This month we’re excited to feature a brand new member whose own love for the outdoors translates naturally into her work and the lives of young learners. Liz Kasitz is the director of The Nature School at LaFontaine Early Learning Center located in Richmond, Kentucky. She is new to the KAEE community but excited to learn more about all the wonderful EE happening across our state. Read on for more from Liz, in her own words…
Guest post by new KAEE member Liz Kasitz, Director of The Nature School at LaFontaine
Hello everyone! My name is Liz Kasitz and I am the director at The Nature School at LaFontaine Early Learning Center. The LaFontaine Early Learning Centers in Richmond were founded in 2015. We recently opened The Nature School with the same mission and principles, just a little bit of a different approach to learning.
Our mission statement is “to create positive experiences for early learners while fostering their independence in a safe and transparent environment.”
We believe that if you create these experiences for students and families starting at a young age you will create the foundation for an amazing educational experience as they get older. The Nature School gives us a unique opportunity to not only set the foundation for education but to foster a love for the outdoors and provide experiences that many would not otherwise experience.
I am a person who follows the ‘go big or go home’ philosophy on most projects, so I get inspired any time I see students or teachers get excited about this style of learning.
Right now my most inspiring project is our gardens. We're working with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife for a sizable wildflower field. We are also working with Sustainable Berea and students in Madison Central High School’s Agriculture Department to get vegetables, herbs, and berries started.
We have started seeds inside and they are really taking off! I cannot wait to get them outside and watch students as they see them grow. We are hoping to get enough yield to make simple dishes for students to try new things and even be able to take some crops to contribute to dishes at home. I can picture the pride that those little faces will show when they get to take home something like herbs, tomatoes, and a sauce recipe to work with their families to use their yields. This makes me so, so happy.
My goal at The Nature School is for every student to leave our school when they move on to kindergarten not only ready for school but with a love for the outdoors. My daughter goes to our school, and she was made for this. She says she wants to be an animal rescuer when she grows up and even as a baby has always been happiest outdoors. I spent a lot of time camping, hiking, and playing outside as a kid so it warms my heart to see her loving it outside and has even brought that old love for the outdoors back out in me.
Not all of our students are like her, though. Some are very hesitant at first to get involved in the dirty play or get comfortable with the environment.
I want every student to leave having found the parts of nature that they love. Maybe it’s animals, maybe it’s flower gardening, maybe it’s vegetable or fruit gardens, maybe they just like to be outside breathing the fresh air.
They don’t have to like everything about the outdoors but if they just love at least one part of it I will feel like we accomplished our goal at The Nature School.
I look forward to getting to know the members of KAEE and learning from everyone’s experiences!
From trivia and cleanups to music and aquaponics, there are so many Earth Day 2022 events taking place in Kentucky! Read on for details about the events some of our members and friends are hosting this year.
Kentucky State University’s Environmental Education & Research Center: Earth Week
Join Kentucky State University’s Environmental Education and Research Center team as they celebrate Earth Week! Register for one day or all days by selecting different ticket options.
DAY 1: April 18, 5-7 pm EDT
Rosenwald 4-H Youth Development Center | 315 Maryland Ave. Frankfort, KY
Join us for a Field Day at Kentucky State’s Rosenwald 4-H Center, which will include various activities guests can participate in during the two-hour event. These activities include the following: Soil Science Activity, Community Art Project, Drone Demonstration, Tree Ring Analysis Activity, Conservation-based Arts and Crafts, and Aquaponics.
DAY 2: April 20, 10 am-12 pm EDT
This second day is completely virtual and will showcase experts in the field from across Kentucky as they discuss their work. There will also be virtual tours of places that have implemented conservation practices!
DAY 3: April 22, 10 am-6 pm EDT
Spring Open House at Kentucky State’s Environmental Education and Research Center | 1371 Little Dixie Road, Pleasureville, KY 40057
10 a.m. start (all-day activities): Fishing; Booths from Frankfort Audubon Society and Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves; Self-guided hikes; Self-guided tour; Conservation-based activities at the pavilion
10:30 am – 12:00 p.: Bird Walk guided by Frankfort Audubon Society
11:30 am – 12:30 pm: Wildflower Walk guided by Lynn Garrison
12:30 pm: Lunch
2:30 – 3:30 pm: Wildflower Walk guided by Lynn Garrison
3:30 – 4:30 pm: Macroinvertebrate Sampling Demonstration guided by Ian Ries
4:30-6 pm: Networking and S’mores
Come on out to learn about our impact on the environment and how we can support conservation efforts right from our own homes! No registration fee. Learn more here.
The Parklands of Floyds Fork: Earth Day Trivia
April 22, 5-9 pm EDT
Ogle Foundation Woodland Pavilion in Broad Run Park
Celebrate Earth Day with The Parklands by showing off your nature knowledge and enjoying an evening in the park! Join us for a night of trivia, food, and drink from 5–9 pm on Friday, April 22, at the Ogle Foundation Woodland Pavilion in Broad Run Park. Gather your best nature trivia team to compete for Parklands prizes all while enjoying beer from Ten20 Craft Brewery and food from local food trucks!
Food and beer will be available for purchase beginning at 5 p.m. with trivia starting at 6 p.m. There is no cost to participate in trivia, but teams must register with Parklands staff upon arrival. Teams must be finalized and registered by 5:45 p.m. Teams should consist of 2-6 people. Get all the details here.
