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KAEE Member Feature: Ken Cooke

The Friends of Wolf Run is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the belief that with the right information and by working together, neighbors can make a difference in the quality of the Wolf Creek Watershed. And, in the process, they make the property more valuable and the community a more pleasant place to live. We recently had a chance to catch up with one of the organization’s leaders, Ken Cooke.

KAEE: What is your current role at Friends of Wolf Run?

Ken: I do paperwork no one else wants to do to keep the organization solvent.

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

Ken: When we asked the biologists at the Kentucky Division of Water what was the most important thing we could do to restore biological, chemical, and hydrologic function to our waterway, they responded, "Improve your riparian vegetative buffers." We've been working on implementing that for 15 years now, planting native trees, shrubs, and flowering perennials along the waterway, along with controlling invasives and fighting efforts to destroy stream buffers where they exist.

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

Ken: We rely on professionals from other organizations, such as Bluegrass Greensource and LFUCG Watershed Education Programs (Live Green Lexington), to carry out general environmental education and water quality sciences in schools in our watershed. Our group focuses on specific adult training and technical support in waterway stewardship and land management. We tend to resist the urge to visit schools and lead classroom lessons ourselves withut the training, materials, and expertise to do so, which can result in negative outcomes if you aren't fully versed in dealing with these special audiences and their needs. We leave that work to the professionals, serving in a support role only if invited by one of these professionals to participate in a program.

KAEE: What is an area you feel you could use support in from this network of fellow educators?

Ken: First, to be the frontline educators with basic scientific education and environmental literacy on a mass scale, but be sure your programs are properly developed, evaluated, and tested before consuming resources to implement them.

Second, we depend on the Environmental Education Council and university-based Environmental Education Centers of Excellence to develop, test, and support programs so we don't need to reinvent the wheel.

KAEE: What is something you feel could be beneficial to share with this network?

Ken: Specific locations suitable for classroom/educational outings and serving in a support role for professionally trained environmental educators with proven track records of positive educational outcomes.

KAEE: Share one fun fact or random tidbit about you would you like to share with the group!

Ken: The first stream walk I led with a school group was when I was in the third grade at Mary Hogsett Elementary School in Danville, Kentucky. We caught crayfish and tadpoles in the creek and took them back to the classroom. The creek dried up and went away when the Genesco (Red Wing) shoe factory upstream of the school got connected to Sanitary Sewers later in the 1960's.

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