Environmental Jeopardy: Information To Tuck Away

By: Lynne Hart
Leigh Patterson and I get excited when our fundraisers are behind us and we can look forward to the month of November.

Each year, Leigh and I follow the 4-H Agent Assistant into every 5th and 6th grade classroom in the Limestone County Schools. This year, we had the honor of visiting a homeschool group as well! Our responsibility is to provide the presentation at each 4-H Club meeting.

For the past few years, Leigh and I have had great fun playing Environmental Jeopardy with each class. The competitive nature of the game keeps their attention and, we believe, makes a bigger impact than simply sharing information with the students. Each class is divided into three teams. Each team tries to outscore the others to receive an Environmental Jeopardy Genius certificate and bragging rights!

We have presented to nearly 50 classes this November!

When we enter the 6th grade classrooms, the students remember us as the “Jeopardy Ladies”! They are excited to play the game, but a bit disappointed when they realize the questions are different from those in the previous year’s version!

Before we begin, I explain that I am not there to tell them what they must or must not do. These children are growing up and must learn to sort information to make their own decisions. I tell them I am there simply to provide information, which they can tuck into their brains and pull out later when decisions must be made regarding their impact on the environment. Here is an example of just that:

By a show of hands (which I can’t see, so be honest), how many of you believe it is OK to toss an apple core to the side of the road? It is natural and biodegradable. When asked, the majority of students raised their hands. For many years, I was unsure of the answer until we began inviting wildlife experts to our Earth Day & Outdoor EXPO.

There I saw several raptors injured due to encounters with vehicles. How can an apple core cause a meat-eating raptor to tangle with a vehicle? The food at the edge of the road attracts rodents and other furry critters out into the open.

Raptors see it as their chance to catch dinner. They swoop down to catch the critter and out in front of an oncoming vehicle. I saw a few that had lost a wing, another with a blind eye, and there are many I will never see because they didn’t survive. I wonder how many of those apple-eating critters encountered their own demise after being drawn so close to the road.

I then explain to the students that having this new information will help them make future decisions about tossing food along roadsides. They may still decide to do it, but they will have to base their decision on all the facts they know. That is exactly the purpose of the Jeopardy game.

We may have finished our trek to the county schools, but we can look forward to our visit to all 5th and 6th grade classrooms in the city schools in March.

We certainly hope we impact these students in a way that will make them more thoughtful citizens.

As a Native American proverb says, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Let’s ponder that, shall we?
By: Lynne Hart
Executive Coordinator – Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful