The environment is where learning comes alive for many students, and we want students to understand that what they are learning in the classroom connects in relevant ways to the world around them."
Grace Manubay (MS '02) is a matchmaker of sorts, bringing together K-12 classrooms and environmental nonprofits to offer field-based STEM experiences for eager students and teachers. As the District of Columbia’s first environmental literacy coordinator, Manubay expands classroom learning to include the local environment, which provides a rich and meaningful context for teaching D.C.’s educational standards.
Her Environmental Literacy Leadership Cadre supports a group of teachers from 16 schools who coordinate environmental activities at every grade level in their school, reaching approximately 5,600 students annually.
“The environment is where learning comes alive for many students, and we want students to understand that what they are learning in the classroom connects in relevant ways to the world around them,” Manubay said. “Exploring outdoor spaces or investigating local environmental issues should be an integral part of what it means to be a student.”
At Kimball Elementary, students – many of whom have not had exposure to their local environment – partnered with local nonprofits to bring all fourth grade students on a boat trip on the Anacostia River and engaged the whole school to revitalize their school’s vegetable garden.
From a bird’s eye view, Manubay’s work brings together the common goals of multiple stakeholders and shows how collaboration leads to collective impact, exemplifying the intersection of natural resource policy and behavior change. On the ground, the seeds of that change can be seen in the newfound interests of children at cadre schools.
Kimball’s Peter Bailey explained, “The largest change I have seen in students occurs at recess outside. Whether a fifth grader is contemplating the activities happening in a nearby moth’s nest, or a 3-year-old is trying to find the best way to help ants bring objects back to their homes, the students are noticeably more curious and interested in the natural world around them.”