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How is a Golf Course a Learning Lab?

Most teachers and students have never been on a golf course. This is changing, thanks to First Green, an innovative environmental education outreach program using golf courses as environmental learning labs. Golf course superintendents and/or local golf course representatives host students of all grade levels on field trips where they test water quality, collect soil samples, identify plants, design plantings, assist in stream bed restoration and are involved in the ecology and environmental aspects of the golf course. The students are also introduced to many other aspects of golf.

Inception
Bill Meyer, Ph. D., and Jeff Gullickson, CGCS, launched the First Green Foundation in Washington in 1997. Their goal was to promote and provide environmental education on golf courses using golf courses as outdoor learning labs. The foundation provides teacher in-service and golf course superintendent professional development programs. It also acts as a resource in connecting teachers and local golf superintendents.

Visit the First Green website (thefirstgreen.org) to play an Introduction to First Green video. This video was part of USGA grant. The video was edited by students and contains Bill Meyer and Jeff Gullickson talking about how First Green began, as well as clips of students talking about the impact of the field trips.

Why start a First Green program?

Promotes golf courses as community assets
Enables superintendents to demonstrate environmentally sound practices of the golf course
Gives teachers, students and their families a chance to learn about the game of golf
Provides public service in creating a better understanding of how golf courses operate
Working with students on projects such as growing and planting golf course annuals connects the golf course to the school and assists the superintendent with needed tasks
Meets or exceeds job expectations for superintendent to be proactive in the community
Creates volunteerism project for golf course membership, many of whom want to support environmental education
Gives superintendents a chance to obtain motivated summer employees

How to get started
A number of golf course superintendents from across the country have contacted First Green about starting their own local programs. In response to these requests, First Green has begun using its website to offer local program materials and resources (First Green experience, toolkits, and ability to purchase the learning lab materials used in Washington State).
Register on the First Green website (http://thefirstgreen.org/sites/courses/layout9.asp?id=625&page=35275) and First Green will email you a file with the application kit. This planning guide, when completed by the golf superintendent, will provide a step-by-step method for setting up the local program. It also contains a list of learning materials available for purchase (at cost). First Green will add the golf course superintendent and local teacher to its newsletter and other informational mailings.
For a small annual fee (billed to the golf course superintendent each January), First Green provides:
Access to First Green resources
Certificates to post at the golf club and for the teacher to post at the school
Stories and photos on our website
Press releases to the local news media when superintendents send First Green field trip updates and photos
Many golf courses practice strong environmental stewardship daily, but unfortunately many students and teachers are not aware of this. First Green is a unique, practical, community-based environmental education program that brings teachers and students to the golf courses, supporting the role of golf courses in the communities. Students, teachers, and parent chaperones go home after a field trip and share their positive experiences with family members, friends, and co-workers.

For more information about The First Green,
visit: www.thefirstgreen.org.

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