Green Partners update: Improving outcomes and engagement using the learning cycle

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green partners

Improving outcomes and engagement using the learning cycle

Students collecting macroinvetebrates at NatureFest

It’s always rewarding to see principles learned in training come to life and result in more successful environmental education. This was the case recently at NatureFest, an environmental education field trip for fifth grade students that Hennepin County and the Three Rivers Park District held in early October at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park in Brooklyn Park.

Over the course of three days, about 450 students from six schools had the opportunity to learn fishing with the National Park Service, get in the Mississippi River to discover the bugs, fish and other animals that live in the water, use sweep nets to see what insects live in the prairie, and learn actions they can take to protect water.

This year, Hennepin County’s station focused on taking action to protect water was successfully overhauled using the BEETLES learning cycle to improve student learning outcomes and engagement. During the station, students:

Discussed their prior knowledge of what makes a river healthy or unhealthy with their classmates, and as a class, started to create a concept map of what they know.


Explored objects that impact the health of rivers (oil, road salt, and litter and leaves) and discussed what the impact of those objects would be. They then added their new ideas to the concept map.

What makes a river healthy or unhealthy concept map

Played a game where they were frogs trying to survive by getting through obstacles - an oil slick, stormwater outlet with leaves and litter, and salt spray - in order to collect food.


In the final round, students decided what modifications they wanted make to the game to clean up the ecosystem and make it easier to survive as frogs.

NatureFest 2

Reflected on what they learned by drawing on labels what makes a river healthy or unhealthy. The labels were applied to reusable water bottles that the students got to take home!

Student decorating label

Create education experiences that support how people learn

Explore the learning cycle (PDF) and other resources offered by BEETLES .

Grants and funding available

No Child Left Inside grants from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Using sweep nets to catch bugs

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources received funding from the state legislature to offer grants for youth outdoor recreation and education programs. Grants of $500 to $5,000 are available to help connect youth to the outdoors.

Grant funding can be used to:

  • Buy tools for outdoor exploration and learning, such as benches, trail cameras, garden or greenhouse equipment, GPS units, clinometers, water quality testing kits, weather monitoring tools, maple syruping equipment, and more.
  • Buy outdoor recreation equipment such as snowshoes, cross-country skis, or fishing equipment.
  • Fund an environmental education training.
  • Pay for time, including teacher prep or substitute stipends, to integrate environmental education into your curriculum.
  • Fund a visit from a naturalist or outdoor instructor to take students outdoors.
  • Cover busing to a nature center, state park, or state forest.

Eligible applicants include public entities, tribal organizations, schools, nonprofit organizations, and community-based youth programs.

Applications are accepted starting Wednesday, October 23 at 9 a.m., and grants are first-come, first-served. Learn more and get the application.

U.S. EPA's national student design competition focusing on people, prosperity, and the planet

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now seeking applications proposing to research, develop, design, and demonstrate solutions to real world challenges as part of its People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Award Program. The P3 program is a unique competition open to teams of college and university students working to design solutions toward the mutual goals of improved quality of life, economic prosperity and protection of the planet. Topics for this year’s awards include sustainability and reducing solid waste (or food waste!). Applications are due November 19. Learn more.

Reminder: Healthy Tree Canopy grant applications for schools, nonprofits, and affordable housing properties due October 28

Grants are available to schools, nonprofit organizations, and affordable housing properties to make positive changes in the tree canopy and engage the community in taking action to protect trees. Grant funding can be used to plant trees, conduct tree-related education, remove ash trees, complete tree inventories, and hold Arbor Day celebrations.

Applications are due by 3 p.m. on Monday, October 28. Learn more and apply. For more information and to get help with grant projects, email

Conferences, trainings, and events

Toy workshop with the Minneapolis Toy Library

Two kids and mom playing with toys at the Minneapolis Toy Library

Friday, November 1 from 7 to 8 p.m.

Minneapolis Toy Library, 8 W 60th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55419

Join the Minneapolis Toy Library to learn about sustainable toy makers - who they are and where to buy them. You will also get the chance to take a closer look at the library’s inventory (with or without kids), have some snacks, and chat with other families about all things toys! This workshop is made possible by a Hennepin County environmental education grant. Learn more on Facebook.  

ReUSE Minnesota's regional conference

Monday, November 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Humphrey School Conference Center, 30119th Avenue South, Minneapolis 55455

ReUSE Minnesota is building a reuse movement nationwide. This conference will be an energizing gathering to connect and promote the reuse movement.

Multiple session tracks will showcase speakers leading reuse, rental, and repair sectors and feature topics like:

  • Real life advice for launching a reuse business
  • Creative reuse solutions and sustainability in the arts
  • Measurable environmental, social, and economic impacts of reuse businesses and organizations

Hennepin County staff will be presenting about reuse research conducted for the Choose to Reuse program. Learn more and register.

Minnesota Naturalists’ Association (MNA) annual conference

Thinking outside: outgrow the box

November 15 - 17
Audubon Center of the North Woods
Sandstone, MN

MNA Logot

MNA's annual conference will focus on the big questions and how to think about them from “outside the box.” The conference includes a keynote address from Polar Adventurer Eric Larsen and sessions such as the science of sap, unpacking invasive species rhetoric, creating equity through instructional strategies, and site tours of Audubon Center of the North Woods. The conference guide (PDF) provides more information on the schedule, session options, and keynotes. Learn more and register.

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits communications trainings

This series of four workshops will challenge you to level up your communications to better serve your audiences. 

Learn more about each of the sessions and register.

Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) webinar series

Take your teaching about climate and energy to the next level with the CLEAN webinar series. Webinar topics include teaching about climate and energy, humans as agents of change, and the UC Berkeley understanding global change project. Learn more and access the webinars.  

Environmental education grant project highlights

The following organizations received a Hennepin County environmental education grant and are busy engaging their audiences in taking action to protect the environment.

Highpoint Center for Printmaking: Creative Clean Water Stewards


Highpoint Center for Printmaking is engaging more than 175 youth in their Creative Clean Water Stewards project. Students in 5th grade from Burroughs Community School and Nellie Stone Johnson Community School will participate in environmentally themed art classes focusing on understanding ecosystems and protecting water. To inspire youth to become water stewards, students will study rain gardens and clean water at Highpoint’s site, at their school, and at local water bodies with an environmental artist and a Master Water Steward. They will then do a hands-on printmaking activity to illustrate what they learned.


Jordan Area Community Council: Rusty and the Crew Recycle!

Rusty Recycles

Jordan Area Community Council, Off the Blue Couch, and Minneapolis Climate Action are working together to encourage more than 150 north Minneapolis residents to prevent waste and recycle. Project goals include promoting recycling and waste prevention with their mascot, Rusty and the Crew. Rusty will help educate residents on the importance of recycling, what is recyclable, and easy actions they can take to reduce waste such as using reusable straws, bags, and water bottles. Participants will sign a recycling and waste reduction pledge and get to rap with Rusty and the Crew to spread the word that recycling makes a difference.


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