The 2020 Kentucky Association for Environmental Education Conference, held last week, was filled with engaging sessions, interactive events, though-provoking ideas, and lots of laughs. Thank you to everyone who joined us!
During our welcome and annual meeting session, we had the opportunity to thank Billie Hardin for her many years on the Board of Directors and who has just completed her term as past-chair. We also recognized and thanked Jennifer Hubbard-Sánchez, who has completed her term as board chair, and welcomed Blair Hecker to the role as chair, Whitney Wurzel to role of vice chair, and Jason Nally to role of secretary. Other announcements included a welcome to our new board members, Meg Gravil, Maddy Heredia, Dan Pascucci, and (returning to the board) Henrietta Sheffel and highlights of our 2020 Excellence in EE Award winners. (Read more about those all-stars here!)
The keynote, by Greenlining's Leslie Aguayo, focused on the intersection of racial equity and environmental issues (and why these are inseparable). Other highlights included regional hikes and meet-ups around the state, a North American Association for Environmental Education Community Engagement Guidelines for Excellence training and a plenary session led by Girls in STEM founder Cagney Coomer.
A special thanks goes to Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, who sponsored our online conference program; the Tennessee Valley Authority, who sponsored conference scholarships; the Kentucky Environmental Education Council, who sponsored our pre-conference workshop; and Far Off Cows Dental Ceramics, who sponsored conference gifts.
We can't wait to see you in person for conference next year!
Anna Wiker has been named the M.K. Dickerson Outstanding Educator of the Year for Excellence in EE. Currently Park Naturalist for the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, Anna has worked for Lexington Parks and Recreation since 2013, and prior to that was an environmental educator for a 4-H camp through the KY Cooperative Extension service. At Raven Run, Anna’s role is to oversee all aspects of programming; lead environmental and cultural history programs; develop educational displays; provide customer service for park visitors; manage and restore habitat (including invasive/exotic species removal), and more.
"In all her duties, she goes above and beyond and is well known among park users as a friendly and knowledgeable resource who can speak on diverse environmental topics with ease and confidence," says Jennifer Hubbard-Sánchez, Superintendent of Natural Areas for Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.
Anna is passionate about all things environmental but especially pollinators of all kinds. For years, she has dedicated herself to enhancing and maintaining a pollinator garden at Raven Run for use in both environmental education and interpretive programs. Anna has dedicated herself to planning new and improved pollinator programming at Raven Run, including
More Than Monarchs: Milkweed Insects: A children’s program that teaches about insect identification, life cycles, and other cool facts, with a focus on the insects and other creatures that depend on Raven Run’s Monarch Waystation for a home.
Incredible Journey: Monarch Tagging: An opportunity for visitors to learn about Monarch Waystations, milkweed, how scientists track butterfly migration, and to participate in tagging a real-life monarch butterfly.
Make Your Own Monarch Waystation Field Guide: A children’s program where participants select a single organism from our Monarch Waystation—either milkweed, a food source flower, an insect, or other organism, the draws or writes a field guide page about it. At the end, the group has created a personalized field guide to the diverse ecosystem of a milkweed stand.
"I was lucky to grow up being able to engage with the outdoors from a young age, and my love of nature has shaped everything from what I do with my free time, to my career choices, to where I live," Anna says. "I believe everyone deserves to have access to outdoor spaces, and that a relationship with and understanding of the natural world is an essential part of being a human. Being in a position where I can help facilitate that relationship and understanding is an incredible experience. I feel very fortunate to work in the field of environmental education, and I can’t wait for what the future holds!"
In the spring of 2019, Anna applied for and received a grant from the Anne L. Stamm Avian Education Fund to create a binocular lending program for park users so that hikers, young and old, can go out and enjoy the forest and pollinators up close.
"Anna is one of those individuals who does not look for recognition or reward," Jennifer Hubbard-Sánchez says. "She is a busy bee. She does her work with her whole heart and truly is one of the best among the best in Kentucky environmental education."
2020 marks ten years since Vivian Bowles became a member of KAEE, though she has been an EE enthusiast for so much longer. Since then, she has told numerous groups—from PEEC students to her fellow Board of Director members to workshop participants—that when she attended her first KAEE conference a decade ago, she knew she had “found her tribe.”
