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August 22, 2019

Famed Conservation Packet, An Educational Tool Stood The Test of Time

The Garden Club of America has been a leader in providing expertise on environmental issues for the benefit of the country. During the 1950s and 1960s, this mantra translated into an earnest focus on the youth of America.

In early 1951, GCA Conservation Chairman, Mrs. Malcolm Edgerton, realized that future stewards are not born of themselves.  She expressed, “Young people must be taught the basic principles involved in the conservation of our natural resources.” Further, she deemed that “Schools are the best medium to arouse a sense of individual responsibility in the protection of the land for future generations.” Her passion was shared by GCA conservationists Mrs. Avery Rockefeller and Mrs. Kenneth Faile. Together, they collaborated with other environmental luminaries such as Dr. Paul Sears, Mr. Richard Pough, and Miss Rachel Carson to create the foundation of an educational resource packet. The end product became an educational assemblage that continued, in a variety of forms, for more than forty years.

Titled The World Around You, the GCA’s famous conservation packet consisted of a collection of carefully planned and well-edited leaflets, designed to provide classroom teachers with simple conservation facts and accompanying outlines to share with their students. These one page articles covered a variety of age-appropriate environmental topics. Realizing the heavy load that elementary teachers carry, their purpose was to supplement existing curricula, making it easy for teachers to employ their use. Once circulated, the GCA Conservation Committee managed updates every four years, so the information would remain fresh and valid.

After the deaths of both Mrs. Edgerton and Mrs. Faile in 1957, Mrs. Rockefeller was asked to assume responsibility for the packet—a job she took most seriously. It was a huge undertaking, tracking order requests and mailing up to six thousand packets a year. She also authored seven leaflets, of which “Berried Treasure for Your Birds” exceeded all expectations in reprints. 

Though it was Mrs. Edgerton’s original desire that the packets be distributed free of charge, when word of this conservation collection got out, its popularity expanded far beyond the school system to organizations such as the Girl Scouts of America, the Peace Corps, the National Park Service, and even to foreign countries. Eventually, a price of fifty cents per packet was established, to cover postage, paper, and printing costs. 

 

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