Tag Archives: education

5 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day as Church Together but Apart

Augustana University Outdoor Classroom

Augustana University students gained the benefit of learning outside with the addition of a new outdoor classroom on campus. The classroom was finished in time for use by classes this past fall.


An anonymous sustainability grant funded the project. David O’Hara, Augustana’s director of sustainability, led the project because of the benefits it can provide to the students and the campus community. 


The classroom itself is a lesson in sustainability.


Materials:The entire classroom is made of South Dakota stone, representing different parts of the state and different geologic periods. These include an orchestra (the “stage”) made of slate from the Black Hills; and three concentric arcs of seats made of Sioux quartzite from Dell Rapids, “Dakota Mahogany” granite from Milbank, and Black Hills slate. Several other kinds of local crushed stone provide a foundation and a wheelchair- accessible path made of packed gravel.


Surrounding the orchestra is a ring made of recycled quartzite cobblestones that Rick Foster of Foster Landscaping (the company hired to build the classroom) salvaged. They used to pave Sioux Falls city streets and were recycled for this project. 


Sustainability:Most of the stone is laid dry (that is, without mortar) since mortar wears down with weather. The orchestra appears to have mortar in it, but that is a mixture of sand, gravel, and several other components that prevent weeds while allowing percolation of rain. The mixture will soften when wet, and then re-firm when dry, allowing the floor to maintain its integrity while it settles over the years. Where the stones meet the grass has been kept low to the ground so that it is easy to mow around the stones without chipping the stones or the mower blades. Large stones, rather than composites like concrete or bricks, were used because stones last much longer without maintenance. The classroom will cost nothing to heat, cool, clean, or light. 


Use:The outdoor space is available for use as a classroom, but it can also be used for theatrical and musical performances, alumni gatherings, weddings, baptisms, etc. The classroom will seat about 35 people comfortably. There is space for several wheelchairs on the orchestra as well.


Read more about this and other sustainability projects at Augustana University.

Dendroecology Research Lab at Carthage College

Human activities are profoundly changing natural communities across landscapes at rapid and accelerating rates. Sustainability research through the Geography and Earth Science Department’s Dendroecology Research Lab at Carthage College is helping to predict the fate of these ecosystems, particularly in the face of novel disturbance regimes and a changing climate.

Biogeographic research at Carthage College funded by the National Science Foundation has made important contributions at the interface of human impacts, ecosystem dynamics, and climate change. Specifically, Carthage students conduct research with Professor Joy Mast on the impact on tree regeneration of the altered conditions of a post-high-severity burn environment coupled with the drought conditions that foster high-intensity fires in the Southwest, as well as on wildlife use of the burned forests. In addition, Carthage students join Prof. Mast in research on wildlife use of forests after bark beetle epidemics to view the sustainability of habitats. Students study the resiliency of forests in light of sustainable forestry practices and restoration of forests through prescribed burns and thinning of unnatural fuel loads.

These studies advance biogeographical and ecological theory by examining successional dynamics in extreme climate conditions under a human-altered fire regime and wildlife responses to both high-intensity fires and large insect epidemics in conifer forests of the American Southwest.

Learn more about sustainability initiatives at Carthage College.

Creation Care Ambassador Program

We are thrilled to announce that, through an ongoing partnership between the ELCA and ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow, a  Creation Care Ambassador Training program will be first offered via “Zoom” online Saturday, April 4th from 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. ET!

REGISTER HERE ASAP!

See how it all fits into the other ways ELCA supports this ministry by listening to this recorded 1 hour webinar.  Please stay tuned for official registration information coming soon.  To ensure you hear updates immediately, be sure to complete this form (click here) and we will contact you directly with details.

Wagner College Introduces Environmental Studies Major

This fall, Wagner College will begin offering a new major in Environmental Studies, building on the strength of its existing minor in Environmental Studies.

“We have a number of students interested in serving others and making the world a better place,” explained Celeste Marie Gagnon, head of the Anthropology Department. “This major equips students like that to bring an environmental perspective to bear on world problems.”

“A lot of other colleges have developed programs like this over the last 10 years,” added biology professor Elizabeth Suter.

Students enrolling in the multidisciplinary major will be able to complete their senior capstone work in either the Biological Sciences or Anthropology department.

