OPEI, Discovery Education expand reach of TurfMutt science program

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) and Discovery Education announced Dec. 8 that their science-based TurfMutt program has expanded to meet the needs of K-5 educators across the country. The program offers classroom resources for fostering an appreciation of the environment and green spaces through investigation, activities and experiments.

In addition to the new resources, educators can enter the ‘Spruce Up Your School’ Sweepstakes for a chance to win a $5,000 grant to give their school’s play area an eco-friendly makeover. Two runners up will receive “Green Packs,” complete with eco-friendly, TurfMutt-branded school supplies for the whole classroom. Educators may enter once a day, every day, to increase their chances of winning.

Based on TurfMutt’s tremendous success among 3-5 grade teachers in its first year, the program has now been expanded to meet the needs of K-2 classrooms. Designed to get students outside investigating the benefits of landscaping and recycling, TurfMutt online lessons and resources help students understand the importance of the green spaces that surround us daily such as lawns, flowers, bushes and trees.

“TurfMutt has helped open my students’ eyes to a new way of learning about our nations’ various ecosystems and has inspired them to take a deeper interest in preserving their environment,” said Wendy Palese, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher for Mechanicsburg Area School District in Pennsylvania. “The interactive, kid-friendly TurfMutt website is more intriguing than ordinary classroom materials and encourages students to explore and research science beyond what they read about in their textbooks.”

“TurfMutt gives students the unique opportunity to connect what they learn in school to the important environmental choices they make on a daily basis,” said Mary Rollins, Discovery Education vice president of educational partnerships. “We are thrilled to expand the program to all K-5 classrooms to help spark students’ natural interest in science and encourage them to explore their curiosity beyond the walls of their classroom.”

A 2011 study published in the journal Science Education finds that sparking students’ interest in science at an early age is more effective at steering them toward eventual careers in the “STEM” fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — than pushing high-school students into more advanced courses.

“What’s great about the TurfMutt program is that it reminds students that science is right in their backyard — and all around them as they play outside,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI. “TurfMutt is filling a need for lessons plans that teach science and get kids outside in nature.”

OPEI and Discovery Education have created a dynamic digital curriculum led by Lucky, a real-life rescue dog who encourages kids to protect the land around them and fosters an appreciation of natural surroundings in their own community. In addition to lesson plans, engaging activities, puzzles and videos, students can enjoy an interactive map about ecosystems across the country. With these resources, teachers can emphasize the benefits of landscaping in balance with local environments, and instill a new appreciation for environmental issues.

Lesson plans can be found at: http://turfmutt.discoveryeducation.com/educators.cfm.