Early Childhood EE Course Engages Pre-Service Teachers in Community Projects

Yash Bhagwanji, PhD., Florida Atlantic University 

In a newly developed undergraduate course, and offered for the first-time in summer of 2019, my students in EEC 4404 Community Engagement in Early Childhood Environmental Education partnered and collaborated with churches, mosques, private schools, public schools, and many non-profit organizations in advancing the health and ecological literacy of children. In preparation for the community projects, students were required to read NAAEE’s Community Engagement: Guidelines for Excellence and complete assignments pertaining to identification of projects and community partners, stakeholder analyses, resources to share with stakeholders, reflections of professional and change agent readiness skills, feasibility of community project, and a detailed plan for completing the community project. Following instruction provided in class and approval of the community projects, one student developed a pollinator garden at a local church school along with an educational brochure about the benefits of pollinator gardens (see attached photo). Another student collaborated with the Delray Beach Children's Garden in designing and delivering children's programs. Another student, working with Arabic mothers, designed and implemented a bilingual Family Nature Club. One other student partnered with a nature center in implementing a beach clean-up program. And one other student worked with her summer camp team leaders in eliminating the use of plastic water bottles. The student also developed a YouTube clip to demonstrate the successes of her community engagement project. Not only did the student achieve success in eliminating the use of plastic water bottles (from an estimated 13,200 bottles to none), she also demonstrated the beach preservation, economic, transportation, health, learning and environmental education benefits for the children and summer camp organization. The camp is now a plastic-bottle free camp. At the end of the course, students presented their projects, described highlights in their learning experiences, and articulated ideas for effective engagement with community stakeholders.