Going Green Is More Fun with Gunston

Posted: October 19, 2009 at 1:01 am, Last Updated: October 19, 2009 at 4:07 pm

By Dave Andrews

Gunston and his friend "Mason" make learning about environmental awareness and renewable energy fun. Photo by Traci Claar

Gunston and his friend "Mason" make learning about environmental awareness and renewable energy fun. Photo by Traci Claar

The discussion of global warming continues to heat up, and many fear the earth’s resources are in serious jeopardy. Some environmentalists say it’s never too late to become more environmentally conscious, but administrators at Mason say it’s never too early.

The university, in partnership with the National Energy Education Development project, created an interactive environmental education program for elementary school children in grades K-3. “Go Green with Gunston” combines education and entertainment into a distinctive curriculum specifically aimed at teaching young kids the benefits of “going green” and focusing on renewable energy sources.

Gunston—formerly known as Mason’s furry green mascot who appeared in the stands and on the sidelines at countless athletic events—was given a makeover and a new job title as the university’s community ambassador.

“We wanted to develop a way to connect with this particular age group to get them excited about science and sustainability, and Gunston was the ideal character for the job,” says Traci Claar, director of community relations.

Kids enjoy Gunston at the after-school program. Photo by Traci Claar

Kids enjoy interacting with Gunston at the Orange Hunt Elementary School after-school program. Photo by Traci Claar

“Our hope is that teaching these kids fun lessons about the earth and saving energy will spark new interests which may lead [the kids] to pursue an education in science and perhaps even a career in that field.”

Gunston travels with his co-worker and friend, “Mason,” an actor/educator, to visit students who participate in the School Age Child Care (SACC) program in Fairfax County. The two engage the kids in songs, stories and games about going green.

Before Gunston visits each school, the children participate in two pre-visit lessons provided by the university. The first is designed to give students a basic understanding of how energy is used and how it can be saved. The second introduces students to renewable and non-renewable energy sources.

These activities were established to showcase Mason’s commitment to a scientific understanding of energy and the ways in which energy consumption impacts the environment.

“This is a great initiative, and I am looking forward to the wonderful and creative things that our teachers and Gunston will be coming up with,” says Terry Johnson, childcare specialist and regional supervisor for SACC.

Students at Orange Hunt Elementary School made papier-mâché Gunston heads in preparation for the visit. Photo by Traci Claar

Students at Orange Hunt Elementary School made papier-mâché Gunston heads in preparation for the visit. Photo by Traci Claar

“This is a topic that our educators will continue to teach the students long after Gunston leaves the classroom.”

The program is just underway, with one successful visit to Orange Hunt Elementary School already on the books. Gunston and Mason will be out visiting a different SACC Center in Fairfax County every Monday from now until late June. They’ll finish the month of October at Hunt Valley and Oakview SACC Centers. The schedule for November includes Cherry Run, Fairview, Bonnie Brae, Laurel Ridge and Terra Centre SACC Centers.

“This type of community outreach to our neighbors throughout Fairfax County is another example of the benefits to having a world-class university right in their own backyard,” Claar says. “It stems from our continued effort to improve the quality of life for the kids, their families and the surrounding community.”

For more information, visit the Go Green with Gunston web site.

Write to mediarel at gazette@gmu.edu