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Highlights from the 2021 Outdoor Learning Symposium

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.

“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

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.

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.

“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

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 to learn how you can still take part and gain access to the recordings.


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