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth: Earth Day Cleanup
April 22, 9-11 am EDT
40 West Drive, Nazareth, KY 40048
Join the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth’s Office of Ecological Sustainability for an Earth Day Cleanup on Friday, April 22, at Nazareth. Volunteers are invited to check in outside of the SCN Center on Nazareth’s campus, gather in prayer before dispersing, and set off across Nazareth’s campus to collect litter and trash from the land and waterways. Light refreshments and cleanup supplies will be provided.
This cleanup is registered with the Great Global Cleanup, a worldwide campaign to remove billions of pieces of trash from neighborhoods, beaches, rivers, lakes, trails, and parks—reducing waste and plastic pollution, improving habitats, and preventing harm to wildlife and humans. To register, contact Julia Gerwe at email@example.com or (502) 348-1573.
Danville/Boyle County Community Earth Day Festival
April 23, 11 am-3 pm EDT
U.K. Extension Office Pavilion, 99 Corporate Drive, Danville
Danville's Earth Day celebration will take place on April 23, 2022. The Danville Earth Day celebration is open to everyone, free of charge. Confirmed exhibitors include Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge, Art Center of the Bluegrass, Bernheim Arboretum, La Cruz Habitat Protection Program, and many others. Live music is provided and food is available for purchase.
Approximately 500 people attend Danville's Earth Day celebration each year and enjoy booths and exhibits from dozens of exhibitors that are improving our planet and our community.
EKU Division of Natural Areas: Earth Day Extravaganza
April 23, 9:30 am-12:30 pm EDT
EKU's New Science Building (533 John Hanlon Drive), Classroom 3119
Join the Saturday Morning Science program on April 23 for a fun and interactive event for kids grades K-8 to learn about science and celebrate Earth Day 2022. Students will receive a lesson and related activity as well as snacks and time to interact with peers. The cost is $25 per child with an option to purchase a discount card for three sessions for $60. All funds go toward supporting Environmental Education Service Learning. Learn more here.
Louisville Zoo: Earth Day at the Zoo
April 24, 10 am-5 pm EDT
As part of the month-long Party for the Planet event, head to the zoo for a day of Earth fun! Enjoy $8.25 admission PLUS Free Parking courtesy of LG&E and KU Foundation. There will be community eco partner displays. Come join the fun and learn what you can do to help save our planet! Learn more here.
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest: Earth Day Concert with Mr. Dan
April 22, 11 am-12 pm EDT
Spirit Nest at Bernheim
In celebration of Earth Day, join Mr. Dan for a nature song extravaganza! Sing, dance, and rock out to songs that celebrate the plants and animals of Bernheim. This family concert is appropriate for all ages.
Raven Run Nature Sanctuary: Earth Day Volunteering
April 23, 10 am-12 pm EDT
Join park staff at Raven Run to help keep the park beautiful! Celebrate Earth Day with a morning of giving back to our planet by removing invasive plant species.
Happy (almost) Earth Day, everyone!
A new partnership between the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education (KAEE) and Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) gives students the opportunity to earn dual credit for a combination of courses in teaching environmental education. Not only that, but completing the courses puts a participant halfway through earning an eeCredential and 25% of the way through completing EKU’s Certificate in Environmental Education!
“Offering dual credit is something we have envisioned and wanted since we started our eeCredential program a couple of years ago,” KAEE Education Director Brittany Wray says. “One of the main reasons we wanted to partner with EKU and the university’s Division of Natural Areas is to offer this kind of learning opportunity for the participants in our eeCourses and for EKU students.”
The course is a special combination of KAEE’s online, asynchronous eeCourse called “Foundations in Teaching Environmental Education” and KAEE’s EE Bootcamp, an in-person, two-day workshop. Although these separate offerings do not have to be taken together, participants who wish to maximize their learning can take both and, in doing so, complete half of the requirements to earn the Professional Learning Leader eeCredential. And, for those who wish to earn EKU undergraduate or graduate credit as well, they can enroll in EMS 563/763 and complete that course through the combination of “Foundations in Teaching Environmental Education” and the EE Bootcamp.
Dr. Melinda Wilder, EKU professor emerita, is the instructor for the course and one of the three workshop leaders of the EE Bootcamp. There, she’ll be joined by Brittany Wray and KAEE facilitator Vivian Bowles for a robust workshop that includes training in Project WET, Project WILD, Project Learning Tree, and a very intensive focus on how environmental education correlates with the Kentucky Academic Standards for science, reading, writing, social studies, and more.
“We’ll show teachers how you can use environmental education to support the standards and how you can use the environment as a context for teaching any discipline." -Brittany Wray, Education Director
The EE Bootcamp will be held August 1-2 at Maywoods Environmental and Educational Laboratory. Participants have the option to stay on-site at Maywoods on the nights of July 31 and August 1, and meals will be provided.
“One exciting aspect of the Bootcamp is that participants will get to take the training not only with students who want to earn EKU credit but also with teachers and educators from across the state who are interested in getting professional development training in these award-winning EE curriculum programs,” Brittany says.
How to Register
Those wishing to earn EKU credit should apply to be a student (the application is free here) and then enroll in either EMS 563 or EMS 763, depending on whether they would like undergraduate or graduate credit. The registration period for the summer eeCredential program will open on April 18 and close on May 13. During that time, participants can register for the summer “Foundations in Teaching Environmental Education” eeCourse. Registration for the EE Bootcamp will open in early summer.
KAEE and EKU plan to offer additional dual credit opportunities in the future. We also plan to offer this unique combination of offerings each summer, so interested participants who are unable to take part this year will have the opportunity again next year.
For more information about KAEE’s eeCourses, eeCredentials, in-person workshops, or the dual-credit option, reach out to Brittany Wray at 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.