Victoria Pasco believes environmental education is critical to creating good stewards of natural resources. The Catawba Trail Elementary School science lab teacher regularly incorporates school recycling and composting activities into classroom lessons with her students at the Richland 2 school.
Pasco, also known as “Ranger Vikki,” has been named the South Carolina Association of Conservation Districts Teacher of the Year for 2012. The association recognizes teachers who exhibit an outstanding commitment to conservation education.
Pasco spoke recently about the honor and her passion for environmental instruction.
How in tune do you find the average student is to matters of conservation when they first come into your class?
Pasco: “For the majority of my students their concept of conservation is recycling, which many of them do at home. I teach them that conservation is more than just recycling.”
So tell us a little about some things that take place in your lab each day.
Pasco: “I wanted all of the students at Catawba Trail to take part in our school recycling efforts. On Wednesdays each class brings their grade-level recycling bins to science lab. I have all of our containers organized on the back porch to my classroom and allow the students to sort the recyclables as a group at the beginning of class.
“We also compost leftover fruits and vegetables from breakfast and lunch. The students feed our worms in our vermi-composter with chopped up, leftover food once or twice a week.
“We have an ongoing crayon recycling project. The students bring all of their old, broken crayons to the science lab. The broken crayons are turned into new, fancy shaped crayons using candy molds and then sold in the school store.
“The Trout in the Classroom program allows my students to raise trout in the science lab from eggs.”
So how gratifying is it to see the students’ thinking evolve?
Pasco: “It is very gratifying to see the children becoming more aware of how great the human impact is upon the environment and the knowledge that the environment can recover with good environmental practices. The younger students do their best to recycle and are very serious about composting their leftover fruit and vegetables. The older students begin to understand that we are affected by the health of our environment.”
What are some of your own childhood memories regarding conservation?
Pasco: “I remember as a child driving with my parents through New Jersey and smelling the nasty air, witnessing smoke spewing from smokestacks, hearing of Lake Erie being so polluted it caught on fire and trash strewn along the roadside. I remember the commercial with the American Indian crying and worrying that the bald eagle would disappear.”
So how did you get the name “Ranger Vikki?”
Pasco: “In 2010 I was selected to participate in the Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program at Congaree National Park. The TRT program allows teachers to work as rangers in the National Park System. Last April when I took some of my students to Congaree National Park, (The State reporter) Joey Holleman did an article on the TRT Program and the title was “Just call me Ranger Vikki,” which is what my students are allowed to call me at the park.
What are some basic things everyday people can do to conserve at home?
Pasco: “Besides reduce, reuse and recycle, start a backyard compost pile, buy reusable water bottles, do not over-use fertilizers and insecticides, pick up pet waste – which is a great second use for plastic bags – cover bare soil with mulch, and properly dispose of household chemicals and old motor oil, and never dump pollutants into storm drains.”
Reach Rantin at (803) 771-8306.