This year, KAEE’s Excellence in Environmental Education Award for Outstanding Businesses was given to the Campbell Lane branch of Service One Credit Union (SOCU), located in Bowling Green, Kentucky. There, sustainability is built into the entire infrastructure. Their building features sustainable materials, all the way from a total green roof system to eco-friendly paint, floors, and even furniture.
SOCU’s sustainability journey as a business began in the 1990’s, when former CEO and president Valerie Brown (who retired in 2012) first started creating her vision.
Brown believes one of the most important things a CEO can do is read continuously while keeping up with ongoing trends, ideally to see how your business will fit into the future. This strong focus on the future enabled Brown to think ahead, completing her sustainable vision for SOCU more than ten years ago, when sustainable business thinking was not yet mainstream.
One of only 100 buildings in the United States during this time to represent a sustainable business model, SOCU’s feature that has always stood out most is their famous grass roof. The grass on the roof of the building is part of the business’s green roof system, which reduces stormwater runoff and provides a heat-island effect to the area, while also assisting in building insulation and air quality.
The business also has a bio-retention basin and green pavers in their parking area, both which assist in reducing and flushing stormwater runoff while supplying clean water to a nearby aquifer. Additionally, SOCU increases their insulation through the use of Nanogel-insulated windows, insulated concrete walls, and earth berms. Because the building also features geothermal heating and air conditioning systems, SOCU keeps their environmental footprint low (along with their billing statements).
Brown’s sustainability vision for SOCU did not stop here, though. Another feature of the building’s infrastructure includes the use of reclaimed wood timbers from the former Poole Milling Company in Webster County, Kentucky. Since these local wood timbers are so aged and strong, they provide a sustainable structure for the building while also eliminating the need for a sprinkler system. Some other sustainable features include recycled drywall, non-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint, recycled floor coverings, and furniture purchased from only green companies. Additionally, the building’s design allows for optimal natural light entry with the correct placement of windows, as well as a stairwell lit by a skylight. Because they also utilize highly energy efficient lights, SOCU once again cuts down their environmental footprint and bill statement with these innovations.
From the floor to the roof, SOCU represents a sustainable vision well ahead of its time.
Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance Awarded $100,000 Grant to Expand Don’t Waste It! Curriculum
Don't Waste It! is a new educator guide to waste management. The guide includes 11 lessons covering five themes: municipal solid waste, recycling, plastics, composting, and landfills. Designed for both formal and non-formal educators with lessons for pre-K to 12th graders, the curriculum in Don't Waste It! can easily be adapted for adult audiences. Each lesson includes a group activity, independent practice, extensions, and additional activities.
Developed by North Carolina’s Chatham County Solid Waste and Recycling, Don’t Waste It! is going to be expanding through the southeast with the help of a $100,000 environmental education grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Over the next two years, SEEA (of which KAEE is a part) will be creating new state-specific versions of the guide for Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. After this, we will launch in-person and virtual training opportunities for educators in these states to learn the curriculum.
"The Don’t Waste It! project will to help current and future educators across the southeast understand the systems for solid waste, recycling, and composting in their state," says Don’t Waste It! Project Coordinator Lauren Pyle. "We're excited to provide educators across our region with resources and lessons to share this knowledge with students, in order to inspire their local communities to get involved with composting, recycling, and other waste reduction activities."
While KAEE is the fiscal agent for this project, it is being led by Lauren Pyle of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina and Shannon Culpepper of Chatham County Solid Waste and Recycling.
Have you ever wondered how environmental education made its way into our classrooms?
Understanding the history behind such an important aspect of our education system is essential for any educator in the environmental world. Perhaps the two most important historical contexts to focus on are the Tbilisi Declaration and the Belgrade Charter. While the Belgrade Charter was created first in 1972, the Tbilisi Declaration was adopted in 1977 as the official guidelines concerning environmental education worldwide. Both historical pieces represent the beginning of EE as we now know it.
The Belgrade Charter was a global framework proposed at the 1972 United Nations Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden. The goal statement under the charter evolved to be the most widely accepted among professionals in the field. The statement heavily encourages environmental education to be a lifelong journey focused on responding to a changing world. It suggests environmental education should provide “the provision of skills and attributes needed to play a productive role towards improving life and protecting the environment with due regard given to ethical values.” Because the charter also places heavy emphasis on solving current problems as well as future ones, it remains the first declaration that couples ethical values with proper education to protect the environment.
The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) were the next to state the purpose of EE. In October 1977, the world’s first intergovernmental conference took place in Tbilisi, Georgia. Together, the two organizations developed the roles, objectives, characteristics, goals, and guiding principles of environmental education that are included in the Tbilisi Declaration. Like the Belgrade Charter, the Tbilisi Declaration also considers the environment in its totality, as well as its interdependence on the physical world.
Most importantly, the objectives listed under the declaration—awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills, and participation—cover the necessities to produce generations of environmental stewards. These objectives, coupled with the declaration’s focus on creating sustainably built environments, laid the foundation for effective environmental education that is still utilized today.
As environmental educators, we can look to these roots of EE and do our best to uphold their messages in our own classrooms.
More information on the Belgrade Charter and the Tbilisi Declaration can be found at gdrc.org/uem/ee/belgrade.html and gdrc.org/uem/ee/tbilisi.html.
Guest column by Rae McEntyre, Kentucky Department of Education science consultant and KAEE board member
Educators, both formal and nonformal, interact with people who may have had vastly different experiences from their own. Experiences influence how we think, what we understand, and how we interact with one another. As learners, we draw upon our experiences as we make sense of the world. As educators, we should focus on recognizing others’ experiences and finding ways to use them to reach all students.
