The TurfMutt environmental education and stewardship program celebrates its 10th anniversary of teaching the value and benefits of the outdoors, specifically the contributions of our own backyards, community parks, and other managed landscapes. This year, the program expands its successful youth education program to middle schools around the country, adding new lessons and student activities, including a graphic story as well as cash prizes to its annual contest.
“For the last decade, TurfMutt’s message has been simple: care for the green space around you, but equally important, get outside and enjoy it,” says Kris Kiser, President and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), whose Foundation is the creative founder of TurfMutt. “Now we’re expanding to include more students and their families to further promote the health and wellness benefits of being an ‘outsider’.”
TurfMutt started as a pilot youth education program to schools in Sacramento in fall 2009, and has grown into a national program for kids, families, and communities. Today, TurfMutt is an official U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Education Partner; as part of their global LEARNING LAB, TurfMutt has appeared on morning television shows, Lucky Dog and Ready Set Pet, and has been featured in Parade magazine. TurfMutt has reached more than 68 million teachers, students, and their families through its own outreach and via the materials created in collaboration with Scholastic.
This year, the Scholastic program expands to middle schools, starting with TurfMutt’s “The (Really) Great Outdoors Contest,” which encourages students in grades 6 to 8 to design by writing about or drawing a nature space that works for their lifestyle and community no matter where they live — city, country, suburb, house, or apartment. The contest offers four prizes ranging from $750 to $2,000 for students, as well as cash prizes for teachers ($125 to $750) and schools ($125 to $750).
To enter the contest, students will draw upon their environmental science knowledge, planning and problem-solving skills, as well as creativity, to compose a design and/or written description for a green/natural space suitable for their home, neighborhood, or community. The entry should depict how their idea would benefit both the environment and their community, while also motivating the entrant (and others) to get outside and enjoy nature. Entries are due April 24, 2019. Additional contest details are available at www.scholastic.com/turfmutt.
New lesson plans and a graphic story, both aimed at middle school youth, will explore TurfMutt’s adventures in “saving the planet one yard at a time,” and are designed to inspire students to improve the green spaces around them and help them prepare for the contest. An estimated eighteen thousand teachers will receive lessons plans and 460,000 students will receive the graphic story, which was included with Science World magazine.
“The graphic story is an innovative way to reach this age group with the TurfMutt message, and we are thrilled to see the expanded contest reach a new audience of students,” said Kiser. “We hope the prizes for students, teachers, and schools inspire them to continue their environmental exploration. Maybe they will use those prizes to design or refresh their own green spaces at home or at their school.”
TurfMutt is an education resource at the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Apple, the Center for Green Schools, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, Climate Change Live, Petfinder, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The program’s mascot is Lucky the TurfMutt, an animated version of a real-life rescue dog who is “pawing it forward” by inspiring students to care for the environment and appreciate its benefits.