KAEE Member Feature: Terry Wilson


This month we are so pleased to feature a seasoned member and co-founder of KAEE, Terry Wilson. Terry is a dedicated supporter and advocate for environmental learning in the commonwealth and beyond. We were lucky to chat with him recently to learn a little more about his past and present involvement in the field of EE.


KAEE: What is your current and/or past role in the field of EE?


Terry:I was one of the co-founders of KAEE back in 1975, and I have been a member for 47 years. I have served on the board of directors and am a past president. Since my retirement I am now a professor emeritus in environmental education at Western Kentucky University. In the past several years I have been working with the KAEE Board on the creation and growth of the KAEE Legacy Fund.


I also have been a member of the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) since 1975. I served two terms on NAAEE’s Board of Directors and was the NAAEE President in 2004. I was the 2006 recipient of NAAEE’s Walter Jeske Award, the highest honor given in the field of EE. My career as an active environmental educator began in 1970 and spanned 47 years. I retired from WKU in 2017 as Director and Professor in the Center for Environmental Education and Sustainability. I am still engaged in EE through consulting, writing, and providing training for a variety of organizations and agencies.


KAEE: What projects or programs are you working on that particularly inspire you?


Terry: The KAEE Legacy Fund initiative shows great progress in providing an outlet for extending KAEE’s vision into the future. To me, it's a way for people to give back to KAEE, by establishing mechanisms that can highlight the accomplishments of KAEE’s members, while aiding new and prospective members.


I also applaud the partnership between KAEE and the Kentucky Environmental Education Council (KEEC), which has resulted in numerous joint initiatives, such as the administration of the Professional Environmental Education Certification (PEEC) program.


KAEE: What goals do you have for your organization or programs within the EE field?


Terry: As a “long-timer” in the field of EE, I have seen our profession grow from focusing on nature study, to conservation education, outdoor education, and educating about environmental challenges.

We have grown into a wonderful process that emphasizes educating “in, about, and for the environment.” As the field continues to evolve, we must become more inclusive, embracing the involvement of more groups and individuals who may not felt included in our earlier efforts. We must continue to connect our work to the challenges of educating for a sustainable future. At the same time, we must not forget the need to help people feel more connected to the natural world around them and appreciate those inseparable interconnections.

KAEE: What is an area you feel you could use support in from this network of fellow educators? Terry: As we grow as a field, we must remember to become increasingly inclusive. Everyone can benefit in understanding our environment, including both natural and cultural systems. We may not always agree on how to protect and manage those systems, so we must constantly reach out to build more bridges to include various perspectives on issues. At the same time, I would urge us to remember that our goals include increasing environmental awareness and appreciation, building a strong knowledge base, assessing and clarifying attitudes and values, developing problem solving and decision-making skills, and working for responsible action. In other words, build new bridges, while strengthening, but not burning, the old ones. KAEE: What is something you feel could be beneficial to share with this network? Terry: Remember that KAEE was the first state or provincial association to become an affiliate of NAAEE.

As a rural state with a small population, KAEE has continued to maintain many leadership roles in NAAEE and the field of EE, both nationally and internationally.

Let’s be proud of those accomplishments and continue to be one of the leading EE associations in North America.


KAEE: Share a fun fact or random tidbit about yourself with the group!

Terry: My first job in EE was to direct an outdoor education program for the school district in Ohio where I first taught. That job started on April 1, 1970, which was three weeks before the very first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. Can you say, “older than dirt?”