Devastation in Puerto Rico

Sara LockieEnvironmental Education, Philosophy & Musings, Service & Social Justice1 Comment

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Shelly Johnson, Martha McCormick and I planned to travel to Puerto Rico this Tuesday. Next Step was chosen to present at the North American Association of Environmental Educators’ (NAAEE) Annual Conference in San Juan this week. Our presentations were planned, and we were looking forward to learning about a place we had never visited.

Instead, we have anxiously followed the news as two storms approached and hit the island, and through the weeks since. Here are some of the things we learned–

  • Eighty-four percent of the population in Puerto Rico is still without power nearly one month after Hurricane Maria.
  • According to the Washington Post, only 63 percent of the islanders have access to clean water.
  • Just 60 percent of wastewater treatment plants are working. Food supplies and medical systems are inadequate.

People are dying. Three weeks of recovery, yet so many US citizens continue to live in devastation.  This is unacceptable.

If 3 million people were suffering in a different part of the country, perhaps even Iowa, I can’t help but think the response would be different. Constant media coverage would put a spotlight on the slow recovery. A stream of politicians would visit. Certainly, the president of the United States would not be threatening to abandon relief efforts.

Obviously, our conference was cancelled. The organizers have scrambled to make some of the conference topics available online. We’ve been invited to submit the materials we would have presented to a virtual conference site.

Here are some of our plans. Focusing on these projects has been difficult because my mind dwells on the families living in such desperate circumstances in Puerto Rico.

SESSION TITLE: Keeping Environmental Education Programs Fresh: Aligning with Next Generation Science Standards
SUMMARY: Naturalists’ interactions with school groups have a major impact on the next generation. By tweaking programs as school curriculum evolves, naturalists can expand their outreach.

  • Participate in an interactive online NGSS scavenger hunt to learn about Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
  • Align your own programs to NGSS with a template. An example is provided as well.
  • A description of Next Generation Science Standards, tips for aligning programs with the standards, and sample before/after lesson tweaks are in our slides. Contact us for a copy.

SESSION TITLE: Teaching with Mini Wind Turbines and Solar Panels: Opportunities and Challenges 
SUMMARY: Renewable energy production is on the rise, offering both benefits and challenges for our next generation.  Learn about these technologies as well as strategies for incorporating them into STEM learning experiences for students.

  • Experience a sample activity from our middle school renewable energy curriculum: VIP interviews.
  • To explore opportunities and challenges in renewable energy, take on various perspectives from the assertion jar. Find the Assertion Jar lesson in our middle school service learning curriculum.  This renewable energy add-on provides specific statements.
  • Build mini circuits using materials from the Teachers Going Green teaching kit.  Then search for energy lessons on the website.
  • If you would like a copy of our slides, please contact us.

Even though we don’t get to travel to Puerto Rico this year, our hearts are with the people of that small island. If you’d like to donate to the recovery efforts, here’s a link that may help you decide the best route to do so.

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