Sea Grant and Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Hold an Online Teacher Training
In the spring of 2020, our world as we knew it flipped upside down. With the outbreak of COVID-19, events were canceled, in-person teaching made the quick switch to virtual, and educators, both formal and informal, scrambled to make new plans and adapt.
To meet the needs of educators in our region, New York Sea Grant and Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper partnered to lead an online teacher training series focusing on how to engage students in understanding their local environmental context through the lens of environmental justice while utilizing remote and virtual stewardship activities.
The workshop series forced both organizations to work diligently to design the workshop series. Educators had the chance to reflect on their own environmental and stewardship lessons and discuss how to incorporate environmental justice into its teaching and local environmental issues. Overall, there were 43 participants, including 35 teachers. This included the following schools not-for-profit educational programs, universities and government programs:
- Public Schools:
- Buffalo Public Schools
- Belleville Henderson C.S.D.
- Kenmore Tonawanda UFSD
- Pioneer Central Schools
- Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District
- Alden Central School District
- South Jefferson Central District
- Greece Central School District
- Williamsville Central School District
- Private Schools:
- The Park School
- Community Music School
- Nardin Academy
- St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute
- Riverside Academy
- Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart
- Mount St. Mary Academy
- Young Audiences of Western New York
- Earth Spirit
- Rochester Museum and Science Center
- WNY Environmental Alliance, and Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper
- University at Buffalo
- Buffalo State College
- Niagara University
- NYS Tug Hill Commission
- Erie County Department of Environment and Planning
- NYSDEC Great Lakes Commission
Dr. Monica Miles, coastal literacy specialist with NY Sea Grant, provided participants an overview on environmental justice, how environmental justice needs to be racialized, and making local connections for students learning to be more meaningful and to assist with students gaining a robust understanding of how their environments are deeply connected to their lived experiences. Some examples are student access to green space and how green spaces have an impact on their overall well-being, especially where communities in poverty and/or of color are less likely to have access to these very valuable environmental resources.
Incorporating environmental justice into education lessons has been a major focus for staff at Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. By using tools like EPA’s EJSCREEN, educators can use real, local data to explore environmental issues and see how they impact different communities, often in disproportionate ways. Staff shared with participating educators how they use an environmental justice lens when planning lessons for their Young Environmental Leaders Program (YELP).
This teacher training will serve as a model to train teachers to implement virtual, after-school academic enrichment activities for students at Hyde Park Elementary School and Gaskill Preparatory Middle School in Niagara Falls, New York. Both schools are designated 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC), are located near Hyde Park Lake, and serve communities in need in terms of poverty and academic achievement.