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Community Agriculture Alliance: Adopting a Colorado Environmental Education Plan

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It must have been the crystal ball that came with our mysterious name, Yampatika (yampa, an indigenous root, plus tika, or “eater of,” equals Yampatika, the name of the tribe of Ute Indians that settled our valley as a summer hunting grounds), that forecast the shift in educational philosophy toward environmental literacy.

Or, more likely, it was because Yampatika has had its finger on the pulse of environmental education for nearly 20 years. The popular perception of environmental education may be that it is a fad or a fringe movement. Solid research, global education leaders and legislators are busting that myth by introducing legislation like the No Child Left Inside Act and the Colorado Kids Outdoors grant program. In May 2010, then-Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law a mandate requiring the Colorado Department of Education to adopt a statewide plan for environmental education. Wow, that’s serious!

And Yampatika took it seriously. Since the law was adopted, Executive Director Sonja Macys has been on the board of the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education and has served on its Environmental Literacy Planning Committee. The committee is composed of diverse stakeholders who have worked with the Colorado Department of Education to draft a statewide plan. The result is the Colorado Environmental Education Plan, which is slated to be adopted in early December. Anticipating this inevitable outcome, Yampatika began a public awareness campaign — locally and nationally — and launched its Environmental Literacy Program. You may have read about the success of this program before. It doesn’t hurt to reiterate the points as we approach this milestone for environmental education in Colorado.

There is a movement within Colorado to provide education that is nature-based, promotes practical, 21st century skills, improves critical thinking, connects youths to the broader community and helps educators teach to core curriculum and TCAP test standards. When the Colorado Environmental Education Plan is adopted, school districts statewide will be looking for a replicable model that incorporates the elements listed above and has community support and a proven track record. Yampatika’s Environmental Literacy Program satisfies all of these requirements as summarized in Yampatika’s “Environmental Literacy Program Final Evaluation Report, 2011-2012” prepared by Christina Stark, a third-party evaluator.

“Students who attended the Environmental Literacy Program showed an increase of knowledge of the grade-level topic areas. ... Also based on this evaluation, Yampatika’s Environmental Literacy Program fulfilled the needs of the teachers and students by covering the Colorado academic standards while successfully integrating the program into their classroom curriculum.”

The program launched with one series of K-5 grade classrooms, grew to include 30 classrooms last year and is on track to serve 42 classrooms this year.

Madame Yampatika did not predict these outcomes with a crystal ball. Rather, Yampatika’s notion for creating a model of 21st century collaborative education is steeped in 20 years of experience in the local community and the global environmental education movement.

If you’d like to provide a testimonial of support for the Colorado Environmental Education Plan, contact Yampatika at 970-871-9151 or info@yampatika.org.

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