All of the things necessary for life can be found in the proper balance on the Earth — sunlight, air, water, and soil. It is the flow of sunlight energy and the cycling of air, water, and soil which are responsible for the existence of all life, including ours. More and more, we are realizing that the Earth’s life systems are fragile; they can be easily disrupted or destroyed if we don’t understand how they work.
Most of us, the human passengers on this vessel of life, have little contact with the basic elements of life. Our lack of understanding has led to actions that have disrupted the Earth’s life support systems. The air we breathe is often harmful; our water continues to be contaminated with chemicals and poisons, and our fertile soil is being depleted at an alarming rate.
The Earthkeepers program helps young people understand these life support systems and develop a personal relationship with the Earth and its life. The program deals with four basic ecological concepts — the flow of energy, the cycling of materials, the interrelating of life, and the changing of form. Participants also experience the richness of the Earth through first-hand contact with the natural world.
Another important component of the program is personal lifestyle — committing to individual changes that will reduce impact upon the systems of life. This individual commitment is greatly magnified by helping others to know and to care about the Earth, the final component of the program.
The goals of the Earthkeepers program revolve around the four KEYS to becoming an Earthkeeper:
- Knowledge — All living things on Earth are connected.
- Experience — Getting in touch with the Earth is a good feeling.
- Yourself — Your actions on Earth make a difference.
- Sharing — Helping others improve their relationship with the Earth is an urgent task.
Earthkeepers accomplishes these goals by involving the students in meaningful hands-on learning experiences that deal with increasing appreciation of the earth and engendering ecological understandings about how life operates on the planet. Students return to school with heightened sensitivity, deeper understandings, and a plan of action for lessening their impact on the Earth.
McKeever Environmental Learning Center provides trained crew leaders to work with the students. Each school must provide teachers and parents to serve as “Guardians” (certifying manuals, distributing badges, etc…). In addition, the teachers and parent leaders will conduct special activities, leisure time and evening activities, as well as chaperone the lodges.
The three days at the Earthkeepers Training Center are very busy. Each day is filled with a complete schedule of exciting learning experiences.
Each Earthkeepers activity falls into one of five categories (vehicles). Following are descriptions of the vehicles and their criteria.
Each focuses on one basic ecological concept (energy flow, cycles, interrelationships, and change) and utilizes a problem-solving storyline and analogies common to everyday life to bring a hard-to-understand ecological principle into concrete. The concepts dealt with are important, general understandings that focus on the big picture of life, not the names and numbers.
The purpose is to develop a feeling of closeness and caring for the Earth and its life. It is a sensory, barrier-breaking experience that makes the familiar unfamiliar by changing the participant’s perspective. It involves direct contact with the natural world.
The goal of a Discovery Party is to build a sense of wonder and place. It encourages personal exploration and individual “finds” while having just enough structure to hold the group together. It provides an opportunity to explore and discover.
An Earthwalk offers fresh, new ways of experiencing the richness of nature. Brief, structured activities introduce the natural world in a non-identifying, non-threatening way. An Earthwalk involves total participation on the part of the students.
Solitude Enhancing Experience
Magic Spot time provides the opportunity for each student to develop a quiet, easy relationship with one particular place in the natural world. The student returns to this spot each day to pause and rest, to sit and absorb, and to reflect and dream.
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