Landscape Analysis

OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION IN THE SOUTHEAST

Driven by the desire to gain an enhanced understanding of the environmental education providers in our region who are working towards similar goals, the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance, of which KAEE is a part, recently embarked on a brand new undertaking—a landscape analysis of EE efforts in eight southeastern states. Click the button below to visit the regional hub. ​For Kentucky-specific findings, recommendations, and tools, use the menu below.

FIELD TRENDS DASHBOARD
 

This dashboard is an interactive tool that educators and stakeholders can use to identify EE providers and programs in their area. It provides a quick snapshot of all the findings from our surveys via charts and graphs that can be filtered and exported, as well as the complete list of organizational and program profiles for the 646 organizations that completed the survey.

You can explore specific details through a toolbar that allows you to filter by state, sector, terms used, percentage of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color) leadership, budget, themes, audience served, offerings, academic standards, program location, program time, Title I, language, and/or evaluation practices. These charts can then be easily exported. 

For an in-depth tutorial on how to use the many features of the dashboard, click here to watch the video on YouTube. If you're having trouble using the dashboard on this page, click here to access it in a larger format. 

CLIMATE, EDUCATION, AND EQUITY MAP
 

You can use the map below in numerous ways. Find EE programs and providers near you. Compare how the demographics of people served by EE in a particular Kentucky city compare to the overall demographics of the city. Discover whether certain areas of the state are less likely to have environmental education opportunities and how that might compare to their exposure to pollutants or their household income. Filter and export data that's meaningful to you. This tool can be instrumental in helping EE providers determine where there are gaps and barriers to access. 

For an in-depth tutorial on how to use the many features of this map, click here to watch the video on YouTube. If you're having trouble using the map on this page, click here to access it in a larger format. 

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
 

BACKGROUND

This analysis was designed to take a comprehensive look at the environmental education already happening on the ground, identify gaps and barriers to access that prevent successful implementation, and provide recommendations and next steps for increasing environmental literacy efforts in the southeast. This analysis will equip the organizations conducting environmental and conservation-related work in the region with the resources they need to address gaps, allocate resources more effectively, and ultimately meet the goal of increasing environmental literacy levels and stewardship behaviors.  In addition, the analysis will serve as a guide for future strategic-planning efforts in individual states, as well as the regional SEEA collaborative. 

As a tool, it will help ensure that in the future we continue to focus our limited time and resources in areas where we will have the biggest impact. ​

FINDINGS
In 2021, SEEA surveyed 88 environmental education providers in Kentucky. The findings from that survey are summarized below.  

Mapping
The number of EE programs in each state ranges from 25 (4%; Tennessee) to 133 (23%; North Carolina), with an average of 80 programs per state. Based on this data, Kentucky exceeded the regional average with 88 providers.  In reviewing our findings, we found geographic gaps for Kentucky in rural areas, areas with the highest social vulnerability index, obesity rates and lowest income. This was particularly noted in the eastern counties of Kentucky (2nd Nature TREC, 2022). Because our data only shows us the headquarters of the providers, we cannot be certain that these areas are underserved, but given that most of the environmental education takes place as field trips or direct teaching, we can make an assumption that many of these areas go unsupported due to the distance it would take to serve them.

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Field Trends Dashboard
The dashboard has a wealth of information available for educators and stakeholders. The following serves to highlight some of the state findings, with the understanding that the data can be sorted by any number of and combination of factors such as sector, themes, audience served, and so on.  For more details on how to use this tool to dig deeper into the data, please see the dashboard tutorial.

The predominant program themes in Kentucky are, respectively: Outdoor Learning, Conservation, STEM, Biodiversity, and Water. The primary term being used in Kentucky was overwhelmingly “environmental education,” followed by “outdoor education,” “conservation education,” and “nature-based learning.”  

The primary offerings being provided across the state were direct teaching and field trips, followed by instructional materials. The primary audience served across the region tends to be K-5 students, followed by 6-8th and 9-12 grade students. 

This demonstrates the need to increase opportunities for engagement at the early childhood in order for students to receive the same level of engagement in environmental education throughout K-12th grade. There is also a need to increase opportunities for teachers, administrators, and informal educators.

From our initial review, we have gleaned that environmental education providers are doing limited evaluation of their programs. There is a need for more support and training around the importance of program evaluation , as well as tools that can help providers do this in a meaningful way that will help them strengthen their programs.

If we adjust for non-responses, our data shows us that 7% of environmental education staff identify as Black, Indigenous, or Persons of Color (BIPOC), which is significantly lower than the state average of 11% per 2020 US Census Data. We found senior staff to be just 6.5% (2nd Nature TREC, 2022). This has identified a need for more BIPOC staff and leadership in environmental education organizations. Data showed that 14% of environmental education organizations had boards that reflected the same or higher BIPOC representation than the state average.

 

In a comparison of starting salaries for similar fields, environmental education was found to be lower than all three comparison fields. The average starting salary for environmental education reported in our survey was $29,515 for a full-time position compared to $34,900 for education, $39,100 for forestry, and $37,800 for hospitality and tourism. 

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RECOMMENDATIONS

Based on our findings, we provide the following recommendations for Kentucky:
 

  • Increase diversity of environmental education staff and leadership to better reflect demographics of the state.  

  • Address inequities in pay and benefits for environmental education.

  • Increase the entry level salary for environmental educators to be more comparable to other fields.

  • Increase opportunities for engagement at the early childhood level in order for students to receive the same level of engagement in environmental education from kindergarten through 12th grade.

  • Provide guidance and training around the importance of evaluating programs and better tools to help providers do this in a meaningful way that allows them to strengthen their programs.

  • Address gaps in services found across the state in rural areas, areas with the highest social vulnerability index, highest obesity rates, and lowest income, particularly in eastern Kentucky counties.

  • Provide guidance and training around the importance of collecting demographic information and how it can be used to strengthen programs and opportunities for broader engagement.

A COLLABORATION BETWEEN
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