Ryland King, founder of Environmental Education for the Next Generation (EENG) won a $100,000 grant from Dockers, through an online contest on the clothing company’s Facebook page. The contest, officially coined Wear The Pants Project, allowed Facebook users to vote for one of 3,000 contestants to receive a monetary kick to jumpstart their dream-project.
“We ended up talking about the contest with some of my friends,” King said. “‘We could totally win it’ we were saying. It’s kind of a joke half-way.”
But what started as a Friday night joke turned into a reality for King and about 70 employees and volunteers at Environmental Education for the Next Generation, as King received 5,245 votes and edged out a fiction magazine project by about 2,000 votes.
EENG brings college students to 1st and 2nd grade classrooms to lead environmental discussions and activities. Much of the curriculum is geared to meet California state standards requirements, with first grade and second grade instruction structured around bee ecology and energy cycles, respectively.
In the last 18 months EENG spread from 1 classroom to over 24 schools. The program expanded to San Luis Obisbo last May, and King plans to make the program available statewide in five years.
“If we get that one-hundred thousand I’m very confident that will become a reality,” King said.
With the grant King plans on purchasing classroom supplies and investing in staff development programs, with a focus on business management, education and leadership skills. Last year, Environmental Education for the Next Generation received 9,000 dollars from a University of California campus group known as Environmental Affairs Board, and a $2,500 seed fund from an organization called Youth Making Change.
Over the next few years the group plans to run assessments on previous students to gauge the success of their lesson plans and over all program.
“We want to check in and ask ‘have you felt like this was beneficial, are you doing this with your families, do you turn off the water when you brush your teeth’ – that kind of stuff,” King said.
Environmental Education for the Next Generation has a staff of 7 directors and 65 volunteers who pursue a mission to raise environmental literacy among Santa Barbara youth and to shape leaders who will work to protect our future.
For more information check out eengonline.org.