Sustaining Your MWEEMWEEs take effort to establish, so it is important to both celebrate your success and create a plan to ensure it continues into the future.
Celebrate your MWEE!
Building broad awareness about a MWEE may strengthen support and, ultimately, the long-term success of a MWEE. Actively engaging students in this celebration and awareness campaign can be an interesting extension to the Synthesis and Conclusions element of a MWEE, and depending on the nature of the outreach may even be appropriate as an Environmental Action Project.
“My greatest success was student engagement. Students who have not been particularly interested in science this year were drawn in by the real-world application of this project.”
- Scott Hartmen, Hamilton Elementary/Middle School, Baltimore, Maryland
At the school building level, it is important to celebrate success to garner additional resources and excitement for the project, and to build toward or reinforce a school culture that embraces environmental education. Principals, other teachers, Parent Teacher Associations (PTA), building services staff, parents, and other students are all important partners. Getting them involved in and excited about the project can go a long way toward ensuring that a MWEE has the support to continue into the future and potentially expand to other grades and involve other disciplines. It is also important to recognize community partners who lend their support. Schools often have a variety of built-in mechanisms for helping with this—from the school or PTA newsletter, website, or social media accounts to the morning announcements, bulletin boards, or events.
The community surrounding a school is generally extremely interested in learning more about school initiatives, especially because many of the community members have children who are attending, will attend, or have attended the school. Reaching out to the community through the media, public service announcements, meetings of local government officials, and/or community outreach events can increase awareness and support of a MWEE. Presenting to local government officials about the findings of their MWEE is sometimes a logical and powerful culmination of the student Environmental Action Project element of the MWEE. Teachers, school administrators, or partners may also want to reach out to local television stations, newspapers, and online media services to invite them to witness a MWEE in action.
Building Awareness in your School District
It is also useful to build awareness and support at the school district level to sustain your MWEE. Teachers and their principals can share information and accolades about their MWEE with curriculum coordinators and content supervisors to identify ways to scale classroom-based MWEEs to more classrooms and schools, ideally becoming embedded systemically into the curriculum. Embedding MWEEs into the curriculum can create the space, permission, and sometimes even funding for these experiences to occur. It is often helpful for MWEEs to be piloted in one school or classroom to demonstrate a proof of concept before scaling it up across an entire district to reach all students.
Promoting Teacher Professional Development
Regular professional development can help sustain a MWEE by providing opportunities for teachers to build their knowledge, practice, and skills around MWEE implementation. Professional development may focus on content, pedagogy, emerging technology and tools, curricular resources, and more. Partners, such as nonformal educators, are often well-poised to support professional development and have an opportunity to work with school district administrators to coordinate what long-term support can look like. A long-term plan for professional development is crucial for ensuring that new teachers and staff are familiar with both the MWEE framework generally and what it looks like practically in the classroom.
In addition to formal professional development, it can be helpful for teachers to engage in regular individual and team-based reflection on how the MWEE is working and to revisit challenging areas as needed to ensure every reiteration of the MWEE program is better than the last!
“MWEE implementation with K-12 students is most effective when the teachers, themselves, have experienced MWEEs during professional learning opportunities, often provided by local colleges & universities, resource agencies, and EE non-profits.”
- Tamra L. Willis, Mary Baldwin University College of Education