Headwaters is a nonprofit organization working to improve water quality and increase environmental literacy in Letcher County. Our mission is to engage and educate members of our community on local water quality issues and concerns. With local, state, and federal partners, we are introducing best management practices to abate NPS (nonpoint source pollution), such as riparian buffers, rain gardens, and septic workshops. Headwaters, Inc. encourages stewardship of local waterways by helping recruit community scientists for Watershed Watch in Kentucky stream water sampling.
1). What organization are you with and what is your current role there?
My name is Elizabeth Jones and I am the Watershed Coordinator for Headwaters Inc., a local nonprofit organization in (southeastern Appalachian) Letcher County Kentucky that focuses on educating our community on water quality issues and concerns.
2). What projects or programs are you working on that particularly inspire you?
Through funding received from the 319 (h) Clean Water Act, Headwaters worked with partners such as Watershed Watch, KDOW, EKU, UK and many others to complete a watershed plan to address nonpoint source pollution in 3 specific tributaries of our North Fork: Kentucky River which flows through Whitesburg Kentucky. Through research, sample collection, community feedback and other resources, an outline was developed to help guide solutions and best management practices for the water quality issues that are identified in that plan.
The written plan was completed earlier this year and we are now working with one of our local elementary schools, West Whitesburg Elementary School, where we are almost ready to start a Riparian Buffer demonstration project that will be directly behind the school on the bank of the North Fork: Kentucky River and a Rain Barrel demonstration project that will apply guttering to an existing outside classroom space to educate on how gutters guide stormwater.
3). What goals do you have for your organization or programs within the EE field?
I am working with EKU and their Natural Areas program directors to include Lilley Cornett Woods into our educational plan this year with WWE. We are also working with our local 4-H chapter and will include our Project Wet and other environmental education training in our activity development. My main goal as Watershed Coordinator for our organization is to focus on increasing environmental literacy in this area.
4). What is an area you feel you could use support in from this network of fellow educators?
I could use support in learning how to introduce environmental education to adults, not just children.
5). What is something you feel could be beneficial to share with this network?
One of my personal observations is that many people appear to be intimidated by the use of language that is not familiar to them and when we lose their interest, we may not get another chance. So, I believe that a compromise is needed. We need to work on increasing basic EE vocabulary and focus on including that terminology in our lesson plans, but also as a professional, I need to also consider my audience and even adults can be overwhelmed with a bunch of language that they do not understand. As an example, most people do not know what a Riparian Buffer is and I have noticed that even when speaking with a state representative, they can be turned off very quickly if I am using words that are not familiar.
6). Share one fun fact or random tidbit about you would you like to share with the group!
One random tidbit about myself is that I like to sing gospel music. I have belonged to a church and been a part of their Praise Team for 10 years where we sing songs out of the red backed Hymnal and that experience allowed me to develop amazing relationships in my community and in that church. It also gave me the courage and strength to go back to school which led to a great boost in self-confidence and self-worth. I now have a Masters Degree and a job that I love, that is greatly rewarding. It all changed my life.
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.