Get These Darn Kids Outside!

Julie Novak carries a bag of litter through the forest of Prentice Cooper State Park
Julie Novak carries a bag of litter through the forest of Prentice Cooper State Park. This was part of a TenneSEA sponsored student trash clean up on Tuesday, November 14, 2017. (Photo by: Benjamin Wilt)

In today’s age of increasing dissonance related to environmental issues, it can be hard to advocate for widespread policy and lifestyle changes. Julie Novak, who works for a clean water advocate group called TenneSEA, has noticed this disparity and is doing her part to influence the future by getting kids from local public schools excited about keeping the environment clean, and getting them involved.

Julie Novak explains to Carter LeMay and the Red Bank Elementary Stream Team about different ways they can prevent stream bank erosion behind the school.
Julie Novak explains to Carter LeMay and the Red Bank Elementary Stream Team about different ways they can prevent stream bank erosion behind the school. TenneSEA representatives were at the school to give input on the plans created by the students to bolster the streams banks, on Friday, November 17th, 2017. (Photo by: Benjamin Wilt)

Yet, why is it important that these values are instilled in children? According to Mrs. Novak, “We are to a place in our society that environmental issues are critical to our health, home and happiness.  If good “environmental habits” are established by children they are much [more] likely to adopt them later in life.  They also can make such a difference in effecting their peers and parents.”

Julie Novak shows some of the Red Bank Elementary School Stream Team leaders how they can estimate the size of the materials they may need for their project.
Julie Novak shows some of the Red Bank Elementary School Stream Team leaders (Left to Right: Carter LeMay, Carolina Hightower, and Sophie Lusk) how they can estimate the size of the materials they may need for their project. TenneSEA representatives were at the school to give input on the plans created by the students to bolster the streams banks, on Friday, November 17th, 2017. (Photo by: Benjamin Wilt)

Julie Novak holds a bachelor’s degree in Family and Child Development, as well as a Masters in Education, which really emphasizes how well she does with children in specific. Throughout the week, Julie Novak led “stream teams”, groups of kids from Signal Mountain Public Schools who are interested in keeping the earth clean, out in to the woodlands of Prentice Cooper State Park to clean up trash.

Julie Novak plucks a beer can from the branches of a tree at Prentice Cooper State Park.
Julie Novak plucks a beer can from the branches of a tree at Prentice Cooper State Park. This was part of a TenneSEA sponsored student trash clean up on Tuesday, November 14th, 2017. (Photo by: Benjamin Wilt)

This is just a part of what Mrs. Novak does; she is also working with students from Red Bank Elementary on an erosion prevention project. There is a stream behind the elementary school that is especially susceptible to erosion due to being next to a large parking lot, and a team of students are partnering with the Chattanooga Engineering Group as well as TenneSEA to figure out a way to fix it and prevent future erosion from occurring.

Julie Novak directs children of Nolan Elementary School towards some trash that she can see.
Julie Novak directs children of Nolan Elementary School towards some trash that she can see. This was part of a TenneSEA sponsored student trash clean up on Tuesday, November 14th, 2017. (Photo by: Benjamin Wilt)

When she is not working with these teams of motivated kids, she spends her time educating them about the science of it all. Her work also extends to her own home.

Julie Novak is a passionate mother, and her yearning to do her part in keeping soil and water clean, also stems from her love for her children. She said, “I have 2 kids of my own and want them to have a safe, clean home to grow up in.  We have a creek in our back yard and I want them to be able to play in it safely.  We love being outside, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating . . . and want to have clean, safe places to enjoy these things.”

Julie Novak directs children of Nolan Elementary School towards some trash that she can see.
Julie Novak and students Anna and Austin Lisowski, head back to the trailhead after a long afternoon of environmental clean up in Prentice Cooper State Park. This was part of a TenneSEA sponsored student trash clean up on Tuesday, November 14th, 2017. (Photo by: Benjamin Wilt)

About the Storyteller

Benjamin Wilt
Benjamin Wilt

Get These Darn Kids Outside! was photographed and written by Benjamin Wilt. This story was created in COMM 3700, Photojournalism 1, during the Fall 2017 semester.

Benjamin Wilt is majoring in Communications and minoring in Environmental Science and expects to graduate from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with his Bachelor’s degree in May 2018.

Copyright 2017, Benjamin Wilt, all rights reserved.

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