Tag Archives: environmental education

environmental excellence

Valley Forward Showcases Environmental Excellence

It may not be easy being green but in today’s world, it might be the only way for companies to survive. Consumers are increasingly attracted to “greener” options, forcing organizations of all sizes and industry sectors to reevaluate how they operate.

Those that figure out how to do it right see a wide range of benefits from saving money to creating a healthier workplace. It further results in a more productive and satisfied workforce and ultimately a more sustainable future.

Valley Forward has been showcasing environmental excellence in the region for more than 30 years, recognizing contributions to quality of life and raising the bar for future development.

The organization’s Environmental Excellence Awards has become known as the “Academy Awards” of the local environmental community, setting standards for the exceptional physical, technical and social development of our metropolitan area. The awards are highly sought by companies both large and small, government agencies, cities and towns, design professionals, educators, media representatives, artists, technicians and others.

Environmental excellence takes many forms, from green buildings, magnificent desert vistas and livable communities to innovative public art, sustainable technologies and environmental education.

Sustainable development is more prevalent today than ever. The past few years has seen a record number of entries in the competition, and this program has become a powerful vehicle in advocating for the preservation of natural resources – air, water, open space and our unique desert environment.

If you have or know of green initiatives that should be recognized at the 32nd annual Environmental Excellence Awards program at the Westin Kierland on Sat., Sept. 29, get your entry in ASAP! The deadline is fast approaching.

In an effort to make the awards program as environmentally friendly as the projects submitted, Valley Forward is now requiring all entries be submitted electronically through an FTP site and will not accept any printed, hard copy materials!

Nominations will be accepted through 4 p.m., Thursday, July 19, 2012, in the following categories: Buildings and Structures; Livable Communities; Site Development and Landscape; Art in Public Places; Environmental Technologies; Environmental Education/Communication; and Environmental Stewardship (SRP Award).

Environmental Excellence Awards nomination forms are available at valleyforward.org or calling (602) 240-2408.

Willow Bend Environmental Education Center

Willow Bend Center Provides Environmental Education to Flagstaff Residents

Willow Bend Center Provides Environmental Education to Flagstaff Residents

If you had to pedal a bicycle to produce the energy needed to run the computer you were on right now, how much energy would it need? The Willow Bend Environmental Education Center in Flagstaff can give you an idea.

The Willow Bend Center has been bringing environmental education to Arizona since 1978. Each year, the Willow Bend Center educates 14,000 students in northern Arizona through its classroom programs and field trips.

The Willow Bend Center

The center has a Green Building, Discovery Room, gardens and the Biobug. The Green building was built in 2002 with the helping hands of volunteers from the community and incorporates a host of sustainable living practices.

“The building is passive-solar straw bale with a grid-tied photovoltaic system, rainwater cisterns, backyard habitat landscaping and native crop gardens, composting and more,” says Sapna Sopori, director of the 
Willow Bend Environmental Education Center. “In addition, our Discovery Room has interactive displays that demonstrate how how easy it is being ‘green’ in our personal lives.”

In the Discovery Room, you can ride the light bike to find out how much energy it takes to light up a regular light bulb as opposed to a compact flourescent light bulb, as well as how much water a person in Flagstaff uses each day and how recycled soda bottles become a fleece jacket.

Many of the education activities, such as the Discovery Room exhibits and Quest: A Natural History Treasure Hunt, are free. To supplement the educational experience on site, Willow Bend will be getting a shade structure and new outdoor learning space for educational use through its relationship with the Coconino County Parks and Recreation.

“This structure will be made of local small-diameter Ponderosa pine and will provide an outdoor learning space for Willow Bend,” she says.

The Willow Bend Center Educational Program

“We are best known for our Pre-K through 12 public school programs and work within the school districts to make teaching [environmental education] easier on teachers,” Sopori says. “Each of our 50 unique classroom programs is state standards aligned and offered free or low cost to teachers.”

The Willow Bend Center Discovery Room

The Willow Bend Center sends qualified educators to the schools with materials for hands-on, engaging, environmental science programs that focus on the bio-region and associated with community issues. Supplementary field experiences that build on the classroom programs are also offered. Currently these field workshops are held at Willow Bend or Sawmill County Park, and can even be provided at the schools themselves, to reduce busing costs and turn schoolyards into explorable habitats.

