Reflections from a new environmental educator

Chelsea Hilmoe, AmeriCorps Green Classrooms Coordinator, looks back at this unprecedented school year and prepares for the fall. | July 3, 2020

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Last September, though only ten months past, feels like a lifetime ago. I remember walking into my first workshop of the year— a fifth grade class—to teach students about water conservation. I was nervous, but excited to see how the workshop would go. I walked to the front of the room, 20 plus students stared at me intently. I was surprised they were not as little as I imagined. They surprised me again with how much they already knew about the environment. I haven’t been a fifth grader for a while now, but I could have sworn when I was that age, we were smaller and didn’t know nearly as much!

A lot has changed in the world since the beginning of my term. So has my understanding of our environment, and what elementary schoolers can comprehend and accomplish. (Also, just realizing how ridiculous it is to buy a plastic fork, such a small item that has such a large impact on our water, air, and climate during its lifecycle!)

Before my term with AmeriCorps, I went to college intending to study accounting, but after one class in Environmental Science, I knew I found a different passion. Upon finishing my degree, I set off on the discouraging path of finding employment in my field. I quickly realized I needed to gain some real-life experience, and put my knowledge and experience to the test. What better way to do that than as an AmeriCorps member? Being RE Sources’ Green Classroom Coordinator allowed me to teach others the importance of protecting our shared environment while gaining valuable skills along the way.

Now that my term of service is coming to an end, I reflect on my valuable experiences and what I have learned. I can now present lessons to elementary school students; I have learned to better write and teach complex topics like climate change to a younger and more general audience (though I still can improve on that); I have expanded my knowledge in the best way for elementary schoolers to learn, and what they can connect with when it comes to learning about the environment. I’ve grown my personal understanding on the impacts of climate change, how I can improve on my own material use and discarding of waste, how little freshwater we really have, and so much more I never expected.

It is because of this experience that I decided to continue the position for a second term.

At every single workshop, I saw students have the desire to protect and care for our environment. I recognized, as well, that they are the ones who will be the most impacted by what happens in the world today. It is crucial they learn how to care for the planet, and I am the one who gets to teach them these things. With the knowledge I have gained this past year, I can now work on how to deepen students’ connection and understanding of how to protect our water, air, climate, and communities. I can use my expertise to develop new, more impactful teaching strategies in my second term.

I am very excited to be able to come back in September and do this work again!

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