STARKVILLE, Miss.--Taking Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai's message to heart, members of Mississippi State's Future Educators Association chapter are working to inspire a new generation of conservationists.
Late last week, FEA members gave third graders at Starkville's Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary School a collection of tree seedlings provided by the university's forestry department. They explained to the students how the seedlings could be taken home to plant--and, in the process, continue the international Green Belt Movement the late environmental and political activist had begun in her native Kenya.
The activity was tied to the FEA's fall semester "Read for the Record" program for local public school students.
The selected book, titled "Mama Miti," told the story of Maathai, who in 1977 founded the African grassroots organization that has helped empower many thousands worldwide to mobilize and combat deforestation, soil erosion and environmental degradation.
Maathai's memoir "Unbowed" was this year's selection for Maroon Edition, MSU's common reading experience for freshmen.
"We wanted to show the students what the book was all about," said FEA secretary Briana P. Outlaw of Pelahatchie.
"They can go home and plant the trees and help the environment, just like the book's main character," the senior secondary education major added.
Outlaw is among more than 150 members, all College of Education majors, who are a part of MSU's FEA chapter. Nationally, the organization has more than 11,000 members in 36 states.
In addition to reading activities, local FEA members have engaged in other outreach efforts during the school year, including the delivery of take-home student meals through the Backpack Buddies program.
FEA adviser Karen Brown said community outreach programs represent the organization's theme of service. They also help the future teachers gain a better understanding of their chosen career field, the instructor of curriculum, instruction and special education added.
"It gives them an opportunity not only to give back to the community but gets them out into the schools and helps give them an awareness of the kinds of students they'll be serving," Brown said.