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March 4, 2013
The Fort Collins-based Environmental Learning Center (ELC) has been selected by the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education (CAEE) as a winner of the 2012 Awards for Excellence in Environmental Education "Best New Program" award for GASP! - Girls Advancing Scientific Progress.
The ELC is an educational outreach initiative of Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources, and was chosen by CAEE for their leadership in developing inclusive, effective, cooperative and cross-sector environmental education programs to increase environmental and conservation awareness among participants. The ELC was one of ten unique organizations from across Colorado honored and formally presented with its award at the CAEE awards banquet March 2 in Denver.
GASP! is an all-girls education program for grades 3-5 and is run by female student-scientists from the ELC. The aim of the program is to provide a fun and safe environment for girls to learn about ecological sciences, to encourage them to see themselves as potential ecological scientists, and to increase their awareness of global environmental issues.
“GASP! provides hands-on environmental learning opportunities and activities tailored to multiple learning styles so that we can really help reach female students who otherwise might not have discovered their passion for science and ecology,” says ELC Program Director Nicole Stafford. “The girls learn about the environment here in Colorado and then compare it with environments around the world like Kenya, Cape Verde, and Panama. By the completion of the course, students have an understanding of differences and similarities between different cultures and ecosystems and they also realize that youth can help protect the environment.”
GASP! was test-piloted at Lincoln Elementary in the fall of 2009 after an ELC staff member researched girls’ interest in science and science careers for her honors thesis. She found that women are underrepresented in ecosystem sciences and that girls’ achievement and interest in science increases when they study in an all-female class setting during grades 3 - 5. So far, 87.1 percent of parents say they have observed a change in how their daughter perceives science after completion of GASP!
“This program is designed to reach female students from a variety of socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds and help meet the growing demand for scientists and females in scientific professions,” said Stafford. “GASP! is helping to prepare girls for global career opportunities in the growing fields of environmental science.”
After a very successful start, GASP! has since added three elementary schools to its program and approximately 135 girls have participated in the program since 2009. This semester, the program will be run at Harris Bilingual School beginning at the end of March and running through the second week of May.
Registration opens at the beginning of March and the suggested cost is $20. Parents who can afford to donate more are encouraged to as that extra money will go toward providing scholarships to students in need of financial assistance.