Her tribe has certainly benefited from that relationship, and perhaps never more so than this year, when Vivian unhesitatingly agreed to team up with Brittany Wray and Melinda Wilder to correlate more than one hundred Project Learning Tree and Project WILD activities to the NGSS. This year, she also stepped in as KAEE’s treasurer, and she continued her role as an instructor for two Professional Environmental Educator Certification workshops.
“Vivian has been an invaluable part of what we do at KEEC,” says Wesley Bullock, environmental education specialist at the Kentucky Environmental Education Council (KEEC). “She was named Teacher of the Year for our Kentucky Green & Healthy Schools program in 2016 for her outstanding work with Kit Carson Elementary students. She has gone from graduate of the Professional Environmental Educator Certification program to our newest instructor. And she was integral to the revisions of the Kentucky Environmental Literacy Plan. We appreciate her so much, and we are so glad she is being celebrated with this award!”
Vivian herself is not only a certified Kentucky Professional Environmental Educator but reached “Master Environmental Educator” status last year. She is also a trained “Projects” facilitator and frequently leads workshops in Projects WET, WILD, and Learning Tree. After her retirement from Madison County Schools, she was recruited to do STEM enrichment with first- and second-grade students and their teachers on a part-time basis and has developed and teaches NGSS-style units of study at Kit Carson Elementary.
In 2014, Vivian was named the Elementary Science Teacher of the Year by the Kentucky Science Teachers Association, and two years later, she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The next year, she received our own M.K. Dickerson Outstanding Educator Award.
“Vivian has always been a supporter and practitioner of environmental education,” says Billy Bennett, executive director. “She is an invaluable resource for students of all ages in the Commonwealth.”
Anyone who has been fortunate enough to attend one of her workshops or sit on a board with her knows that Vivian is also one of the warmest, most caring, and most enthusiastic educators out there. She motivates others to listen, to watch, to think, to read, and to teach. She found “her people” ten years ago, she says, at a KAEE conference, and at that conference, “her people” gained an EE leader, an EE champion, and an EE all-star.
Maddy Heredia, the first full-time environmental educator in the 40-year history of Kentucky Nature Preserves, has been named the recipient of Kentucky Association for Environmental Education’s 2020 Excellence in EE Rising Star Award.
In her first year at Kentucky Nature Preserves, Maddy initiated new partnerships with natural areas throughout the state for field trips, oversaw new citizen science projects, expanded the organization’s social media presence, created interpretive signage, and developed KNP's Kentucky Nature Summit, the largest multi-agency EE event in the agency’s history.
“I feel that now more than ever, it is crucial to educate the public on our natural resources and the threat of losing them in the near future,” Maddy says. “By exposing more and more people to breathtaking views, interesting plants and animals, and conservation work, I hope to instill a new appreciation of the environment and sense of responsibility to take care of it.”
She says an especially rewarding aspect of her work is interacting with children in school groups, summer camps, and underserved communities, offering them experience they might not have been exposed to otherwise.
“I grew up in Chicago in a very urban environment,” she says, “and I credit a lot of my passion for conservation to key people in my life that gave me experiences in the outdoors at a very young age. For me, it is so amazing to hear a child tell you that they want to be a herpetologist when they grow up, after I’ve showed them a salamander for the first time.”
Zeb Weese, Kentucky Nature Preserves' Executive Director, says Maddy continually completes her work “with a smile and positive attitude. She is an incredible ambassador for Kentucky's biodiversity and natural areas.”
West Kentucky Community and Technical College named Outstanding Community Partner for Excellence in EE
West Kentucky Community and Technical College, demonstrably committed to environmental education, has been named the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education's 2020 Outstanding Community Partner for Excellence in EE.
Education is a major component of the college’s 2020-2025 sustainability plan, and WKCTC and Murray State University recently developed an Earth and Environmental Sciences Sustainability and Environmental Science Pathway for WKCTC students interested in environmental sciences wanting to transfer to MSU. Biology courses and the required First Year Experience course (FYE) modules have environmental learning outcomes. FYE students do career exploration using Story Maps, and stream sampling field work is conducted in ecology lab.
WKCTC is working to obtain Arbor Foundation Tree Campus, USA designation, which requires tree education and service learning. Biology 120 (Human Ecology) students are identifying and mapping trees on the college’s campus, and the Campus Nature Trail revitalization, a project initiated by students, will connect WKCTC’s east and west sides and will include signage.
