As we begin a new year, KAEE continues to build upon its vision of offering dynamic professional development to environmental educators across the state.
Our interest in online professional development came along pre-covid to meet the demands and interests of current Kentucky environmental educators. Due to the many demands of our current lifestyle, many people need and want to be able to attend training on a very flexible schedule without traveling far. Consequently, the idea of the eeCredentials were developed in partnership with Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education.
This effort coincided with the retirement of Dr. Melinda Wilder from Eastern Kentucky University. Dr. Wilder always knew that she wanted to stay involved in EE after her retirement, so was pleased to be invited to work on the eeCredential project.
The project started with the Community Engagement course and then went on the Professional Learning Leader credential. Dr. Wilder says she enjoys working on this project because it has challenged her to learn about effective online pedagogy. With the pandemic, this information base has exploded, and she is constantly learning new things. She also enjoys it because it has helped her keep in touch with the environmental education community in Kentucky.
Just for fun and to get to know her a little bit better we asked her the following 20 questions.
Getting to Know / 20 Questions with… Melinda Wilder
1. If you could be any animal, which would you be? Difficult to decide—maybe a salamander of some kind.
2. What is the top destination on your would-love-to-visit list? Patagonia
3. What is your favorite place to visit in Kentucky? Lilley Cornett Woods
4. Who inspires you? My mother, Rachel Carson, E.O. Wilson
5. What’s the last book you read? Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
6. Who would you most like to swap places with for a day? Lucy Braun (back when she was exploring the eastern Kentucky forest)
7. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be!? Mind control—so I could convince them to care about the environment :)
8. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Periwinkle
9. What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten? Fire roasted Rattlesnake with Homebrew
10. What do you find most energizing about environmental education? Helping non-EE believers drink the “Kool-aid” ;)
11. What do you find most energizing about environmental education? What I find most energizing is when you are able to help someone develop the same passion and caring for taking care of our natural environment.
12. What was your first job? A naturalist at a living historic farm in Holmdel New Jersey
13. What is something you saw recently that made you smile? Our little dog standing on a small log (from our invasive species work) overlooking her “domain”
14. What is something—big or small—that you think you’re really bad at? Fishing
15. What is something—big or small—that you’re really good at? Weeding
16. If you had to pick one age to be permanently, what age would you be? 50
17. What fictional place would you most like to visit? Fern Gully
18. Who is your least favorite superhero? I don’t know superheroes very well
19. What is one hobby you’d love to get into? Foraging
20. What is your favorite aspect of being a member of KAEE? The EE community
In a world of increasing energy demand, climate change, and a global pandemic, air quality education is more important than ever. The Kentucky Division for Air Quality not only works with facilities to regulate air pollution in the state but also provides significant education and outreach programs to environmental educators and community groups. The programs cover air pollution sources and solutions and focus heavily on the social science aspect of air pollution. They strive to highlight the ways in which every-day individual choices affect Kentucky’s air quality. For example, some topics include illegal versus legal trash burning along with simple choices such as leaving your car running at your kid’s school pick up line.
The head of the division’s education and outreach, Roberta Burnes, served on KAEE’s board for several years and is now focusing her efforts on adapting to the new, virtual world. In the past, Burnes has always conducted educational trainings in-person and worked with students directly to develop student-led idle reduction programs. Now, Burnes is working to transition all educational materials and programs into a virtual format while ensuring accessibility to all students and educators. As Burnes hopes to return to in-person outreach next fall, she is currently focusing on making the virtual streaming programs accessible and effective for K-12 education.
So far, Burnes has completed one virtual streaming lesson and feels confident in continuing the virtual formats in 2021. Burnes has also created virtual lesson plans, a story map, and activities for educators and is working to add more to the list. To check them out and explore more about the division’s education efforts, visit their website:
If you are interested in integrating a lesson from the division into your classroom, contact Roberta Burnes today at, Roberta.firstname.lastname@example.org.
KAEE is one of the country’s oldest associations supporting environmental education. We are people from all walks of life, coming together to support EE.