On March 24, Umpqua Watersheds held a day-long training for local educators, and what a success it was.

“Learning in the Umpqua Watershed: Engaging K-12 Students though Nature Connections & STEAM Activities” engaged 12 teachers from Douglas County in the benefits of taking youths outside, ways to incorporate hands-on and nature-based activities, the importance of teaching about climate change as well as how to do it, and STEAM (integrating two or more of the subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math to solve a real-world problem).

We discussed local environmental challenges as well as the ecological history of the region, and brainstormed ways to incorporate various concepts and activities from the day into one’s teaching practice. Furthermore, numerous organizations from the community presented what they had to offer teachers and their students during the “Lunch and Learn about Local Opportunities” portion of the day.

We are so grateful for all of the teachers who participated, all of the volunteers and organizations who partnered with Umpqua Watersheds during this event, and to the Clif Bar Family Foundation, which awarded a grant to make this idea become a reality.

If you weren’t able to attend the training, but would like to learn more, we have recordings of the various sessions available to view.

Additionally, if you are interested in attending or supporting a future iteration of this event, please reach out to the AmeriCorps member serving as our Environmental Education and Outreach Leader at ryan@umpquawatersheds.org.

This event solidified – for both presenters and attendees – the importance of empowering youths in the process of working to make a difference. Climate change, also known as climate crisis, is such an enormous and complicated issue, with far-reaching implications.

As such, it can easily overwhelm both youths and adults if they feel that they have no power to influence the outcome.

However, many of the shifts happening with our climate, mass extinctions, and the pollution coming from resource extraction, plastic production, and improper waste disposal all have a human cause, so by changing the way we do things, and changing our perspective, we can have an impact.

Having been an educator for a number of years, and having majored in environmental studies before that, I have witnessed and experienced both the paralysis of being faced with an enormous problem that seems unsolvable and the passion and engagement of students who are given an opportunity to address the issues they care about.

Umpqua Watersheds is passionate about giving people a chance to actively participate in the change-making process. We understand the value of empowering youths and adults and consistently pair education with opportunities for involvement. To this end, we invite everyone to attend our upcoming Eco Innovations Challenge, in which Douglas County residents will present their solutions to local environmental problems. Additionally, you can attend our upcoming volunteer training, and learn about the various roles we’re hoping to fill to increase our capacity to make a difference in the Umpqua watershed and beyond.

Ryan Kincaid, an AmeriCorps member, serves as the environmental education and outreach leader for Umpqua Watersheds.

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