“If you are a teacher who’s interested in brownfields, or any environmental education subject, I’d say go for it. This is the time that is ripe for innovation. But don’t do this alone, and here’s my callout to everybody else – administrators, city and council members, museums, businesses – please come together to try and make these relevant pieces of education happen. Because that’s how it works—through collaboration.” —Megan Alameda
What happens when the industries of yesteryear close their doors for good? Often they leave behind sites that harbour contaminants, and pose a serious risk to humans and the environment. There’s a name for places like these – they are called Brownfields. These sites are literally right under our noses, and commonly overlooked by cities due to the prohibitive costs associated with restoring polluted real estate. One program is training high school students to tackle this issue head on, and in the process giving them learning opportunities that few students get. Out in rural Baker County, Oregon, students managed the remediation process of a brownfield from start to finish – this really is true hands-on education. The site is now clean and cleared for use, and more sites are being lined up for the next generation of students. In recognition of the success of this work, the teacher who led the program, Megan Alameda, was recently awarded the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators at the White House. Amy Pearl spoke with Megan about the program to hear the full story and to get her thoughts on how this new type of hands-on education could be replicated elsewhere.
Amy Pearl, Hatch Innovation
Links to Resources Mentioned
DEQ Brownfields http://www.deq.state.or.us/lq/cu/brownfields/
Baker County: http://www.bakercounty.org/
EPA Brownfields: https://www.epa.gov/brownfields
Oregon Health Authority Brownfields: https://public.health.oregon.gov/HealthyEnvironments/HealthyNeighborhoods/Brownfields/Pages/index.aspx
Oregonian Newspaper article about Megan and her Presidential award” http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2016/08/eastern_oregon_teacher_wins_pr.html
Megan Alameda, Baker Technical Institute, Baker City, Oregon
Megan uses a collaborative and interactive teaching process that engages her students to help in the cleanup of a nearby brownfield. The project-based nature of her class allows grades 9 through 12 students to fill brownfield cleanup roles such as managers, coordinators, specialists, researchers, and presenters that best match their individual strengths. Megan’s students have learned about brownfields and presented their knowledge at a public open house and at state brownfield conferences.
In this episode you’ll learn
- What is CTE – Career Technical Education (like Baker Technical Institute)
- What is a Brownfield, and what impacts a brownfield site can have on the community.
- How did Megan got involved in brownfield remediation with students, and how a group of students have taken on the role of managing the remediation process for a brownfield in Baker City, OR.
- How this is a new wave of education, that involves students in the world around them.
- How brownfield projects spur community development, economic development, community education
- Upcoming projects in Baker City and the surrounding area (there are 80 potential projects just in that region).
- How high school teachers can lead similar projects in their own location
- How these new types of education cannot rest solely on the shoulders of teachers. It takes a lot of collaboration.