The Environmental Education Program of the Year award is awarded to a program that has made an impact in education about one or more aspects of the environment. This may include understanding, stewardship and/or management.
The Utah’s Hogle Zoo was nominated for their BSA Merit Badge Program promoting,“The State of Utah is currently home to approximately 76,000 Boy Scouts, as well as thousands of men who have been a part of the Scouting program and who now hold positions of leadership in all aspects of the community. Scouting, as a source of lifelong learning and ethics, plays a unique role in our society and holds great potential for producing future environmental leaders.
Unfortunately, in the drive to check off badges and earn the rank of Eagle Scout at a young age, many Scouts and their leaders lose sight of the purpose and meaning of the merit badges. Seeing a need in the community, Utah’s Hogle Zoo has put together a series of merit badge classes designed to not only help fill badge requirements, but also to instill awareness and a sense of stewardship of the environment.
Starting with only Bird Study and Insect Study in 2005, the program has now grown to include six different badges, with a seventh badge being added in 2012. Offered at the Zoo, these classes are attended by Scouts from across the Wasatch Front. In 2010 alone, enrollment increased 700% from the previous year. These merit badge classes are part of the Zoo’s Scout program as a whole, which includes not only Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts, but Girl Scouts as well.
Each class is designed not only to fulfill the merit badge requirements, but also to help give a perspective on how those requirements fit in to local and global environmental issues. Scouts are encouraged to do hands-on learning as much as possible, including time spent outdoors. As an organization, we believe that by providing Scouts with the exposure to environmental and conservation education, we can help create future stewards of the planet who promote good environmental policy.
Our success with this program is measured not only in enrollment numbers, but also in the attitudes of the Scouts returning to sign off completed badges, and in comments like the one below.
“My son came home from the class very excited! He was pleased with his bird house, and promptly put it in a tree, and is very hopeful a bird will make her nest there soon. He loved the Desert Tortoises, and I am glad that through the program, his love of animals and nature has been nurtured, and that he feels responsible and knowledgeable of the subject, and his own actions in nature. I think the zoo is a superb place for this merit badge. Thank you so very much for having it at the zoo. I wish I would have known about this sooner, I would have signed my older boys up for this as well. […] Again, thank you. I am also a merit badge counselor, and really value that my son had a great experience with this scouting activity at our own Zoo.”