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Missouri Environmental Education News
February 2020

Table of Contents: Article: Geo-Inquiry, Lesson Resources for Geo-Inquiry, Things to Look Out for This Month, Kudos, MEEA News, Grants, Contests and Awards, Conferences, Workshops, Jobs

Dear MEEA Members,

As things ramp up in 2020, I've been reflecting on how to drive organizational change to help MEEA become a more diverse, equitable, and welcoming organization. As we work to carry out our project plan to expand Missouri Green Schools, I am glad we are seeking input from "high-needs" schools to help us tweak our service model to best support these urban and rural schools. I am glad we were talking about who was missing from the MGS partnership meeting in December, and developing plans to broaden our coaliton. I'm also glad that the MEEA Board of Directors acknowledges the homogeneity of our leadership and wants to address this.

As MEEA's ED, I have a responsibility and an opportunity to foster diversity at every level of our organization. I see it as my responsibility to participate in educational equity organizations and conversations, and have been attending EdHubSTL meetings for the last several months to that end. I don't have any strategic goals for attending these meetings, other than increasing my own understanding of structural inequities inherent in our educational system and building relationships with those working hard to address that. I'd like to take this opportunity to encourage you to find an ed equity organization with which to participate in your community. If that's not an option where you live, there are myriad books on racial equity that would be of interest to EE folks. I just started reading Farming While Black and am learning so much!

It can be so easy to want to quickly "bring folks into our fold", especially when we feel the pressure of climate change and the impetus to move fast, but it's imperative that we strip away our conceived goals for another person or organization, seek new knowledge, and build relationships. We need to make it our goal to learn about the challenges and goals that drive educational equity groups before we should expect to garner the support and trust of another organization with competing (yet often overlapping) priorities. There is so much to learn, and I'm thankful to be on this enriching journey. I hope you'll join me!

In the meantime, please enjoy this month's newsletter. I'm especially appreciative of Board Member and teacher, Sarah Holmes, for her contribution of the article and lesson resources this month!

Lesli Moylan, Executive Director

Using Geo-Inquiry in the Classroom

by Sarah Holmes
MEEA Board Member and Science Teacher at the Barstow School in KC

Photo Credit: Todd Race

In the summer of 2018 I was fortunate to attend the National Geographic Summer Institute in Jackson, Wyoming with 50 other middle school science teachers from across the nation. The goal of the workshop was to train teachers to incorporate the Geo-Inquiry Process into their classroom. With the beautiful Tetons as a backdrop, we learned to incorporate a geographic lens in our classes as well as how to facilitate a Geo-Inquiry project.

Geo-Inquiry reminds me of the scientific method because it incorporates asking questions and collecting data. However, geo-inquiry goes beyond information and asks the learner to act on the data. The first step is to guide students to ask a question that is geographic in nature, complex, and important to the students. It should answer the following three questions- Where is it? Why is it there? Why do we care? My students focused on our local stream, Indian Creek. They wanted to know how what we do in Kansas City impacts our local streams and eventually the ocean, and how they can work to improve it. Their question was indeed complex, geographic, and important to them.

The second phase of the process involves collecting data. We spent a day at the creek testing water chemistry and surveying benthic macroinvertebrates. Our chemistry data showed elevated levels of nitrates, phosphates and fecal bacteria and our benthic data consisted of mostly pollutant tolerant species. As most urban streams, there was a significant amount of trash present. In order to find out how much trash there was and what it was made of, we used a tool called Survey123 to collect real time data at the creek. The students used the data to create a visual map of the solid waste pollution that came in handy when we began to educate other people in the community about the situation.

Many science lessons might stop at this point, but this is where geo-inquiry really shines. The students must act! Working in teams, students identified nearby businesses and contacted the owners to ask if they could make a presentation about the findings of the study. In these presentations, the students showed maps and data and explained why the business should care about the creek. They also invited the businesses to be a part of a clean up that they were planning in the spring. One afternoon in May all of the students picked up trash at our site on Indian Creek. With the help of a grant from the KCMO Water Department and the Missouri Stream Team, we had plenty of supplies. We removed almost 200 pounds of trash from the area. The students learned so much from this project, but most of all, they learned that they can use science to make a difference in the world.

A StoryMap of this Geo-Inquiry project can be found here, and a video here.

Geo-Inquiry Resources

  • National Geographic has teacher and student guides, classroom posters and other resrouces to incorporate geo-inquiry here.
  • Register for a Geo-Inquiry online class from National Geographic here.
  • Explore watersheds with USGS Streamer, a resource that allows the student an opportunity to visualize the various sizes of watersheds in the US, trace up and down the selected water body, and examine detailed data stream trace data.
  • Things to Look for (or Look Out for) in February!

    (check out all the green holidays)

    What to Look for Right Now - MDC's list of What's Out There in February!


    Kudos to MEEA Conference presenter Jean Turney, who made the front page of the Post-Dispatch on Thursday, Jan. 23 for her EE work as a National Geographic Grosvenor Fellow! You can see the article here, and view her MEEA presentation slides here.

    Kudos to Allan Armitage, a big name in the horticulture industry, for publishing "Why Gardening Isn't Really About the Kids" in the January edition of Greenhouse Growers magazine. Allan points out the importance of parents and grandparents as drivers of garden education, as they often witness first-hand the engagement and positive behavior change when their children are given gardening opportunities.

    Kudos to the University of Missouri for their recent study on the effects of school gardening in rural schools. The study, “Our school system is trying to be agrarian: educating for reskilling and food system transformation in the rural school garden,” was published in Agriculture and Human Values and sheds light on the need for garden education in rural settings. Learn more at

    Kudos to the Heartland Conservation Alliance of KC, and their Renew the Blue campaign to preserve, protect, and restore the Blue River watershed. In 2019, HCA and partners reported 66 Renew the Blue events. Nearly 10,000 people attended Renew the Blue events. Partners and volunteers collected more than 83,000 pounds of trash from the Blue River and Blue River watershed, including 630 tires. Together with volunteers, Renew the Blue partners planted more than 2,500 native plants and trees to improve the health of the Blue River and connect communities to the outdoors. Way to go!

    Kudos to the Missouri Department of Agriculture for awarding funds to 12 projects that aim to address food insecurity in Missouri. And Kudos to the programs in our state that are working hard to alleviate hunger, which plagues 1 in 5 Missouri children. Awardees: A Red Circle, St. Louis; Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Columbia; Community Action Agency, St. Louis County; Dirt Beast Farm, Kansas City; Drew Lewis Foundation, Springfield; Green Acres Urban Farm, Kansas City; Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council, Kansas City; Jewish Vocational Service Global Gardens, Kansas City; Lettuce Dream, Maryville; The Fit and Food Connection, St. Louis; West Plains Community Garden, West Plains; Stoddard County Senior Citizens Agency, Dexter.

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