“Your concentration will be based on what kind of research you want to do, or where you want to go with your bachelor’s degree,” Gagnon explained.

“I was an environmental studies major as an undergraduate, and I became a scientist,” Suter said. “There are many kinds of work you can do with this: policy, law, management, risk management, NGO work in the fields of the environment, social justice, the impacts of the environment and environmental change on economics. Even local NGOs, such as those focusing on asthma.”

Students enrolled in the Environmental Studies major will learn about the three pillars of sustainability – social, environmental, and economic – and how culture functions as a mediating process between humans and their environment. They will also acquire an introductory knowledge of geographic information systems.

Learn more from Wagner College.

Katrina Martich

Katrina Martich is a speaker, trainer, and consultant, who helps organizations find holistic approaches to today’s environmental challenges. To this task she brings over twenty years of practical experience as an environmental engineer in public and private sector positions.  In addition to running her own environmental consulting company, Katrina has been an adjunct instructor for The University of Texas at Arlington and completed an internship with the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy.  Katrina grounds her approach to environmental challenges in the justice tradition of the Abrahamic faiths, with a focus on personal and business practices that allow all people and life to thrive in this world.

Katrina has a degree in Agricultural Engineering from Auburn University and a Master of Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington.  In 2013, Auburn University’s Department of Biosystems Engineering (formerly Agricultural Engineering) honored Katrina with its Outstanding Alumna Award.  She is a consecrated deaconess by the Lutheran Diaconal Association, a licensed professional engineer in Texas and New Mexico, and a Certified Professional in Sediment and Erosion Control.  Katrina lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her husband and three rescued cats.  In her spare time, she volunteers at an equitherapy facility and enjoys hiking, working in the yard, and watching birds.  Contact her at 817-471-0520 or contact@katrinamartich.com

So We Can Restore Creation

While caring for the environment can feel overwhelming, it’s when we stand together, each doing our part, that we find hope, gain strength, and make a difference. Find a tool below to help celebrate God’s gifts to us!

Download (Click Here) the information shared from Portico and Lutherans Restoring Creation at Churchwide Assembly 2019 to celebrate our progress and map the long way we still need to go to restore creation.

Join Up

Adults, start by taking the LRC Personal Covenant.  In 5 – 10 minutes, complete your covenant with creation. You’ll start to receive LRC’s monthly Good Green e-News linking you to other Lutheran earth-keepers and helpful resources.

ELCA Retirement Plan members, invest consciously using Portico’s ELCA social purpose funds. Call a Portico Financial Planner at 800.922.4896 to learn whether you’re in the social purpose funds and how to make that choice.

Children, take the Child’s Pledge With Creation.  Print out this out and discuss with your family. Tip: Frame your completed pledge using a larger piece of cardboard like a cereal box and decorate it with magazine photos that are important to you.

Teens, take the Youth Pledge. Then, walk through the Your Day experience, reflecting on how your daily decisions can impact others with whom we share this planet.

Inspire Others

Rally your congregation to take the Congregational Covenant with CreationThen, use LRC resources to create an action plan with support from LRC mentors.

Active Earth-keepers, become a Green Shepherd in your synodAs your synod’s point person for LRC and ELCA Advocacy and Stewardship outreach, learn to identify, connect and motivate other “green sheep” in your synod.

 

YOUTH: How can YOUR decisions impact your global neighbor?

While the following pledge form was originally poised to the hundreds of Lutheran youth attending the 2018 Gathering in Houston, these questions help people of any age recognize their impact and how many tools their are to make changes of habit that offer fulfilling prayerful actions to every step of their day.  To put the questions in context check out the walk through presentation: Your Day – Your Global Neighborhood.

As you consider the unintended impacts of our daily actions,  commit with hundreds of other youth to try a few things differently. Our collective prayers are being listened to – our collective actions are being felt:

EPA’s Energy Star Congregation’s Guide

The United States (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR® program and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Building Technologies Office (BTO) collaborated through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Commercial Buildings Research Group to create this workbook.
This workbook serves as a resource and planning guide for clergy, staff, and laypersons of houses of worship who want to increase the energy efficiency of their facilities by implementing realistic and cost effective energy improvement projects. Download the guide and appendices for free below.  Be sure to also find out who near you  (see map) has become a part of the EPA’s Protfolio Manager program +/or has tried some of these suggestions in their house of worship.

