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Why Every Day is Earth Day

My students regularly ask me why I decided to become a biology teacher. They have heard all about my adventurous work at various zoos and my experiences working in wildlife conservation. They think I made a poor decision by leaving the zoological field to serve as a boring biology teacher. It isn’t uncommon for my students to ask me why they should learn about cells, ecology, or photosynthesis. That stuff is boring and a waste of their time - until we begin exploring that “boring” stuff.
 
It’s true that learning about the parts of a cell and the steps in photosynthesis can be taxing, but those tiny bits of information are vital to understanding the world around us. I decided to teach biology because every day I worked in the wildlife field I heard the same concerns from those I worked beside. As a community of environmental stewards, we were startled to see the lack of knowledge youth had about the natural world around them. How can they be passionate about saving the zoo's cute two-toed sloth, Bean, if they do not know that his species is declining because of habitat loss? How can we expect future generations to be inheritors of our planet, when they don’t know that Bean the sloth and  many other species are losing their homes because of the chocolate and coffee they purchase? How can we ever hope to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards when they don’t understand why recycling and reducing their carbon footprint is so important? The concerns were overwhelming.
 
It was evident then that the only way to promote awareness and inspire our youth to value our planet was to shine a light on biology, on life itself. Why all life on Earth is important, how life is possible, and the interconnectedness of life in this huge living system. I started teaching biology so I could share all of those amazing wildlife stories with my students, so they could see that biology isn’t something you learn from a textbook. Biology is something they have always observed and will continue to study throughout their lives. I challenge my students to think critically and develop a greater understanding of the world around them. They are forced to think beyond the scope of the textbook and their daily lives. How is it that their daily energy consumption is impacting our planet? Why should they care about the source of their products and how they are produced? Why is photosynthesis the foundation for life on Earth and how can understanding this process help us develop biotechnology that could produce renewable energy? How does what they do here in Evansville, Indiana affect the marine ecosystems found in the Gulf of Mexico or ecosystems all over the planet? These are real world questions and problems they have been asked and will continue to ask themselves as they discover their role as a global citizens. That is the true lesson environmental stewards are trying to teach the world: we are global citizens and we are responsible for this living system.
 
I started teaching so that everyday could be Earth Day. We cannot afford to keep treating this planet as if we have a plan B. We need to educate our youth about our current global issues as well as the future problems they will need to solve. I started teaching so that I could inspire them to evaluate their role in preserving the planet. Our current youth cannot afford to wait for some unknown scientist in the future to solve the issues currently facing our planet. They must be the scientists we need!
I became a boring biology teacher because I have every intention of making Earth Day a daily lesson.  
 
Ashely Swinford
Upper School Biology Teacher