Community Environmental Stewardship 101: Guest Interview Featuring New KAEE Member, Debbie Howes, Friends of Rodburn Hollow Park
You may not have heard of Debbie Howes and all the work she does for her Morehead community, but her impact reaches far and wide. From volunteering to save natural areas in her city to hosting environmental day camps for local fifth graders, Debbie puts her passions into practice and we’re so glad to welcome her to the KAEE network of educators!
KAEE: Where do you volunteer and what is your current role?
Debbie: In 2017, 10-15 community members formed a group to befriend a local park. This park was originally owned by the Daniel Boone National Forest. It was conveyed to the Kentucky Division of Forestry in the 1990s and continued as a recreational facility until 2003. Ownership was transferred to the City of Morehead in 2003.
The fate of the park has remained largely in limbo since that time, resulting in a gradual decline of the facility. The group which befriended the park had memories of the park from its days as part of the Daniel Boone National Forest. They hoped to contribute to its revival as the only natural park in the city, and promote it as an outdoor classroom for the community. The group was soon recognized officially by the City of Morehead as a helper arm to the park in 2018. It now has nonprofit status and membership has doubled.
The official mission of the Friends of Rodburn Hollow Park (FOR) is to protect, promote, and preserve the park. FOR has held at least two cleanups each year (other than during the COVID year of 2020). FOR has collaborated with community partners to install a variety of signage: informational, interactive educational, trail signs, and tags for ephemeral wildflowers. They have rebuilt a bridge, upgraded the kiosk, and developed new trails, as well as reopened old ones. In June 2019, PRIDE of Southern and Eastern Kentucky recognized Fred Howes, FOR’s Chair, for extensive volunteer hours at the park. In August 2019, FOR received the Commonwealth Award for Beautifying the Bluegrass.
My original role with FOR was as Chair for the first two years, and then as Vice-Chair. As Vice-Chair, my focus was on education projects and developing collaborative partnerships. In the upcoming year, I will be part of the Education Committee.
I am also a volunteer with the Rowan County School system. Prior to 2020, I often taught science classes for various classrooms. This summer, I will be teaching science classes for K-5 summer school. I will also be teaching classes in an art camp at the Rowan County Art Center for K-5 students, where I will integrate art with science.
KAEE: What projects or programs are you working on that particularly inspire you?
Debbie: FOR recognized early on that the best way to gain a positive perspective for the community regarding the value of Rodburn Hollow Park was to include opportunities for Environmental Education for the children of Rowan County. We collaborated with 4H, and 7 other community organizations to pilot an Environmental Day Camp at the park for the 5th graders from the three smallest public elementary schools in our county. The camp served 300 students in 2018. In 2019, FOR expanded the pilot to include all 550 fifth-grade students in the county. We were unable to continue the camp during 2020, but are hoping to try again in 2022.
KAEE: What goals do you have for your organization or programs within the EE field?
Debbie: My hope is to add various environmental education classes via FOR in the upcoming year. Personally, I would like to offer field trips and learning opportunities for individual classrooms which would take place at Rodburn Hollow Park.
KAEE: What is an area you feel you could use support in from this network of fellow educators?
Debbie: I would like to learn about ways in which I can become involved in additional learning and teaching opportunities in EE. I would especially appreciate hearing about ideas and experiences in Environmental Day Camps.
KAEE: What is something you feel could be beneficial to share with this network?
Debbie: As a retired educator and volunteer, I only have the benefit of my past experiences in education to share. My background includes 25 years of teaching in the areas of Basic Math, Earth Science, General Science, Biology, and AP Biology. I have worked with many science camps over the years, and I have taught science to students from preschool to college Freshmen. For many years, I taught in the Upward Bound Program at MSU. I served as a middle school assistant principal for one year, an elementary principal for 4 years, and then as a high school principal for 4 years. After retirement, I served as an elementary science curriculum specialist for a year and a half. However, I retired in 2013, and it is very easy to quickly become obsolete in the field of science.
KAEE: Share one fun fact or random tidbit you would like to share with the group!
Debbie: I attended Hindman Settlement School for my senior year of high school. It was there that I learned to weave on floor looms. After I retired, I learned to weave Nantucket style baskets.
“An essential challenge for all of us is creating just, sustainable, and culturally thriving communities in order to address the challenges and the really great opportunities of the 21st century.” -Dr. Carrie Tzou
Dr. Carrie Tzou and Dr. Leah Bricker from Learning in Places kicked off The Kentucky Association for Environmental Education’s (KAEE) annual Outdoor Learning Symposium in 2021. The Kentucky Division of water sponsored the virtual event held on June 8th and 10th.
With a symposium that emphasized place as not just a location, but a collaborator in learning, over 60 classroom teachers, school administrators and nonformal educators gathered online over the course of the two days to learn about the benefits of outdoor education and how to enhance their own spaces and places.
With the challenge from the keynote to consider how science and ecological education contributes to conversations about ethics, and sociological change, the event’s sessions looked at various conversations about outdoor learning.
J.D. Bussell, Lester Diaz, and Tresine Logsdon discussed teaching outdoors from an administrative perspective. Dr. Melinda Wilder presented about integrating the new science assessment with outdoor learning. And Dr. Kim Yates, Dr. Becky Krall, and Sagan Goodpaster taught educators about planning tools. Dr. Yates introduced the idea of planning a garden using seed mats. And Dr. Becky Krall and Sagan Goodpaster introduced virtual tools to enable educators to bring the outdoors into the classroom when necessary.
“Just being outside in nature does so much good for the body, and because it does so much good for the body, it helps to clear the mind which opens up for learning.” -Rae McEntyre
The second day of the symposium started with the question “How can we effectively use the outdoors for learning?” from the plenary session by Rae McEntyre, the Science consultant at the Kentucky Department of Education.
In a breakout session, Aukrum Burton presented “Ripple Effects: Exploring Water in Louisville”, a collaboration between the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, Kentucky Division of Water, Louisville Free Public Library, River City Paddle Sports, and University of Louisville College of Education & Human Development. He showed an example of how they used a photography contest to get students into nature and how it fit into their larger Louisville/Ohio River Visioning Project.
The rest of the sessions looked at water education outdoor learning experiences with Danny Woolums demonstrating a Project WET session, Dale Booth discussing Division of Water tools for water education, and Vivian Bowles digging into the practicalities of managing a class when you’re teaching outside.
Inserted throughout the event were opportunities for participants to meet with community partners and take part in networking and planning sessions.
KAEE recorded all sessions, so participants have the chance to go back and re-watch their favorite sessions, or see the ones they didn’t get to attend live. For those that didn’t register, there’s still a chance to receive the training from the Outdoor Learning Symposium. Contact Brittany Wray at email@example.com to learn how you can still take part and gain access to the recordings.
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.