Hastings Museum and Nebraska Forest Service Announce Partnership

HASTINGS – The Nebraska Forest Service (NFS) and Hastings Museum have entered a new partnership to bring the best in environmental education to Hastings and the central Nebraska region. 

The Hastings Museum has signed on to become an “Affiliate Education Center,” providing Project Learning Tree and Project WET (Water Education Today) materials to Hastings and surrounding communities. The museum has agreed to house various activity kits – aptly coined ‘Tree Trunks’ – to be made available for check-out by local teachers, educators, and the public. Each kit includes curricula and materials to lead environmental education lessons with students. Additionally, Hastings Museum will host professional development opportunities focused on helping educators implement hands-on environmental education with their students. 

“Our goal is to provide unique environmental learning opportunities for both teachers and their students, in order to inspire the next generation of tree planters in our great state,” says Jack Hilgert, Conservation Educator at NFS. “This partnership aligns this goal with the excellent educational programming the museum provides to youth, educators, and general public.”

Becoming a Nebraska Forest Service certified Affiliate Education Center is a special designation for museums, nature centers, and other educationally invested organizations that are especially focused on environmental and STEM education. The Nebraska Forest Service is rolling out this new program partnership with several additional partners this month including Keep Omaha Beautiful, the University of Nebraska State Museum (Morrill Hall) in Lincoln, and the Wildcat Hills Nature Center.

“We are excited to partner with the Nebraska Forest Service,” says Russanne Hoff, Curator of Education at the Hastings Museum. “By housing these Tree Trunks and making them available to those in our area, we are able to provide student resource and professional development opportunities to help deepen people’s understanding of trees and the important role they play in our lives.”

Project Learning Tree uses forests as a “window to the world” to increase understanding of our complex environment. Project WET advances water education to understand global challenges and inspire local solutions. Both programs cultivate awareness and appreciation for Nebraska’s natural resources while stimulating the ability to make informed decisions on environmental issues, the commitment to take responsible action, and the aptitude to select sustainable choices in order to conserve these resources for future generations. 

During the inaugural year of the program, the NFS plans to establish several of these regionally focused partnerships thanks to grant funds provided by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Eventually, the agency hopes to have a community-level presence in all regions of the cornhusker state. Any organizations interested in becoming an Affiliate Education Center should contact Jack Hilgert, at [email protected] or 402-472-4749.

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