American Family partners with EcoRise to promote youth climate education and action
$150,000 investment will benefit Atlanta-area teachers, youth, families
New partnership will expand Atlanta-area program that provides resources, curriculum and support.
Atlanta-area elementary school educator Tasha Messer is always looking for meaningful, hands-on lessons for the kids in her classroom. Finding creative ways to engage students became even more important when the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to teach over a computer screen to kids learning from home. So, when she read about the EcoRise sustainability-related curriculum and resources in an email from her school district, she was intrigued enough to find out more. “It was one of my greatest discoveries, because its implementation made learning more meaningful,” Messer said.
EcoRise is a national nonprofit organization that mobilizes a new generation of leaders to design healthy, just, and thriving communities for all through a range of curricula and programs designed to advance environmental literacy, sustainable schools, and equitable access to green career pathways. EcoRise curricula introduces students to the three pillars of sustainability: people, planet, and prosperity, and students demonstrate the social, economic, and environmental impacts of sustainability projects. Teachers have access to comprehensive K–12 sustainability and design curricula, teacher training and support, and student-driven grants.
Messer, who has an extensive background and training in environmental-related curriculum described the EcoRise resources as “the best.”
“They provide the curriculum, the support, and the funding,” said Messer, who requested a move at the end of the 2021 school year from a school that had ample parental financial support to a Title 1 school that relies on federal and other additional funding. Messer, who is African American, said she made the change because she wanted “to teach more students who look like and come from similar socio-economic backgrounds as me.” She also wanted to share the EcoRise curriculum more broadly and knew it would work for kids at any grade level.
The hands-on sustainability curriculum was invaluable in the virtual classrooms of 2020, she said, in part because it gave students and their parents something to do together at a time when so many activities were unavailable. It was also a much more engaging way to learn when everyone was spending more-than-enough time in front of a screen.
“I felt an immense responsibility to all the families who entrusted me with their child’s education. Hearing a Venezuelan mom express serious concerns over how virtual learning could meet the academic needs of her non-English speaking little girl, made using relatable, real-world, student-focused lessons a priority,” Messer said. “By the end of the school year, her daughter was leaps and bounds ahead of where she’d been. Her parents were thrilled.” Messer credits lessons like that of EcoRise, which also provides lessons already translated into Spanish, for much of this student’s improvement.
Partnership supports expansion in Atlanta’s historically marginalized communities
To expand its reach across Atlanta, EcoRise has entered a two-year partnership with The American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact (the Institute). Through this partnership, which began this year, the Institute will provide $75,000 for two consecutive years to expand the EcoRise Sustainable Intelligence Program in K–12 Schools in Atlanta and Phoenix, as well as launch a Youth Climate Equity Council in partnership with the City of Atlanta.
“We are grateful to the American Family Insurance Institute for their support of this important work. With their partnership, we are able to expand educational programs that elevate the voices of youth who are ready and eager to take leadership roles and connect them to tools and resources to combat climate change in their communities,” said Jonathan Stott, Executive Director EcoRise.
American Family Insurance and the Institute are firmly committed to supporting resilient communities and climate action through partnerships with organizations committed to financial, social, and environmental impact as well as by engaging and developing young leaders.
“Our support will allow EcoRise to better serve the needs of diverse communities and individuals, including those in disproportionately impacted communities, in schools that lack environmental education programming, and where youth leaders can serve as vessels for change in their communities,” said Beth Churchill, a community impact consultant with the Institute.
Messer, whose dedication to environmental education and widespread and successful use of the EcoRise curriculum earned her an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador designation by the organization last year, has seen firsthand how this program engages and supports her students. She knows reliable funding will benefit her students and her school even more – particularly the special needs students she now teaches.
“We did a lesson on the greenhouse effect using donated pizza boxes and plastic wrap. It was a group project and the kids really collaborated well,” Messer said. “The quietest girl in the class, a beautiful brown girl like me, walked up and looked up into my eyes at the end of the lesson and whispered, ‘thank you.’ I didn’t expect that. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.”
About the American Family Insurance group
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, American Family Insurance has been serving customers since 1927. We inspire, protect and restore dreams through our insurance products, exceptional service from our agency owners and employees, community investment and creative partnerships to address societal challenges. We act on our belief in diversity and inclusion by constantly evolving to meet customer needs and preferences. American Family Insurance group is the nation’s 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group, ranking No. 251 on the Fortune 500 list. The group sells American Family-brand products, primarily through exclusive agency owners in 19 states. The American Family Insurance group also includes CONNECT, powered by American Family Insurance, The General, Homesite and Main Street America Insurance. Across these companies the group has more than 13,500 employees nationwide.
About the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact
The American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact is a venture capital firm and partner of choice for exceptional entrepreneurs who are building scalable, sustainable businesses in a long-term effort to close equity gaps in America. It also recognizes that capacity building and supporting organizations and experts that have been working toward social causes are equally important in making a positive impact within our communities around the country.
EcoRise mobilizes a new generation of leaders to design healthy, just, and thriving communities for all. The national non-profit organization elevates student voices and advances student-led solutions to real-world challenges with programs focused on environmental literacy, climate justice, and equitable access to green career pathways. EcoRise is currently supporting more than 8,400 teachers and 465,000 students through a range of curricula, programs, and grants. To learn more about EcoRise, visit www.ecorise.org.