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Sierra Club Environmental Education Program
Sierra Cubs: Environmental Education Program for Kids

by Linda Cataldo Modica, State of Franklin Group Chair, April 1996

With 400 groups nationwide, it's time for the Sierra Club to expand its environmental education activities and reach out to children and their families.

Our small group in upper east Tennessee embraced this big idea last spring and organized and ran a junior naturalist camp for young children. My then-five-year-old daughter, Loretta, coined the Sierra Cubs program name (now a registered trademark of the national Sierra Club) for what we hope will soon become a Board-approved nationwide model for a grassroots "Sierra Club for Kids."

With the assistance of a park director who had worked with the Cherokee Group in Chattanooga on a children's hiking program, we developed a nature program for our local park. I asked experienced volunteers Jane Ensign, Lori Klinger, Donna Cooper, Karen Miller and Joe Franklin to help draw up a plan for a week-long, 9 a.m. to noon program of interpretive hikes and nature-related crafts and games for three separate age groups: 5-7, 8-10 and 11-13-year-olds.

We then developed a list of experienced educators who could conduct interpretive hikes on wetland ecology -- this camp's particular focus, given the park's natural features -- and distributed public service announcements and brochures throughout the community.

With a cadre of natural scientists, park naturalists and ecology teachers on board, and with arts and craft supplies purchased, first aid training certified and nature games learned, we successfully hosted 29 kids for two weeks.

The kids had fun spotting wildlife, identifying insects, getting closer looks through microscopes and playing games. Because we had invited parents to participate, positive feedback was immediate. Now is the time for your group to start planning your own Sierra Cubs nature camp.

Tremendous goodwill can be generated by a group that provides an educational opportunity for the children of current Club members and the community at large. In our case, we gained at least 26 new members. And by inserting the Sierra Cubs camp in our SuperFRIP II proposal, we will also receive a 50 percent rebate on these membership dues. Group-driven, the Sierra Cubs is grassroots born and will be grassroots raised and nurtured. It can complement Inner City Outings as a service that groups outside urban centers can offer. Most importantly, children in your community will learn about their natural environment through a hands-on course in ecology sponsored by the Sierra Club.

For more information, contact the Franklin Group at linda.modica@sierraclub.org


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