Key Takeaways from the First Half of our Listening Tour




We’re a little more than halfway through our listening tour, and we’re feeling energized, hopeful, and excited about the ideas and strategies we’ve gotten from our community. Here, we’ll share some big-picture ideas from the first four sessions.


SESSION 1: SUPPORTING NONFORMAL ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATORS AND ORGANIZATIONS

This meeting was designed for environmental education providers to share how KAEE can better serve them and to talk about ways to create a stronger, more inclusive field. Attendees included individual environmental educators and staff members from organizations providing environmental education or similar work outside of the classroom such as nature centers, parks, centers for EE, STEM, food literacy, Extension, and more. The big ideas that came up during the discussion centered around ​ Recruitment and retention in the field of EE Areas to address included:

  • Wages and benefits are not comparable to other fields.

  • Lack of recognition of Environmental Educator as a professional job.

  • Need for competitive mentorship/internships programs and networking opportunities to attract professionals to the field.

  • Lack of resources and support to increase employee recruitment and retention.

Equity, Diversity, Accessibility in the field of EE Areas to address included:

  • Need for increased access to the outdoors and EE in urban areas.

  • Lack of accessibility to EE and the outdoors to people with disabilities.

  • Need for increased diversity in EE jobs.

  • Environmental education is often happening in silos.

​Relevancy of the field of Environmental Education Areas to address included:

  • Lack of understanding of how EE can help citizens make impactful decisions.

  • Lack of appeal to different audiences and groups.

  • No concrete definition of exactly what EE is.

  • Need for bringing in new audiences and having a wider base.

  • Need to overcome the issue of turning people off with politicized EE terminology.

EE as a cross-curricular discipline

Areas to address included:

  • EE is seen as just science. How do we reframe / branch out?

  • Need to expand EE opportunities on school grounds.

  • Need to connect EE to climate education and sustainability.

  • Lack of bridge between formal and nonformal educators.


​If you would like to help us prioritize these areas to address as we draft our new Strategic Plan, you can complete our Session 1 survey here.


SESSION 2: REIMAGINING ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS

This meeting was designed to rethink what environmental education looks like in the classroom, from kindergarten through higher education. We were joined by classroom teachers, school administrators, higher education professionals, and nonformal educators to discuss how we can craft a stronger future for EE in schools. Some of the challenges of integrating EE into K-12 schools that came up during the discussion were:

  • Lack of intensive, long term programs and continuity (as opposed to one-and-done activities).

  • ​Lack of time due to other subjects that must be covered.

  • Lack of support for integrating science (let alone EE) into elementary school curriculum due to heavy focus on reading and math.

  • Lack of (or limited) funding for EE in schools.

  • Small group of people are doing the work; don't have school-wide support.

  • Need to show teachers how EE is connected and can be connected to so many subjects.Issues of politics about what is being taught or should be taught about the environment in schools.

  • Outdoor classrooms and school gardens don't feel like a shared responsibility. Teachers need support especially in the summer.

Some of the challenges of integrating EE into higher education that came up during the discussion were:

  • High school and college students are not prepared for green jobs and are not aware of the options they have or what the job/training requirements are.

  • Colleges and universities need to better network and connect to allow for idea sharing and transfer agreements.

  • EE is not incorporated into science and methods courses that preservice educators are required to take.

  • Need a comprehensive list of environmentally related degrees at KY colleges for students and counselors/advisors to reference. ​​


​​If you would like to help us prioritize these areas to address as we draft our new Strategic Plan, you can complete our Session 2 survey here.


SESSION 3: THE INTERSECTION OF CONSERVATION, SUSTAINABILITY, AND ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION This meeting was designed for individuals and organizations working in conservation, sustainability, or environmental education, who came together to discuss how we can work better together to achieve our overlapping educational priorities across sectors and industries. The big ideas that came up during the discussion centered around Making Lasting Connections: Conservation, Sustainability, and EE Areas to address included:​

  • Need for regularly scheduled meetings to network, connect, and build collaborations between practitioners in the fields of conservation, sustainability, and EE.

  • ​Need to empower audiences with the necessary and appropriate vocabulary to discuss environmental issues and better understand the respective roles of conservation, EE, and sustainability.​

  • ​Oftentimes, the environmental programs set in place are severely underfunded​ or are difficult to prioritize when basic needs aren't even being met​. ​

  • People have stopped seeing themselves as part of the ecosystem. We need to bridge the gap between humans and habitat.

  • ​Conservation, Sustainability, and Agriculture become segmented into different fields, even though they overlap.

  • Many professionals are doing EE but do not self-identify as environmental educators. Need for collaboration and communication between sectors.


Increasing Access to the Field of EE / Green Jobs Areas to address included:

  • Need to intersect education and industry to tie real world and textbook together through work-based learning, virtual learning, ​field trips or other experiential programming​.​

  • ​Need for more internships to facilitate connections to the field and make the workforce more equitable.

  • ​Need to connect with industry and corporate partners at the local level.

  • ​Students lack the awareness of green career options. There is a need for career pathways for students who aren't going to college and job trainings for green jobs.


​​If you would like to help us prioritize these areas to address as we draft our new Strategic Plan, you can complete our Session 3 survey here.


SESSION 4: ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION'S ROLE IN HEALTH, WELLNESS, AND COMMUNITY

There are numerous documented health and wellness benefits to being outdoors and being part of a strong community. This meeting was designed to explore how we can build stronger connections between environmental education, health, wellness, and community.

Some of the challenges that need to be addressed in this area that were discussed during this session included

  • Need for stronger collaborations between EE and health/wellness​, built environment, and private companies.​

  • There is a l​ack of access to accessible and safe outdoor space​.​

  • ​Children (and adults) are spending less than 1% of their time outdoors. Need to help make outdoor space safe and inviting / encouraging more people to get outside.

  • Lack of resources and support to increase employee recruitment and retention.

  • ​EE is not seen as overlapping with things like art and mindfulness to promote mental health benefits of time in nature.

  • ​​Need to revolutionize the way we teach in a way that allows kids to be kids - active, moving, out of seats, outdoors, and integrates EE and the environment across all disciplines.


If you would like to help us prioritize these areas to address as we draft our new Strategic Plan, you can complete our Session 4 survey here.


JOIN US FOR SESSIONS 5 AND 6

We’re handing you the mic to share with us your ideas about how we can best support environmental educators in and outside of Kentucky's classrooms. Your feedback and ideas will help shape our new Strategic Plan. Come share your voice as we begin this important work. To thank you for joining us, for each session you attend you'll be entered into a drawing for a free KAEE membership or one of two $50 KAEE gift cards (which can be used for eeCredentials, webinar attendance, membership, or conference registration). In addition, all attendees will be entered into a second drawing (held after the final session of our listening tour) for a free conference registration to this year’s 46th Annual KAEE Conference. Learn more and RSVP here.