KAEE was delighted to welcome two new members to our board of directors this past September at annual conference, KAEE2021. Both Erin Sliney (central Kentcuky) and John Pollpeter (western Kentucky) are non-formal environmental educators who bring a great deal of experience and passion to the field. Please enjoy getting to know these two EE professionals a bit better in the following feature. Our first interview was with Erin Sliney. KAEE: What is your current role in the field of Environmental Education? Erin: I currently have my hands in several projects! I manage Welcome Hall, an agritourism operation on my family's farm in Bourbon County, Kentucky. I volunteer as the facilitator of Winchester Inspired by Nature, Clark County's regional environmental education network, and as a co-leader for the Clark County 4-H Environmental Club. I also serve as an environmental education and sustainability consultant and was recently contacted by the Kentucky Environmental Education Council to produce a guidebook designed to help potential implementers plan, form, sustain, and expand regional EE networks. KAEE: What projects or programs are you working on that particularly inspire you? Erin: I am very inspired by Clark County's 4-H Environmental Club. This newly-formed club consisting of middle and high-school students will meet at least once a month to engage in learning and service activities to help deepen their understanding and stewardship of the earth. I specifically love the focus on hands-on community projects. In addition to truly helping advance community resilience and sustainability, these community projects help to build camaraderie and hope and can inspire and empower students to work together to make positive change. Recently, I have also been particularly inspired to lead nature journaling programs. I believe it's an invaluable practice to help us hone our observation skills and assists us in learning more from nature itself. Leading nature journaling classes also provides me with extra incentive to get out and do it myself! KAEE: What goals do you have for your organization or programs within the EE field? Erin: I would like Winchester Inspired by Nature to be recognized as the central hub for news and information related to EE in Clark County and beyond. I would like to have a solid contact with each school in the county and a substantial social media following to ensure wider sharing of and participation in local EE programs. I would like the 4-H Environmental Club to build into a bustling and robust group of students excited to participate in service learning activities. I would like Welcome Hall to host direct farm experience workshops and programs, integrate sustainability and environmental education into every reasonable aspect of facility operation, and produce at least half of the annual food consumption. KAEE: What is an area you feel you could use support in from this network of fellow educators? Erin: I wonder if KAEE could serve as the overarching coordinating body for regional EE networks in Kentucky and potentially serve as the fiscal agent for these networks. This would enable the networks to obtain grant funding without having to form a 501c3 or overly burden a partner nonprofit organization. I also see opportunities for KAEE to provide training, networking, or possibly even financial support to these budding networks.
KAEE: What is something you feel could be beneficial to share with this network? Erin: The Seven Fires Prophecy. The Seven Fires Prophecy is an Anishinaabe prophecy that marks phases, or epochs, in the life of the people on Turtle Island (North America). The seven fires of the prophecy represent key spiritual teachings, and suggest that the different colors and traditions of human beings can come together on a basis of respect. KAEE: Share one fun fact (or tidbit) about yourself with the group. Erin: I am a singer songwriter and released my debut album, Truckee to Kentucky, in Feb 2020. It consists of 12 original songs all recorded in my hometown of Paris, Kentucky.
Next we had a chat with new board member, John Pollpeter. KAEE: What is your current role in the field of Environmental Education? John: I am currently the Lead Naturalist for the Friends of Land Between the Lakes at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. I manage the Woodlands Nature Station and the Woodlands Nature watch area and have done so for the last 24 years. KAEE: What projects or programs are you working on that particularly inspire you? John: One of the things I find very rewarding is working on landscaping for wildlife, In particular the use of native gardening in attracting pollinators, songbirds, and other wildlife to suburban backyards. I also find it rewarding being part of the endangered Red Wolf breeding program as we have the only captive breeding pair in the state of Kentucky. Lastly, I've put a lot of focus on the need for creative play and imagination and teaching children. KAEE: What goals do you have for your organization or programs within the EE field? John: Currently, much of the focus for the Woodlands Nature Station has been in how to reach more and larger, diverse audiences, and how to make our programs more sustainable and encourage cost recovery. I would also like to see a larger tie-in to larger issues brought more locally - ie. climate change and what we can do personally.
KAEE: What is an area you feel you could use support in from this network of fellow educators? John: I think I can gain a lot of support through this network of environmental educators by gaining knowledge and experience in finding financial resources to support projects through grant writing and other EE resources that can enhance our programming and sustainability. KAEE: What is something you feel could be beneficial to share with this network? John: I think that I can offer perspective to KAEE and the board by representing far Western Kentucky and its needs and resources. My years of experience in conservation education can offer a different perspective or can add different experiences to the group as a whole. Also, as a disabled person, a person with a vision disability, I may be able to add a voice to a group of individuals that may have not had a voice before. KAEE: Share one fun fact (or tidbit) about yourself with the group! John: Though sometimes I may appear quiet and serious, the number one lesson I’ve learned in my EE career (and the best advice I've ever received) is that in order to really engage an audience it helps to be a little goofy and silly sometimes. It is something I hold true today when I do animal characters, puppet shows, or singing at a campfire!