A new UCSB student organization was recently founded to promote environmental education among first and second grade students.

Environmental Education for the Next Generation will begin its first week of visits to local elementary schools this Friday. Groups of five EENG members will present interactive activities and experiments to the elementary school students about nature, recycling, the water cycle and food chain.

EENG founder Ryland King, a second-year environmental studies major, said this project will not only instruct children, but also encourage their pursuit of higher education in the future.

“If we want to make a change, the best place to start is our youth,” King said. “Having our younger generation educated about the environment is going to pay off in big ways in the future.”

Moreover, the organization — which originally developed as an Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board project — has grown exponentially over the past year, UCSB Sustainability Coordinator Katie Maynard said.

“EENG is an inspirational example of what can happen when creative students
take action on the issues that they care about,” Maynard said. “EAB has developed this project from a few students volunteering at the local elementary school to today where these students have gained the respect of teachers, parents and the principal alike and created their own non-profit.”

According to King, EENG hopes to establish itself in five Santa Barbara elementary schools by the end of the quarter and hopes to expand to other cities in the state by the end of the year. The group will visit Santa Barbara Charter School and Isla Vista Elementary this week.

“Our goal for this year is to have a well established base of operations in Santa Barbara county to use as a stepping stone for statewide growth,” King said. “Right now we are looking at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as a logical region for expansion.”

Almost 18 lesson plans are already completed and the final six lesson plans are in the process of being finalized. King said he is looking forward to watching EENG take its first steps.

“I’m ecstatic and the people who I’ve talked to are just as excited,” King said. “We just can’t wait to get out there and make a difference in the community.”

Additionally, Maynard said the environmental education spread by EENG will have long term effects in the future.

“EENG helps elementary school students to understand their connection to the
earth and their role within it,” Maynard said. “Promoting environmental literacy will help
us restore a balance between our daily actions and nature’s limits.”

Furthermore, King said student support for the program is greatly appreciated.

“Anyone can become a part of the team by coming to EAB meetings or joining our Facebook group,” King said. “Right now we have about 300 members, but our goal is [to attract] 1,000 members by Halloween.”

EAB meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the MultiCultural Center.