In 1990, H.R. Hungerford wrote that “creating an environmental commitment must go beyond awareness and knowledge. Environmental commitment is built by providing students with a sense of ownership and empowerment so that they are fully invested in an environmental sense and prompted to become responsible, active citizens.”
Building widespread environmental commitment, however, takes time, expertise, and coordination. And this year, the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education is dedicating that time, expertise, and coordination to play a key role in the development of a brand new undertaking—a landscape analysis of environmental education efforts in eight southeastern states.
Funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Pisces Foundation, the project will include a comprehensive study of the environmental education already happening on the ground, enabling the states involved to identify gaps and barriers to access that prevent successful implementation in some areas. The final report will also provide recommendations and next steps for increasing environmental literacy efforts in the southeast based on an inventory of model programs and initiatives happening nationwide.
This analysis and tailored state recommendations included in the report will equip organizations conducting environmental and conservation-related work in the southeast with the materials they need to address gaps, allocate resources more effectively, and, ultimately, meet the goal of increasing environmental literacy levels and stewardship behaviors.
KAEE Executive Director Ashley Hoffman, along with a strategy consultant and a state coordinator from each of the state environmental education associations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, will lead the project.
“Although there are numerous organizations providing high-quality EE programs across the southeast, most of these are operating independently of one another, and little is being done to harness the collective impact of these programs to create large-scale change in each state or throughout the region,” Hoffman says. “This initiative will allow us to see the current landscape of environmental education in the southeast and help us to focus on larger-scale, capacity building initiatives that extend our impact beyond the local community.”
Upon conclusion of the analysis, the project leadership team will use the findings to begin strategic conversations determining next steps for initiating the development of a state-level strategy for each state. While the team will implement recommendations, they recognize that the next steps will be ongoing and include numerous stakeholders. With this in mind, the team will work throughout the project with key stakeholders and state environmental education associations to design the landscape analysis and report in a way that ensures it will be a tool that meets the various needs of all involved.
The final report will serve as the first step to strengthen and improve the informal EE community to be able to deliver high-quality programs to students and conduct teacher trainings. The tool will also provide recommendations to systemically infuse environmental principles and concepts in formal school curricula that will aid in increasing and integrating EE into formal education systems.
Through stakeholder use of this report, educators in the eight states will have the tools to increase the number of students receiving high quality environmental education and broadening the competency of those students to demonstrate improved environmental literacy and age-appropriate stewardship behaviors.
“We are excited to embark on this work,” Hoffman says. “To have the capacity and funding to bring together and connect the hundreds of organizations doing environmental literacy work across the southeast is a huge opportunity to grow the environmental education movement.”
At this year’s annual conference we will be celebrating 44 years of excellence in environmental education. While environmental education may look a little different in 2020, our role as educators is more vital than ever. This year’s conference attendees will enjoy recorded sessions that can be watched anytime; opportunities to incorporate creative technology into sessions; reduced registration costs; virtual meetups for special interest groups; regional outdoor activities tied to conference themes; a virtual happy hour; and more.
This year's theme is "Community Engagement: Building Sustainable Communities through the Power of Environmental Education." Session topics include everything from "FUNdamentals" of EE to social justice and equity in EE to "cooking wild." There is something (way more than just one something) for everyone!
The keynote address, by Greenlining's Leslie Aguayo, will focus on the intersection of racial equity and environmental issues (and why these are inseparable). Other highlights include a North American Association for Environmental Education Community Engagement Guidelines for Excellence training and a plenary session led by Cagney Coomer.
Check out all the details on the conference webpage!
One of the five primary goals of the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education’s Strategic Plan, adopted in July of 2019, is “Cultivating Collective Impact,” bringing people together to create a stronger and more inclusive movement. For KAEE, this means not only building stronger relationships and partnerships with organizations representing audiences and sectors not currently engaged with KAEE and striving continually to reach the communities that represent underserved audiences in Kentucky but also to transform KAEE into a more diverse and inclusive organization with increased cultural competency levels for the board, staff, and members, as well as more inclusive policies and practices.
To assist us in meeting those desired outcomes, KAEE has received a Center for Diversity & the Environment grant to host a robust, weeklong Build the Foundation workshop for our board of directors, allowing them to immerse themselves in issues and best practices in equity, inclusion, and diversity.
Formed from the belief that everyone has a place in the environmental movement, the Center for Diversity & the Environment works to “build bridges between communities of color and the environmental community, fostering a fundamental revolution of the environmental movement–into an equitable, inclusive, and diverse coalition of people at work on a wide array of environmental issues.”
The Build the Foundation workshop will be an important step in KAEE’s plan to reevaluate our internal culture and policies and weave equity and inclusion throughout our strategic plan.
“We want to create an environment where all Kentuckians feel welcome and encouraged to engage in the work of environmental education,” says Ashley Hoffman, KAEE Executive Director. “Our role as a backbone organization is to support the ‘boots on the ground’ who are actively doing environmental education each day, and we hope to reach organizations who do not know about our work so we can support them in theirs.”
Hoffman says that “we hope, and plan, to not simply invite all communities and organizations to ‘our table’ but to go to theirs, to find innovative and useful ways to get to know them and to help them reach their own goals.”
This story is part of our KAEE Strategic Plan Series.
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.