Educator Encourages Kids to be Good Stewards, Gets Kudos for Club
For Vicky Beckham Smith, it's not enough to lead local kids in cleanups of Alabama waterways—she's convinced that they have to understand the impact of their actions in order for the cleanup to make a lasting difference.
An independent environmental education teacher in Alabama schools, libraries, and museums, Smith recently teamed up with Kay Stone of the Auburn University Environmental Institute (AUEI), the Sierra Club's Water Sentinels Program, and 48 seventh-graders from the Camden School of Arts & Technology to bag more than 600 pounds of trash from the Alabama River and adjacent streams. After the cleanup, she conducted a class (above) to teach those kids about the importance of wetlands. The cleanup of Wilcox County's Bridgeport Park (below) was one of eight "field days" organized by AUEI this fall.
Smith took a Living Streams teacher training course this summer at Auburn, co-sponsored by AUEI, the Water Sentinels, Alabama Water Watch and Discovering Alabama. She has lately been seeking grant monies that will enable her to take her programs, which focus on wildlife, trees, soils, and wetlands, into poorer schools. Smith shows kids the impact they can have—both good and bad—and encourages them to be good stewards of the environment. "You can clean up for cosmetic reasons all day," she says, "but until you understand the impact you have when you litter or you clean it up, it doesn't really make a difference in your behaviors."
All participants in the Wilcox County cleanup were given a Water Sentinels t-shirt, the Sierra Club donated backpacks as prizes for the teams that collected the most trash, and the City of Camden agreed to haul away all the trash. Also involved in the cleanup effort were the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Weyerhaeuser, and Ala-Tom R&D, a regional council that provides assistance to nine counties in Alabama's Black Belt.
Smith, who is co-president of the Environmental Education Association of Alabama, says that while returning home from the Camden cleanup wearing her Water Sentinels t-shirt, a man came up to her in a Montgomery WalMart and thanked her for the Sierra Club's work. Read more about the Club's Alabama Chapter.
All photos by Kay Stone.