It takes a village to build new learning avenues and help students thrive, and in Long Beach, city utility departments have teamed up to provide free learning material for Long Beach Unified School District teachers and families.

The theme is conservation, and the city's own Energy Resources Department, Water Department and the Department of Public Works teamed up with The National Theatre for Children (NTC) — a production company that creates education plays and programs for children — to create an online learning curriculum that focuses on how students can help create a cleaner, greener Long Beach.

“These programs are both educational and fun," Kaylee Weatherly, public informations officer at the Water Department, said. "Our goal is to teach the next generation of environmental stewards sustainable habits that they can use for the rest of their lives."

Programs are free and easily accessible for both teachers and parents and include two types of lesson plans, one for K-5 grade students and one for middle school students. Each program features entertaining and age-appropriate content catered specifically for conservation in Long Beach.

For K-5 audiences, the lesson is called "The Conservation Caper," where students can follow Nikki Nature, a member of the fictional Long Beach-based Eco Guardians, assigned to take on the wasteful Dr. Maybe at her company picnic. She enlists the help of her friends to learn all she can about water conservation, natural gas safety and waste reduction to defeat the villainous Dr. Maybe.

For 6-8 grade audiences, The LBC E-Team presents more advanced information on these topics through a series of comedic sketches featuring conservation-themed information. Topics covered include STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), conservation and career pathways in Long Beach.

All of the lessons are available for free at nationaltheatre.com/programs.

And while the online content is proving to be a hit, Weatherly said that like all programming in 2020, teams had to get creative with their messaging this year. At this time last year, the conservation message was acted out on stage during school assemblies. This year, not only did the content need to be accessible online, the team also had to get the word out and bring awareness to the content.

"Like everything else this year, we had to consider how people will access this content," Weatherly said. "But I think we did a great job and there's a really good message in there."

The program also falls in line with Long Beach's Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) initiatives to create a more sustainable and climate-prepared community by preparing young residents for the impact of climate change while also teaching them how to create more sustainable environments as well, Weatherly added.

"The program is really designed and built to support the community, provide entertainment and also to teach and inform," she said. "We're excited to see what kind of feedback we can continue to get and hopefully we can do something like this next school year too."

The programs went live on Oct. 19, and will be available for download indefinitely. Go to nationaltheatre.com for more information, or to access the material.

For more information on Long Beach utility programs, go to longbeach.gov.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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