APS chosen to pilot ecology program

Published 6:27 am Thursday, March 25, 2010

Austin Public Schools will be one of 11 Minnesota districts piloting a new water quality education program this fall.

The pilot program is designed to enhance technical environmental education and establish a national public school model for teaching about ecology and water resources. In addition, it is meant to demonstrate responsible management of property.

“Ecology curriculum is going to be developed to fit seamlessly into the science education that is already taking place,” explained Matt Miller, director of facility services in Austin Public Schools.

“It’s not costing the district a penny, and that’s hard to say no to,” he said.

The program is grant-funded by the Medtronic Foundation and the Rice Creek Watershed District. The Fridley and Anoka-Hennepin school districts will design the educational programming, to be more or less the same across districts, with support from The Global Center for Environmental Education at Hamline University and the Environmental Resource Council.

Districts participating in the pilot include Austin, Fridley, Anoka-Hennepin, Duluth, Crookston, St. Peter, Montevideo, St. Francis, Stillwater, Lakeville and Cambridge.

“The curriculum may be somewhat tailored, but the concepts will be very similar,” Miller said. “For example, we might study trout streams while a northern Minnesota district might study a lake’s walleye population.

APS will know more details about the curriculum following an April 12 inter-district meeting.

The curriculum will be incorporated in Austin High School and Ellis Middle School next year, and there is potential for later expansion into the elementary schools, Miller said.

Individual districts may seek additional support to enhance their facilities by implementing learning rain gardens designed to reduce runoff water contamination and other projects.