When I was growing up in Albany, NY, the undeveloped “lot” down the street was a magical place to neighborhood children. Its trees and bushes, paths and rocks provided the backdrop for endless games of knights and ladies, cowboys and Indians, hide and seek, and much more. (Revisiting it as an adult, I was amazed to discover that our playground occupied less than half an acre, or two house lots.)
Many, if not most, adults have such memories of special places and want our children to have similar experiences, thus initiatives like “Saving Our Places” and “No Child Left Inside.” But with the environment, generally, and many specific places under threat from causes like climate change, development, or degradation, many more of us need to take action!
When do people act to preserve and protect the environment? You’re likely to act if you know that something you care about is under threat and if you think you could help save it. If Americans are concerned about climate change, they are more likely to support and even to take action to protect the environment. And confidence in your ability to make a difference, either alone or with others, helps people take initiative – and stick with it when the going gets tough.
What can help people learn more about the environment and gain such confidence? Legacy Leadership Institutes for the Environment, based on an award-winning program of the University of Maryland (UMCP) can. Environmental education, field trips, and non-positional leadership workshops are followed by high-impact volunteer activities in local environmental organizations.
Maryland has two well-established institutes: the Legacy Institute for the Environment (LIFE) at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, and the Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment (HoLLIE), enrolling participants from central Maryland since 2009. Both LIFE (http://bayrestoration.org/life/) and HoLLIE (www.HowardLLIE.com) are currently recruiting for spring 2015 classes. Check them out.
As one of five HoLLIE coordinators, I’ve observed first-hand participants’ appreciation and motivation after being briefed by NASA, NOAA, University of Maryland, and other scientists on cutting-edge environmental research, and by government and nonprofit environmental leaders on their organizations’ missions and activities. Graduates have made impressive volunteer contributions to environmental organizations but, equally importantly, have taken action to “save their places.” HoLLIE graduates on their own initiative have created rain gardens and native plant gardens, started several environmental blogs, helped to launch a watershed stewards training program, coordinated public environmental forums on climate change, and much more. Quite a few now even serve on the boards of environmental nonprofits.
The 2015 Legacy Leadership Environmental Institute, the classroom phase, is offered through Howard Community College on Thursdays in February & March, beginning on February 5, 2015. After 100 hours of substantive environmental volunteering (of their choice), institute participants can qualify as HoLLIE graduates. For more information, contact Barbara Schmeckpeper, firstname.lastname@example.org or Cathy Hudson, email@example.com.
A guest post by Tracey Manning of the University of Maryland
Take-a-way: Consider participating in these courses and encourage others to sign up as well.