Communication Students' Award-Winning Environmental Service-Learning Initiative

While more than a billion people worldwide celebrated Earth Day this year only a few, including our own students, received top Earth Day honors.

Students in COMM 4060 Special Topics:  Environmental Communication won first prize in the 2012 BGSU Earth Week Recycled Art Show. Co-hosted by BGSU Arts Enterprise and Environmental Service Club, and part of the university’s Earth Day Jam Fest on April 20, the goal of the art exhibit was to raise funds for Keep America Beautiful and to raise awareness about sustainability.


The top three art works at the Recycled Art Show were also showcased during BGSU's Eco-Fair where this trophy was presented to the students

The environmentally-focused community art project, “We are all connected”, was conceptualized by Environmental Communication student, Amanda Cadle, because, as she said, “we are all connected not only to each other but to the Earth itself.” Amanda lead her student peers to create an art work “that allowed each person to participate in a way that made no one persons’ contribution more important than another”. By having “children create a planter made of recyclable bottles and hang them on the mural of a tree, each of those children, whether they are four or fourteen, would have the opportunity to see that just as they made an impact on this piece of art they can also make an impact on this Earth.”

“We are all connected”, was a highlight of the 3rd Annual BG Community Earth Day Celebration, held on the beautiful 14-acre wooded grounds of the Montessori School of Bowling Green (MSBG) on April 19, 2012. The event, attended by hundreds of MSBG students, families and teachers, community members, and BGSU university faculty and students, commenced with BG Mayor Edwards’ ribbon cutting ceremony for the new community SEED trail (Stewards for Exercise and Environmental Education) and outdoor learning center,

fileMSBG 4th – 6th graders lead Environmental Communication students and Dr. Lara Martin Lengel on a tour of the school’s new outdoor learning center

Environmental Communication students engaged in a semester-long service-learning partnership project with the Montessori School of Bowling Green (MSBG), assisting in the planning and implementing the Earth Day Celebration. The students worked with MSBG students, teachers, and staff to develop hands-on environmental activities, most notably a living eco-art installation, as well as teaching and resource stations throughout the event.

Dr. Lara Martin Lengel, who developed and taught this course, said “I’m thrilled to see how much the students have taken on a leadership role in helping our community’s children and their families to understand and appreciate environmental sustainability.” Students in Environmental Communication, like Becky Meadows, “learned deeply significant things from our service learning project, especially an understanding of how personal, relevant and urgent communicating environmental sustainability is; how I can change my habits to benefit the broader community and how I can take what I have learned and use it in the future.” “It’s great to be a part of the first Environmental Communication course at BGSU,” said student Jason Kursak. “This was less of a class but more of a wake up call about how to improve my life. I have become more of an avid listener in politics and local government about important issues such as global warming and go green campaigns. I never cared much for politics but after being in this class and listening to other class members speak about their passion for the earth and the various lectures we had, they really made me evaluate what I find important.”
Environmental communication students became the leaders in outreach and education efforts on environmental sustainability, promoting the 4 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle, and refuse (focusing, in particular, on refusing plastic bags in retail establishments). They designed and produced information sheets on the 4Rs for numerous audiences (from young children to adults), and developed an extensive social media site, “We Rise Above Plastic (W.R.A.P.)” on Facebook.

Students’ service-learning accomplishments fostered a sense of personal and social responsibility and civic learning. “Our work with the Montessori School of Bowling Green is more than merely community service,” said Dr. Lengel. “It is a hands-on approach to mastering subject material in environmental communication while enhancing civic responsibility.”