program evaluation indicates that the EPS model is highly successful in: 1) generating enthusiasm and acceptance in the school and community; 2) developing school-wide coalitions for ecosystem restoration; 3) getting children meaningfully involved in restoration and scientific processes; and 4) addressing needs and abilities of children with different learning styles. EPS staff members demonstrate and share new experiential techniques for teaching science and other core subjects, grounding the lessons in the context of habitat restoration. EPS teachers encourage students to practice mental and physical skills that prepare them for the real world of work and citizenship--critical thinking, communication, collaboration, persistence, and flexibility.

Earth Partnership for Schools addresses issues of biodiversity, ecological restoration, pollution prevention and ecological literacy. Native plantings can actually improve the ecological functioning of the school grounds, prevent pollution and enhance the health of the landscape and water quality beyond the schoolyard boundaries. Rain gardens collect rainwater from roofs and paved areas and allow the water to infiltrate the school ground. As a result, some of the natural hydrology on the school landscape is restored and water pollution is reduced. Students' involvement in creating rain gardens provides opportunities to be active participants in lessening storm water impacts.

Earth partnership: RESTORE also addresses ecological literacy. School site restoration provides a powerful context within which students can engage in the process of doing science that is relevant to their everyday lives. Earth Partnership for Schools connects with and inspires students as they learn while participating in activities in all subject areas that relate to their local environment, thus encouraging them to develop attitudes, knowledge, and skills necessary to become environmentally literate citizens. EPS activities foster a student's ability to learn about and relate to the natural environment in many ways through creative arts, science, social studies, math, and language arts while developing a sense of place in the world."

Organization: Earth Partnership for Schools Program
Contact Person: Rick Hall
Address: UW Madison Arboretum 1297 Seminole Hwy.
Madison, WI 53711
Phone: 608-262-5367
Suggested by: Rick Hall
Added: 09/25/08
Updated: 02/16/11