By Aubrie Chastain
Recently, Montevallo’s Environmental Studies Program received a $15,000 grant to support ongoing efforts to provide educational opportunities for Title I schools.
The Daniel Foundation provided the grant and has already partnered with Montevallo on many previous projects.
The Daniel Foundation’s mission is to “strengthen communities within Alabama and improve the quality of life for citizens from all regions of Alabama.”
In addition to the Daniel Foundation’s mission to bring communities together, they also have priorities for, “Operational support for arts organizations, particularly those with organizational sustainability strategies.”
Because of the Daniel Foundation’s priority of organizational sustainability strategies, Dr. Susan Caplow, an associate professor of environmental studies and the coordinator of the University of Montevallo’s Environmental Studies Program, explained that UM and the Daniel Foundation have many aligned interests – one being that they specifically want to support projects that increase access to nature.
With this grant, Caplow’s goals are “to establish new school partners and get kids outside.” The grant will help by delivering free educational programs to schools in Shelby, Bibb, and Chilton counties.
With free educational programs, Montevallo hopes to expose students to nature, which they believe will increase attention capacity, positive emotions and ability to reflect on life problems, as well as closing educational gaps in the classroom. Additionally, students can learn more about sustainability and environmentally friendly options.
Caplow explained in-depth how the Environmental Studies Program can benefit from the grant. Programs through the grant will provide a multitude of employment opportunities for students who enjoy working outdoors with the public, including environmental studies majors and minors.
“The UM Environmental Education Program, which is part of the Environmental Studies Program, helps us get more folks out experiencing Montevallo’s unique outdoor spaces, which helps promote connections to nature across our community!” said Caplow.
Through fieldtrips to Ebenezer Swamp, the Organic Community Garden, the James Wylie Shepherd Observatory, University Lake and the main campus the community will be allowed to be further connected to the University through various educational opportunities.
With COVID-19 making in-person fieldtrips difficult, the Environmental Education Program is developing virtual activities and socially distanced in-person activities to keep students and faculty safe. Through trying times, the Environmental Studies program remains flexible and is discovering newer ways to involve Montevallo and surrounding communities.