“Over 85 percent of the teachers that use Willow Bend rated our programs as above average or excellent, and 99 percent plan to continue using us in the future,” Sopori says. “[But,] children aren’t the only ones who can benefit from our programs; we also offer amazing teacher workshops to prepare and inspire educators to incorporate [environmental education] into their curriculum, both in the classroom and in the field.”

Willow Bend offers day-long programs such as the Science of Solar to more intensive 12-day programs such as the Yellowstone workshop, to help educators feel comfortable using the environment as the context for learning. These programs can be used for continuing education credit through FUSD, so formal teachers can meet their certification requirements as well.

The Willow Bend Center Community Events

The center has a variety of educational public programs for people of all ages. Though the Willow Bend Center focuses much of its time with the school system, they recognize the benefit of extending environmental education to the community as a whole.

“For this reason, we offer Family Science Events so families can enjoy experiencing nature and learning together,” Sopori says. “For example, our Radical Reptiles class is a great way for parents and kids to learn why snakes, lizards, turtles, etc. are such amazing creatures and see beautiful live specimens up close and personal.”

The center also offers Adult Adventures, where adults can get outside, get active and learn directly from professionals in environmental science.

“Willow Bend is dedicated to connecting northern Arizona to the environment, empowering our community to live more sustainable, and always providing hope for a fruitful tomorrow,” Sopori says.

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If You Go: The Willow Bend Center

703 E. Sawmill Rd.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
(928) 779-1745
willowbendcenter.org

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Green Law - Valley Forward’s Goals Are Important To Dan Litteral’s Company, Apollo Group

Valley Forward’s Goals Are Important To Dan Litteral’s Company, Apollo Group

Dan Litteral
Vice President/Legal & Associate General Counsel
Apollo Group/University of Phoenix

Dan Litteral has been in higher education and has practiced regulatory law for more than 20 years, and that experience has enhanced his involvement with Valley Forward.

Litteral joined Valley Forward in 2007 through Apollo Group and the University of Phoenix, which have both been longstanding members and supporters of the organization.

“It became apparent to me that Valley Forward was an almost uniquely positioned organization for a metropolitan area that was really committed to public dialogue between organizations and civic leaders,  to promote environmentally sensible development,” Litteral says.

Before working for the University of Phoenix and Apollo Group, Litteral spent 20 years practicing law in the Washington D.C., area. He helped build the in-house legal department at the University of Phoenix and was University of Phoenix general counsel from 2003-2007. Litteral then was moved up to the Apollo Group where he currently runs a practice group for Apollo that provides education and regulatory law services.

Litteral says Valley Forward is staying fresh and relevant, and is important to Apollo Group because it has aligned goals. Apollo Group has focused on sustainability and appropriate environmental usages.

Since 2008, Litteral has sat on the Valley Forward board of directors and executive committee. He was also chair of Valley Forward’s Earthfest Educators Night, an annual event that invites between 300 and 500 teachers from around the Valley to learn about environmental education so they can share the information with their students.

Litteral wants to see a focus on continued relevance from Valley Forward. He says that as the economy turns around and the organization grows, it is important to improve the issues that revolve around sustainability.

“Valley Forward clearly wants to be the environmental go-to organization in the Valley in terms of balancing the need for growth, development an stability,” Litteral says. “By undertaking events and continuing to engage leaders in corporations and the business world, it will fulfill that mission.”

Valley Forward works with organizations such as Apollo Group to educate the community and businesses on how to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. Valley Forward provides an opportunity for public dialogue of discussing how to move forward with environmental considerations.

“Valley Forward has a long track record of making the Valley a good place to live and work, while understanding we need to continue to develop and grow, and to do so in an environmentally friendly way,” Litteral says.

Electric Vehicle were a big hit in 2010 in Arizona

Arizona’s “Green” Future Was Founded In 2010

2010 will probably be remembered more for the challenges it brought than the successes it yielded in our Valley and state. But out of the darkness came some light, and the illumination casts hope for a bright future.

