SWANTON — The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the Nature Conservancy nearly $40,000 to provide teachers with tools and resources to engage students in the Oak Openings region.
This globally significant natural area is home to rare plants and animal species and extends like a green ribbon from southeast Michigan into northwest Ohio. The Oak Openings region runs through Wood, Henry, and Lucas counties, and is the most biologically diverse portion of the state.
Funding will provide Ohio primary and secondary teachers with hands-on training, classroom materials, and busing reimbursement to bring students to area parks and preserves.
Ashlee Decker, the project lead with the Nature Conservancy, said the goal is “to equip teachers with the skills they need to be comfortable connecting their students to the unique plants and animals they can find in their backyard. After all, that’s part of what makes this region so incredibly special.”
Immersive teacher training sessions will be held in person, following all COVID-19 protocols, on June 8 and 9. Participating teachers will tour natural areas in the Oak Openings Region and learn how to incorporate local ecology into the classroom using various of state-approved lesson plans. They will leave the training with a toolkit full of materials for the classroom and funding opportunities for their students to get out to the parks in the fall of 2021 and spring of 2022.
Teachers can learn more or register at www.oakopenings.org/oeef2021.
Through the initiative, TNC estimates that over 600 students living in the region will learn about the ecological significance of the natural areas in their communities. Those working with the Nature Conservancy include Metroparks Toledo and Lucas County Soil and Water Conservation District.
“Exposure to the benefits of nature and engaging teachers and students in conservation ultimately culminates in an appreciation, understanding, and enhanced sense of place,” Decker said. “The Oak Openings region is one of the world’s ‘last great places’ and part of local identity. It’s an irreplaceable natural area that we are proud to be protecting, restoring and maintaining—for the plants and wildlife and the people who work, live and visit here.”