EPA’s Energy Guide for Congregations

Appendices to support EPA Guide

Disclaimer

All energy, water, and monetary savings listed in this document are based upon average savings for end users and are provided for educational purposes only. Actual savings will vary based on energy, water, and facility use, national weather data for your locality, energy prices, and other factors. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are calculated based on emission factors reported to the U.S. EPA by the electric utility provider serving your ZIP Code. Data referenced in this document is provided by the U.S. EPA and the U.S. DOE’s NREL

Water discipleship tools – fresh from Vermont!

Vermont Lutheran Church partners with Interfaith Power & Light to Share the Various Ways to Revere Water:

In 2018, Vermont Interfaith Power and Light (VTIPL) joined with local organizations to create a model for watershed stewardship, based on the experience of Ascension Lutheran Church in South Burlington, Vermont.  The Reverend Dr. Nancy Wright, pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, and Richard Butz, a member of the church, are co-authors of the manuals. Rev. Nancy Wright is also a chairperson of the New England Synod’s Lutherans Restoring Creation “Green Team”. 

VTIPL has created two manuals, one with a Christian emphasis, Congregational Watershed Discipleship Manual: Faith Communities as Stewards of the World’s Waters (1st Christian edition) and another with an interreligious emphasis, Congregational Watershed Manual: Religious Communities as Stewards of the World’s Waters (1st Interreligious edition).

Each one of these inspiring and practical manuals is available by free download from the pdfs on VTIPL’s website (www.vtipl.org) and this website.  Alternatively, if you’d like one copy or multiple copies of the printed and bound manual(s), you can fill out and mail in the order form (attached below).  These are high resolution print copies, spiral bound to conveniently lie flat.  If you’d like to order one or more copies online, you can do this through the website of the organization Voices of Water for Climate (VOW).  VOW is working with VTIPL to take orders and distribute printed copies of the manuals.  Donations to VOW for printed copies will cover costs incurred, including shipping and handling.  The link to order online is below.

www.vow4climate.org/store 

(Email info@lutheransrestoringcreation.org if you are interested in going in on a bulk order with others!)

Campus Conservation Competition at Valparaiso University

Care for creation is central to the mission of Valparaiso University. The Office of Sustainability builds awareness, understanding, and a culture of sustainability on Valparaiso University’s campus. 

The recent Campus Conservation Competition featured a friendly competition between the residence halls to promote sustainability awareness about energy and water consumption. 

The residence halls competed in a 3-week competition in April to reduce water and electricity consumption, based on benchmark data taken two weeks prior to the competition. The Office of Sustainability also gathered information about sustainable topics and issues on campus by asking the students to fill out surveys. The survey results will be used to create better sustainable solutions. Four different surveys asked students about water and electricity usage, transportation, and living patterns.

Overall, the competition was a success, resulting in over 7,000 kWh of energy saved and 100,000 gallons of water. In addition, there was about 10% participation in the surveys designed to collect data to inform future energy saving measures in the residence halls. 

The two plots below show how much energy or water was used each day throughout the benchmarking time and the competition for the top three scorers in each category. Overall, each tread line shows that the usage in each building went down from the beginning of the benchmarking time to the end of the competition. The strong slope of the sorority housing complex in both cases explains why they won first place in the competition. 

Valparaiso looks forward to learning from this experience and hopes that this annual competition will spark increased awareness and conservation among students that live on campus. 

Primmer Outdoor Learning Center at Capital University

Capital University has established the Merl and Margaret Primmer Outdoor Learning Center.  The mission of the Center is to foster biological and related research experiences and to promote creative learning opportunities for the students, faculty, alumni, staff and friends of Capital University.

The center, located in the Hocking Hills regions of Appalachia in Logan, Ohio, preserves the natural resources of the land in a manner that exemplifies principles of ecological restoration, biological conservation, and environmental sustainability.

An ideal research and learning center, the 74-acre property has seven ecosystems, including approximately 15 acres of a high-quality wetland and an area of groundwater seeps, which feed into three small streams. The wetland features a heron rookery with over 30 nests, and a bald eagle nest.

