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Cinnamon Ferns among the oak savanna.
Kitty Todd Preserve Cinnamon Ferns among the oak savanna. © Angie Cole

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Ohio EPA Grant to The Nature Conservancy Funds Immersive Experiences for Students and Teachers in the Oak Openings Region

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has awarded The Nature Conservancy (TNC) nearly $40,000 to provide teachers with the tools and resources they need to engage students in the Oak Openings Region. This globally significant natural area is home to rare plants and animal species and extends like a green ribbon from southeast Michigan into northwest Ohio. The Oak Openings Region in Ohio runs through Henry, Wood, and Lucas County and is the most biologically diverse portion of the state.

Funding will provide Ohio primary and secondary teachers with hands-on training, classroom materials, and bussing reimbursement to bring students to area parks and preserves. Ashlee Decker, the project lead with the Nature Conservancy, said the goal is “to equip teachers with the skills they need to be comfortable connecting their students to the unique plants and animals they can find in their backyard. After all, that’s part of what makes this region so incredibly special.”

Immersive teacher training sessions will be held in person, following all COVID-19 protocols, on June 8th and 9th. Participating teachers will tour natural areas in the Oak Openings Region, including our Kitty Todd Nature Preserve, and learn how to incorporate local ecology into the classroom using various of state-approved lesson plans. They will leave the training with a toolkit full of materials for the classroom and funding opportunities for their students to get out to the parks in the fall of 2021 and spring of 2022. Teachers can learn more or register at www.oakopenings.org/oeef2021.

Through the initiative, TNC estimates that over 600 students living in the region will learn about the ecological significance of the natural areas in their communities. Those working with The Nature Conservancy include Metroparks Toledo and Lucas County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“Exposure to the benefits of nature and engaging teachers and students in conservation ultimately culminates in an appreciation, understanding, and enhanced sense of place,” said Decker. “The Oak Openings Region is one of the world’s ‘last great places’ and part of local identity. It’s an irreplaceable natural area that we are proud to be protecting, restoring and maintaining—for the plants and wildlife and the people who work, live and visit here.”  

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.