Caesar Rodney School District receives grant to further outdoor education

CAMDEN, Del. – Caesar Rodney School District (CRSD) now has $227,000 to further environmental education, thanks to a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The grant comes as part of the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund. CRSD is the only school district in the country to receive a grant of this kind.

Getting Their Hands Dirty

Environmental Education Specialist for CRSD, Todd Klawinski, says across the district’s 14 campuses, students will learn about preserving water quality, restoring natural elements, and returning wildlife habitats to the area.

“We’re situated, generally, on a bunch of old farms. So, we have a lot of land that’s just mowed turf. We will be using what they’ve put out in this grant. The intent is to restore some native habitat for wildlife, but also for educational purposes, to increase access to that, as well as access to quality and clean water,” said Klawinski.

Klawinski says hands-on activities will come in a number of different forms through a network of outdoor classrooms. Students could be tasked with transforming a drainage ditch into a wildlife habitat by planting native plant species. Or, they could help build decks and sheds for the outdoor classrooms.

Encouraging Environmental Stewardship

All of these activities play into bringing students back outdoors, and promoting environmental stewardship, says Klawinski.

“The entire education component is designed to go back to a time many years ago when schools spent a lot of time being outdoors, as opposed to being indoors,” said Klawinksi. “It starts with the students at a school being involved in the planning process of an outdoor learning space. That outdoor learning space could be a series of raised beds for community gardens. It could be a native wildlife meadow, filled with milkweed to support our Monarch populations or other at-risk species in our area. It could be revegetating one of these draining areas.”

Klawinski says not only will students learn more about the local environment; they will also learn about the wildlife that lives in it, and become a part of it themselves.

“The kids are not only putting plants in the ground, but getting out there and doing species identification, or taking a lesson outdoors and adapting what they’ve been doing for years into an outdoor setting,” said Klawinski. “It first is dependent on the adults to make sure that there are opportunities and to be able to open the door literally and figuratively to the kids being outdoors. That’s where they want to be. It’s not just that they want to be there; it’s what’s good for them.”

Life-Long Lessons

Beyond bringing students outdoors, Klawinski hopes they will carry the valuable lessons about caring for the environment throughout their lives.

“Having a whole new space to learn in, and in open air, is a really valuable thing. Good education comes with a laboratory for putting that into action. We know by research that students need that. They need to be able to take what they’re learning in a traditional setting, and put it into action,” said Klawinski. “When an adult doesn’t really know what goes in that blue recycle bin, or don’t understand what the five major species of the ecosystem around their house, that’s a sign that maybe in those areas at least, we’re not really turning out environmentally literate people.”

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