Whether you are working in a K-12 classroom or with adults, valuing the insights, perspectives, and experiences that students bring to your lesson will make it more relevant, meaningful, and lasting. How can you do this? Something as simple as asking for elaboration to a response provides you with insight into the student’s thinking. This not only shows the student that you have an interest in them, but also stops you from immediately discounting a response that may have not been what you were looking for.
This is especially important when working with those from historically underserved communities. Humans are cultural beings—we all have culture. We have different experiences which are influenced by our home, family life, and our community. The way we speak, how we interact with others, what we value, and even our belief systems make up our individual culture.
Get to know and understand the community with which you’re working. Are you new to the community? Ask about community history from colleagues or community leaders. This history, especially long-standing history, can provide you with invaluable insights into the community’s perspective on issues. What are their priorities? What brings them together? What values and beliefs do they share?
Remember that no one is the same, even people of the same race, gender identity, socioeconomic group, sexual orientation, or any other metric. The more you can learn about the experiences and values that your students bring with them to the lesson, the better you can help them make sense of the world.
Want more on how you can build social justice and equity into your classroom? Check out the many resources on KAEE’s equity and inclusion webpages. Like our work in advancing environmental knowledge around the state, this is work that is ever-changing and growing. Please let us know if you have suggested readings, videos, podcasts, and more to add to our collection of resources.
This fall, KAEE welcomed the following EE enthusiasts to our Board of Directors:
Dr. Meg Gravil teaches Interdisciplinary Early Childhood (IECE) courses and conducts research in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville. Meg joined U of L faculty in 2019 after completing her PhD in IECE at the University of Kentucky, where she received the Nietzel Distinguished Faculty Award for her dissertation. She has more than 15 years’ experience in early childhood research and evaluation. She served as the Research Manager for the state-wide KIDS Now Evaluation and as Assistant Director of the UK Evaluation Center, housed in the Department of Education Policy and Evaluation. She was also a Graduate Assistant on an IES Goal 5 grant, creating and piloting alternative assessments for students with disabilities in math. Her current research includes collaborative work with staff at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest as the organization designs and constructs their new outdoor playcosystem. As a Kentucky Certified Professional Environmental Educator, Meg is excited to share her enthusiasm for nature-based learning with young children and future teacher educators. Her research interests include using environmental education as part of an integrated curriculum, science education in early childhood classrooms, and nature-based learning.
Maddy, the recipient of KAEE's 2020 Rising Star Award for Excellence in Environmental Education, is the first full-time environmental educator in the 40-year history of Kentucky Nature Preserves. In her first year, she initiated new partnerships with natural areas throughout the state for field trips, oversaw new citizen science projects, expanded social media presence, developed interpretive signage, and developed KNP's Kentucky Nature Summit, the largest multi-agency EE event in the agencies history. She is currently Information and Education (I&E) committee chair for the Kentucky Prescribed Fire Council (KPFC).
Dan Pascucci is the Family and Youth Program Manager at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky, where he energetically leads school groups and families through experiences that connect them with nature. He is a passionate, award-winning educator who has been involved in EE from New England to Alaska to California to Kentucky. Dan believes that environmental education is an essential element to connect people with themselves and to help people recognize their connections with each other and the planet. Dan enjoys composing and performing educational songs on his mandolin and might teach you a couple of songs if you ask. He is dedicated to making people laugh and think.
Henrietta was a KAEE Board member from 2012-2019 and served as KAEE treasurer from 2013-2019. She also served as the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society treasurer from June 2018-June 2020. Other associations she has been part of in membership or leadership roles include serving as president of the Quicksand Area Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association (October 2013-October 2019); acting president Quicksand Area Ky. Extension Homemakers Association (October 2019-present); secretary of Breathitt Co. KY-ASAP (2011-present); secretary/treasurer for Breathitt UNITE Coalition, Inc. (2011-present); treasurer for Breathitt Co. Extension Homemakers Association (May 2018 - present); secretary/clerk/substitute Sunday School teacher/Kids Klub co-teacher Emmanuel Fellowship of Breathitt County (2002 - present); registrar for NSDAR Hazard chapter (May 2013- present); Regent for NSDAR Hazard chapter (May 2019-present); president of Breathitt County Extension Council (May 2020-present); and treasurer of the Red River Academic League (2000- present).
Richardsville Elementary School in Warren County, Kentucky, has been named KAEE's Outstanding PreK-12 School for Excellence in Environmental Education! The school 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."
With exposed piping, Richardsville Elementary's "geothermal hallway" features a temperature gauge so students can monitor the system's performance. A laptop battery-charging station in the "solar hallway" shows students how energy is received from the school's solar panels. In the "water conservation hallway," students can monitor the amount of collected rainwater, which is used in the school's rain garden. Provided by the Warren County Water District, an interactive mural demonstrates how water is used in Warren County. And the "recycling hallway" allows students to monitor the quantities of materials collected and study how this contributes to the school's global impact.
Richardsville Elementary, a net-zero school, has 2,000 solar panels on the roof and 700 on the parking structure, as well as an electricity grid. It's geothermal (HVAC) heating and cooling system allows for environmentally responsible efficiency. Walls of concrete (ICF)-pre-assembled blocks-steel reinforced, then filled with concrete-make the walls stronger, far more protected from fire, and provide more sound insulation.
To keep the air quality high, the school's ventilation system includes a CO2 monitoring system. The position of the building also helps the school's efficiency; positioning it north-south allows for effective day lighting, so artificial lighting is turned off during 70% of school hours. Computers are wireless laptops and use a fraction of the energy used to run a typical desktop computer.
"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.
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.