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Warren Wilson College EcoTeam Cultivates Environmental Curiosity in Buncombe County Elementary Students

A group of 11 students from Warren Wilson College spent over 111 hours teaching lessons about the environment to third graders.

Warren Wilson College students on the EcoTeam, an environmental education program, strive to enrich the education of elementary school students in Buncombe County by teaching them about the environment.

“Our students looked forward to the EcoTeam coming to the classroom to teach them a lesson each week.  The EcoTeam was very knowledgeable with their topics and had well planned lessons and engaging activities.” said Ellen Parry, a teacher at W.D. Williams Elementary. “[My students] enjoyed getting messy as they learned about the different types of soils. They were also able to dissect a flower to learn about the different parts.”

This past semester 11 EcoTeachers spent 111 hours teaching lessons about the environment to 202 third graders at W.D. Williams Elementary and Estes Elementary. They visited 12 classes 8 times a week, for a total of 53 class visits.

“Ecoteam has become a place of sacred environmental safety for me. It has drawn me more to nature and animals than ever before. My love for the children also motivated me in many ways to commence on a school project I have always been interested in achieving. Ecoteam is a profound place to also find healing in nature.” said Ruby Karyo ’25.

The EcoTeachers met with Brian Wuertz ’18, a Warren Wilson alum who now works as the outreach education program manager for Friends of the WNC Nature Center, a week before they visited classes together. They planned a lesson they thought would be engaging and decided to teach adaptations, for which Brian brought interactive biofacts for the kids to observe and learn about. Brian and the EcoTeachers asked the kids about an animal with an adaptation they think is cool or an adaptation they would like to have. To wrap up the lesson, Brian brought out an animal ambassador to show the kids..

Brian, a former EcoTeam member himself, helped contextualize the program and brought a better understanding of how to revive the program after its hiatus leading to this partnership.

“A huge part of Ecoteam is fostering a love for the environment in these kids so that they can continue to care for it as they grow older, because we need that. We need people who care about the environment,” said Victoria Tartivita, the Warren Wilson College AmeriCorps VISTA. The AmeriCorps Afterschool Corps VISTA organizes and coordinates the EcoTeam program.