Conservation Corner: EECO Heroes
Faster than a speeding bullet, school children in the Okanagan are learning how to be good environmental citizens, thanks to the EECO Heroes.
EECO stands for Environmental Educators of the Central Okanagan. The Heroes are:
- Wheels – protector of air quality through alternate transportation;
- Watershed Woman – protector of lakes, rivers and fish;
- Dr. Wave – water conservation wizard;
- Terrain – protector of plants, animals and other living things; and
- The Recycler – protector of the environment through reducing, reusing, recycling and composting.
Every super hero needs a super villain, and the EECO Heroes have one in Grunge, an alien from the planet Polluto, who is determined to destroy the earth’s environment. In a 45-minute interactive skit presented to elementary and middle schools, students cheer on the EECO Heroes as they thwart Grunge’s attempts to turn teachers into polluters and water wasters. Along the way, the students learn valuable environmental lessons.
In real life, the EECO Heroes are five ordinary City of Kelowna and Central Okanagan Regional District educators, who realized that combining their creative energy, ideas and budgets into one big, splashy elementary/middle school program could be more effective than offering five separate programs.
The School District likes it because there is just one contact number for the program; the teachers like it because they can cover off many of their environmental education outcomes in one go; and the students like it because it is fun and a welcome break from the regular classroom routine.
The EECO Heroes Program is part of ongoing collaborative efforts between environmental educators in and around Kelowna. Other environmental programs available for the residents in the area include:
Environmental Fear Factor: For high school students who are too mature (or too cool) for the EECO Heroes, this is a series of games, races and challenges – including the dreaded Compost Guzzle – that pits teams of students against each other in an attempt to win environmental points.
Environmental Mind Grind Challenge: Now in its eighth year, this jeopardystyle game sees teams of students test their environmental knowledge against teams from other schools. Mind Grind started in Kelowna and now includes teams from as far away as Princeton, Kamloops and the Kootenays.
Go Natural: Targeted to adults, Go Natural is modeled after Tupperware parties. A homeowner invites a minimum of 15 people to his or her home to host an environmentally-themed party. The guests learn about water conservation, watershed protection and solid waste management in a relaxed, informal setting.
Environmental educators can sometimes develop a form of tunnel vision, where all they see is the specific issue for which they are responsible. In truth, becoming a responsible environmental citizen does not start and end with, say, recycling. This issue is simply part of the bigger picture.
The EECO Heroes have found that a person who wants to know more about water conservation is also interested in doing other things to protect the environment, most of which are interconnected. For example, homeowners can use compost to improve soil, which will help conserve water, which, in turn, helps to preserve the watershed. So, it makes sense to promote all these things at the same time, rather than attempting to reach people through myriad other means.
There are many benefits to coordinating various environmental education efforts within a community, not the least of which are financial. The EECO Heroes are working on a comic/colouring book for young children that will promote the environment through a series of stories, puzzles and games. By sharing resources five ways, costs for each partner are a fraction of what they would be if each were to produce their own comic book.
Superman could leap tall buildings in a single bound, but even he never faced a challenge as daunting as some of our environmental issues. The EECO Heroes may not be more powerful than a locomotive, but they have the ability to empower children to make smart environmental decisions now and in the future.
By Neal Klassen, BCWWA “Watermark” contributor
Posted June 2008
Originally published in the Spring 2008 issue of Watermark Magazine, the official publication of the British Columbia Water & Waste Association (BCWWA).