The college also hosts an Environmental Education Leadership Corps member, who provides environmental education across WKCTC and surrounding communities, guides local activities, and establishes relationships with internal and community groups. In 2020-21, the EEL Corps member will develop online environmental and sustainable development learning opportunities.
Other examples of WKCTC’s environmental education commitment focus on faculty, staff, and the community. Faculty and staff EE opportunities include a Green Office pilot; professional development opportunities such as climate literacy workshops and the "Greening the Campus and Health" walking and idea generation session; and an intranet site to communicate and develop projects remotely.
We are delighted to announce the winners of KAEE's 2020 Excellence in EE Awards! Check back throughout September for stories about each of the awardees.
VIVIAN BOWLES, LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Vivian Bowles often tells the story of how, when attending her first KAEE conference a decade ago, she knew she had “found her tribe.” Anyone who has been fortunate enough to attend one of her workshops or sit on a board with her knows that Vivian is one of the warmest, most caring, and most enthusiastic educators out there. She motivates others to listen, to watch, to think, to read, and to teach. She found “her people” ten years ago, she says, at a KAEE conference, and at that conference, “her people” gained an EE leader, an EE champion, and an EE all-star.
ANNA WIKER, M.K. DICKERSON AWARD
Anna Wiker, Park Naturalist for the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, has worked for Lexington Parks and Recreation since 2013, and prior to that was an environmental educator for a 4-H camp through the KY Cooperative Extension service. At Raven Run, Anna’s role is to oversee all aspects of programming; lead environmental and cultural history programs; develop educational displays; provide customer service for park visitors; manage and restore habitat (including invasive/exotic species removal), and more. "In all her duties, she goes above-and-beyond and is well-known among park users as a friendly and knowledgeable resource who can speak on diverse environmental topics with ease and confidence," says Raven Run Recreation Manager Jennifer Hubbard-Sánchez.
MADELINE HEREDIA, RISING STAR AWARD
Maddy Heredia, the first full-time environmental educator in the forty-year history of Kentucky Nature Preserves, in her first year initiated new partnerships with natural areas throughout the state for field trips, oversaw new citizen science projects, expanded the organization's social media presence, developed interpretive signage, and developed KNP's Kentucky Nature Summit, the largest multi-agency EE event in the agency’s history. "Maddy does all this with a smile and positive attitude," says Zeb Weese, Kentucky Nature Preserves' Executive Director, "and is an incredible ambassador for Kentucky's biodiversity and natural areas.”
RICHARDSVILLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, OUTSTANDING PREK-12 SCHOOL
Richardsville Elementary School in Warren County, Kentucky, enables students to learn about energy on a daily basis through features including a "geothermal hallway," a "solar hallway," a "water conservation hallway," an interactive mural explaining how water is used throughout the county, and a "recycling hallway." "At Richardsville Elementary, the administration and the teachers see the school as a building that teaches, and focuses on, sustainability," says retired Western Kentucky University professor Terry Wilson.
WEST KENTUCKY COMMUNITY AND TECHNICAL COLLEGE, OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY PARTNER
West Kentucky Community and Technical College is demonstrably committed to environmental education and revised its mission statement to include sustainability and environmental education. The college hosts a Kentucky Environmental Education Council Environmental Education Leadership Corps AmeriCorps member; recently developed with Murray State University an Earth and Environmental Sciences Sustainability and Environmental Science Pathways for WKCTC students interested in environmental sciences wanting to transfer to MSU; features biology courses and required First Year Experience course (FYE) modules that include environmental learning outcomes; is working to obtain Arbor Foundation Tree Campus, USA designation, which requires tree education and service learning; offers professional development opportunities like climate literacy workshops and a Greening the Campus and Health walking and idea generation session; and so much more.
SERVICE ONE CREDIT UNION, OUTSTANDING BUSINESS
The headquarters of the Service One Credit Union in Bowling Green is highly energy efficient; a few of the most innovative features of the Campbell Lane Branch include a living “Green Roof System” for added roof insulation, a Bioretention Basin that controls stormwater runoff, reclaimed wood timbers from a historic mill which eliminated the need for a sprinkler system, and the first commercially-installed Nanogel-insulated windows.
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.