Other ecological factors contribute to the educational value of the property, including footage along the Hocking River and a riparian forest, a secondary-growth deciduous forest, old field and pasture habitats (some of which are slowly being converted to Ohio Prairie), and a pine/spruce plantation.

Continue reading about the Primmer Outdoor Learning Center at Capital University.

Augustana University Student Sustainability Survey

Augustana University’s sustainability committee has completed their first sustainability literacy survey for students.

The committee’s goal was to establish a baseline in order to measure where Augustana students currently are in terms of sustainability.

Out of the 1,160 on-campus students sent the Spring 2018 survey, 500 responded, a 43% response rate.

When asked whether they turn off the lights when they are the last to leave a room, students responded differently based on the type of room. Students said they turn off their dorm room lights the most often, followed by study rooms, day rooms, classrooms and, finally, bathrooms. While the sustainability team is encouraged by the frequency of students turning off lights in dorm rooms and study rooms, they find the other rooms to be areas that should be improved upon. They have discussed the possibility of motion detector lighting in bathrooms, day rooms and classrooms.

When responding to the question how they would rate their knowledge of sustainable landscaping practices on campus, students were not very confident. Only 7.6% of students considered their knowledge to be excellent, while 35.4%, 32%, and 25% of students believed their knowledge to be good, fair, and poor, respectively. As the sustainability team continues their work, which they consider to be only beginning, they feel confident that these numbers will rise in their upcoming surveys.

View the rest of the results of this survey from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Upper Mississippi Center at Augustana College

The Upper Mississippi Center (UMC) at Augustana College mobilizes faculty and students to help communities solve social, economic, and environmental challenges.

Communities sometimes lack the resources to develop and implement innovative solutions to sustainability challenges. Augustana students and faculty have the skills and knowledge but often lack real-world settings to put their expertise to work.

These sustainability challenges create opportunities for students to learn how to tackle and solve complex, controversial 21st-century problems. The UMC brings these groups together.

The center integrates knowledge and perspectives from the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences to create solutions as students work with community members.

Since 2013, the UMC has created high-impact learning experiences across campus with community-based research projects, project-based learning experiences for existing courses, internships, and service-learning experiences.

Read more about the Upper Mississippi Center at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.

Course Spotlight: Green Europe, Luther College

This past January, 22 Luther College students along with two professors traveled to Germany and the United Kingdom to learn about the energy transition in these countries from fossil fuels to renewable sources.

Led by professors Jim Martin-Schramm and Soren Steding, the class visited and toured many sites including a wind turbine test field in northern Germany, an energy from waste plant in Berlin, a biofuel and coal-fired power plant in the UK, and Hinkley Point B, a nuclear power plant in the UK. Germany and the UK were interesting case studies for the class as both countries are committed to transitioning to renewable and low-carbon energy. However, these countries are achieving this in different ways. Germany is completely ending the use of nuclear energy and not allowing hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas, while the UK is investing in more nuclear power and has not counted out fracking to increase oil and gas production.

On the course blog, student Ben Davidson writes, “Throughout this whole trip, we have enjoyed learning about the green energy transition throughout Germany and the United Kingdom. We attended over 22 events between 10 cities throughout Germany and the UK. Through these different presentations and discussions, we not only discussed the energy transition from a scientific or political view, but we also analyzed these current issues with ethical reflection and through creative processes. We realize now more than ever that our world is in the midst of a green energy revolution and that there may be different ideas of how to move forward, but the important thing is that the world continues to make forward progress on carbon reduction goals and continues to advance through this energy revolution.”

Read more about the trip from the course blog.

Voices from the ELCA – Caring for Creation Today

God’s work. Our hands. from ecoAmerica on Vimeo.

ELCA churches across the country are working to serve our neighbors and to ensure that how we live does not harm others, including those yet to be born, vulnerable populations, and even life other than human.  We have an ELCA Social Statement written over 25 years ago on the topic, but how do we live that out?  The compilation of voices above give some examples, but it is clear we need to do more.  Lutherans Restoring Creation can help you determine what next steps your congregation can make. Click here for a Step by Step guide to begin work now from your pulpit, pews, and personal life.