Countless volunteers gave generously of their time, talent and treasury to support green initiatives in our region despite a challenging economy. Their efforts are evident in a range of projects that contribute to the sustainability of our unique desert environment. And their commitment will make our communities stronger, more vibrant places.

Working together, they’re a testament to the power of collaboration representing companies both large and small, government entities, educators, non-profits and concerned citizens. Their individual successes are our collective treasures:

We’re one of five states selected to deploy “smart” charging stations as part of an electric vehicle program by ECOtality and the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of charging stations in Phoenix and Tucson will create more green jobs, less pollution and a reduction on foreign oil dependency.

Daily ridership on our 20-mile light rail system exceeded expectations by an average of 58 percent, and a new Adopt-A-Station program promotes use of public transportation. In addition, the city of Phoenix in partnership with ASU, APS and other sponsors received $25 million in stimulus funds to build the Green Rail Corridor Demonstration Project to showcase ways to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions.

The Center for Teacher Success was officially launched to improve the academic achievement of Arizona students by elevating the professional performance of their teachers and education leaders. Several non-profits partnered to provide environmental education resources to teachers through workshops, forums and special events.

In the wake of municipal budget cuts, Adopt-A-Park programs have drawn thousands of volunteers to trash pickups, tree plantings and general spruce ups of city recreation areas.  The city of Chandler opened the Paseo Vista Recreation Area, a 64-acre park built atop the closed city landfill; and the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center opened on the banks of the river in Phoenix to connect people with nature.

The town of Gilbert celebrated its 90th anniversary and was named the 17th safest city in America, one of the best places to live in the U.S. and among the best places in the nation to learn.

Several LEED certified projects came online throughout our region, and 12 Valley mayors signed a proclamation by Valley Forward and the U.S. Green Building Council, Arizona Chapter in support of green schools.

Through a preservation-by-relocation effort, the Sandra Day O’Connor House, originally constructed in Paradise Valley as a family home for the former Supreme Court Justice, was undertaken and piece-by-piece, the entire house was deconstructed and transported to Tempe. It was meticulously reconstructed in Papago Park, with a keen focus on historic preservation and environmental sustainability.

Our region overall has become a brighter green in the past year. And it occurred in the worst recession most of us can remember in our lifetime.  As the year closes with winter’s short days and long evenings, we’re reminded that even in the darkness there is light.

Mexican gray wolf photographed by Joel Sartore

Valley Forward Hosts 41st Annual Luncheon Featuring National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore

Valley Forward hosted its 41st Annual Luncheon Dec. 3, and the event was wild — literally. Guests were greeted by a menagerie of interesting wildlife at this year’s event thanks to the Desert Botanical Garden, Liberty Wildlife, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, The Phoenix Zoo and the Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium. Several animals were showcased at the environmental education exhibits including a bald eagle, American alligator, greyhound owl, African-crested porcupine and more. These exhibits transformed all the attendees back to their school-age, zoo-visiting days, and truly served as a reminder for the topic that was discussed at the luncheon — the importance of fostering our environment.

The keynote speaker  was Joel Sartore, noted wildlife photographer at National Geographic Magazine, author and passionate environmentalist. Sartore presented a heartfelt speech about the importance of helping preserve our environment and making sure that despite the fervent pace of technology innovations, future generations value and experience the great outdoors.

Sartore has witnessed much of the devastation firsthand during his 20 plus years at National Geographic. He has photographed, among others, environmental tragedies such as the recent Gulf Coast oil spill, endangered species and more. His dedication to the cause is also demonstrated in his latest book, Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species, featuring endangered species from all over the world including several from Arizona. Sartore hopes that by photographing wildlife that many people don’t even realize exist, it will draw attention to their cause and maybe help save them. His experience provided the audience with an amazing look into this wild world and what we — everyday, average people — can do to help make a difference.

Congratulations to Valley Forward for once again putting together such an inspiring event. The message of sustainability and environmental stewardship is one that continues to gain momentum. Let’s hope it does so for many years to come.

Read more about Joel Sartore in the November/December issue of AZ Business Magazine here.

www.valleyforward.org
www.joelsartore.com

Joel Sartore Presenting

Showcased at the environmental education exhibit, a bald eagle.American alligator & African-crested porcupine Joel Sartore - Rare: Portraits of America's Endangered Species