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Teaching for the Future

by Bergen Tjossem

At EVLT, we are constantly thinking about the word forever; what it means for our organization and the public. To us, it implies the need for a sustaining legacy of conservation is Eagle County. So who is next in our legacy? Our children of course! With our kids in mind, the Future Conservationists Program was born.

In 2013, through hands-on, experiential conservation education, we taught over 100 local students how to be stewards of our precious lands in Eagle County. This year, we’re expanding to teach more students through partnerships with organizations such as SOS Outreach, Walking Mountains Science Center, and Boy Scouts of America. These lessons will be spread across the valley, working on six conservation easements from the East Vail Waterfall to the Duck Ponds in Gypsum. Through these wonderful outdoor classrooms, we are teaching the basics of Eagle County’s natural and human history, conservation, local economy, and land monitoring techniques. Daunting as it seems for a 5th grader, all of these complex terms are easily translated to kids through fun and engaging activities.

The Future Conservationists Program doesn’t follow your typical K-12 classroom curriculum, but rather is centered around place-based lessons. If you really want to preserve and protect land, you have to be able to personally relate to the land. For example, we use lessons like the “Human History Quest” at the 72-acre Eagle River Preserve, which sends the students on a rhyming, clue-filled adventure to find time capsules spread around the property. Each capsule contains an item, picture or toy to illustrate the Preserve’s timeline of historical events within the past 500 years.


One of the kids’ favorites is the “100-Inch Trail” activity which turns the students into mini sustainable trail developers, to emulate the construction of new recreation paths at the 478-acre West Avon Preserve. Another crowd pleaser has been the “Nature Scavenger Hunt” which challenges students to observe, find, and describe a many natural objects on the land. This activity helps the explorers to develop basic monitoring skills and to understand the ecological importance of the area. When the kids are in control of the lesson, there is a sense of ownership, both for the lesson and for the place. Once a lesson becomes personal, it sticks. Skyrockets anyone?

I always like to frame it as their land, because the Land Trust’s work truly is for the benefit of the public. We have 16 more education days this summer, so keep your eyes open for lots of smiling kids, learning about conservation on their protected land. Here at your local land trust, we always try to remember why we protect land, and who we protect it for. It really comes down to one word: future.


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