Living the Change: A Tool Connected to Many Faiths

GreenFaith has helped pull together leaders from various religions across the globe to recognize our common concern for the planet and life on it. In doing this they have created a tool that can be customized to each tradition and helps us focus on the major activities which we can alter to mitigate a changing climate. Please use this link to sign up (either solo or as a whole team… youth group, Bible Study Class, family, etc.) we want to know of your efforts and celebrate together!

Living the Change as Lutherans Restoring Creation 

Consider Caring for Creation Coaching

What is ELCA Coaching? Click here for a Ministry Description

Interested in upcoming trainings?  click here.

What happens when Trained Coaches focus on helping those in Caring for Creation Ministries? All the action plans, resolutions, pledges, etc. that have emerged over years of active concern and deliberation are transformed into active progress by accompanying individuals leading these efforts to ensure goals are realized.

Response after Inaugural Creation Care Coach Training (NV- 2/6/19):

“… My most profound feeling is gratitude. THANK YOU to all of you for not only the training, but the preparation that went into it, your expertise, the vision that you invited me into, the people to whom you connected me, and the coming time of transformation. I could never have imagined what these three days would mean for me…and I am just beginning to realize it. Thank you for your partnership, your inspiration, your wisdom, and the HOPE that you have opened up for me! I carry you all with me today and in the days to come, and I look forward to connecting with you through our continued training.”

– Noni Strand, Kansas City – Central States LRC Mission Table Chair

Mark Carlson (CA), Noni Strand (KS), Dan Smith (CA), Solveig Nilsen-Goodin (CA), Keith Mundy (IL), Jane Affonso (CA), Janice Hawley (KS)

Introduced in 2019, Caring for Creation Coaching is another area of specialty coaching being offered by the ELCA in collaboration with Lutherans Restoring Creation and ecoAmerica.  Using a format similar to what has been successful with Stewardship and Discipleship Level II Coaching, this specialty will focus on developing coaching skills and competencies around five pillars (Personal Discipleship, Education, Building & Grounds, Public Witness & Advocacy) of caring for creation in the congregation and local community.  Through a series of seven session, participants will be equipped as coaches to accompany individuals and small groups in achieving their dreams through actions that create change related to caring for creation and climate solutions.

In each session special attention is given to sharpening coaching skills and engaging coaching competencies as outlined by the International Coach Federation (ICF).  These will help coaches journey alongside leaders involved in God’s work, both loving and serving the world.  (Note: ICF is the leading global organization dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high standards, providing independent certification and building a worldwide network of trained coaching professionals.).

Level One Coach Training involves a great deal of interactive training and laughter.

Faculty Spotlight: Christina Erickson, Augsburg University

Christina L. Erickson, PhD, is Professor of Social Work and Environmental Studies at Augsburg University. Her work explores the intersections of social work as an applied profession and the experience of humans in their natural, social and economic environment. Dr. Erickson views social work knowledge, skills and values as essential to responding to and ameliorating environmental degradation.

Dr. Erickson published her new book, Environmental Justice as Social Work Practice, with Oxford University Press this past summer.
Environmental Justice as Social Work Practice places the natural environment as central to practice. Utilizing the Phases of Practice and micro to macro levels of practice, the book integrates neatly into a college semester course. Chapters cover important components of social work such as theory, ethics, conceptual foundations as well as distinct chapters on micro, mezzo, and macro practice. Each chapter expands the discipline’s commitment to and applied efforts in the environmental movement while recognizing the unique contributions social work has to offer to ameliorate environmental inequities. Chapters include real-world stories from environmental social work practitioners, case studies, and boxed sections highlighting organizations and people who bridge the human and natural justice divide. The textbook provides a framework for social work educators to bravely and competently teach environmental social work as a stand-alone college course or to incorporate into a traditional practice course.

View the book here, from Oxford University Press.

Course Feature: Environmental Stability in Japan

This past January, St. Olaf College offered “Environmental Sustainability in Japan” for a third time. Thanks to generous support from the Luce Foundation’s Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE), students in the course spent a month studying Japanese responses to the environmental challenges that arise from modern lifestyles.

Check out the class website, where 17 students share their thoughts through text and image.

The students share their experiences from the trip and how the it impacted them. Student Eli Dotson describes the class as a mix of farm chores at the Asian Rural Institute and academic work, all while being integrated into a “like-minded community,” working together “to create a daily rhythm far different from the quotidian realities of life in the United States.”