At this year’s annual conference we will be celebrating 44 years of excellence in environmental education. While environmental education may look a little different in 2020, our role as educators is more vital than ever. This year’s conference attendees will enjoy recorded sessions that can be watched anytime; opportunities to incorporate creative technology into sessions; reduced registration costs; virtual meetups for special interest groups; regional outdoor activities tied to conference themes; a virtual happy hour; and more.
This year's theme is "Community Engagement: Building Sustainable Communities through the Power of Environmental Education." Session topics include everything from "FUNdamentals" of EE to social justice and equity in EE to "cooking wild." There is something (way more than just one something) for everyone!
The keynote address, by Greenlining's Leslie Aguayo, will focus on the intersection of racial equity and environmental issues (and why these are inseparable). Other highlights include a North American Association for Environmental Education Community Engagement Guidelines for Excellence training and a plenary session led by Cagney Coomer.
Check out all the details on the conference webpage!
One of the five primary goals of the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education’s Strategic Plan, adopted in July of 2019, is “Cultivating Collective Impact,” bringing people together to create a stronger and more inclusive movement. For KAEE, this means not only building stronger relationships and partnerships with organizations representing audiences and sectors not currently engaged with KAEE and striving continually to reach the communities that represent underserved audiences in Kentucky but also to transform KAEE into a more diverse and inclusive organization with increased cultural competency levels for the board, staff, and members, as well as more inclusive policies and practices.
To assist us in meeting those desired outcomes, KAEE has received a Center for Diversity & the Environment grant to host a robust, weeklong Build the Foundation workshop for our board of directors, allowing them to immerse themselves in issues and best practices in equity, inclusion, and diversity.
Formed from the belief that everyone has a place in the environmental movement, the Center for Diversity & the Environment works to “build bridges between communities of color and the environmental community, fostering a fundamental revolution of the environmental movement–into an equitable, inclusive, and diverse coalition of people at work on a wide array of environmental issues.”
The Build the Foundation workshop will be an important step in KAEE’s plan to reevaluate our internal culture and policies and weave equity and inclusion throughout our strategic plan.
“We want to create an environment where all Kentuckians feel welcome and encouraged to engage in the work of environmental education,” says Ashley Hoffman, KAEE Executive Director. “Our role as a backbone organization is to support the ‘boots on the ground’ who are actively doing environmental education each day, and we hope to reach organizations who do not know about our work so we can support them in theirs.”
Hoffman says that “we hope, and plan, to not simply invite all communities and organizations to ‘our table’ but to go to theirs, to find innovative and useful ways to get to know them and to help them reach their own goals.”
This story is part of our KAEE Strategic Plan Series.
By Leigh Cocanougher
Kentucky Association for Environmental Education board of directors member Rae McEntyre has been appointed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Education Advisory Council! During her one-year appointment, McEntyre will serve as a special government employee and will provide independent advice based on her expertise in planning, developing, and implementing science-based education programs.
The National Environmental Education Advisory Council provides advice and counsel on the implementation of the National Environmental Education Act of 1990. It is organized under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which regulates and governs its operation, including public participation and access to documents.
McEntyre, Kentucky Department of Education science consultant, is a Certified Professional Environmental Educator and serves on several KAEE board of directors sub-committees. She has more than 30 years of experience as a science educator, which includes 20 years in the classroom. We are thrilled that she will now be able to share her outstanding EE expertise on a national level as well!
“Zoom into Environmental Education" with Drew Lanham and the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance
"Connecting the conservation dots” is Drew Lanham’s research mission, something that in the past “focused on the impacts of forest management and other human activities on songbirds, herpetofauna, small mammals, and butterflies,” he shares, and now centers more on “how ethnicity (especially Black Americans) relates to wildlife and other conservation issues.”
Dr. Lanham, internationally renowned and respected professor, author, poet, birder, and hunter, will deliver the keynote address of this fall’s exciting Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance virtual conference, hosted by the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina and held Sept. 24 and 25. Mark your calendars and get ready to “Zoom into Environmental Education!”
For just $25, conference attendees will enjoy a Research Symposium featuring the work of scholars from across the southeast and a selection of General Conference Sessions on topics ranging from "Public Reception of Climate News Media" to "Improving Evaluation in EE." The event will also include virtual trivia hosted by Allie Sorlie of the University of Alabama's Museum of Natural History.
Conference sessions will be recorded and will be available for conference registrants to view after the event.
Conference Sponsors include Duke Energy, Moore Farms Botanical Gardens, SC Association of Conservation Districts, SC Department of Natural Resources, Sonoco Recycling, Columbia Fireflies, Columbia Water, Florence County Museum, The Greenhouse Company, Roper Mountain Science Center, Dominion Energy, Lake Conestee Nature Park, SC State Museum, Champions of the Environment, Joye Law Firm, Prioleau Insurance Services, SC Farm to School, and the SC Energy Office.
Learn more and register here.
By Leigh Cocanougher
At the July 10 meeting of the KAEE Board of Directors, the board passed two motions to update the membership model and benefits for KAEE members. And we couldn’t be more excited about them!
The new model simplifies our previous model and reduces the number of organizational member levels. It also adds new benefits, including more significant discounts, to individuals and organizational members.
Under the new model, individual membership is still available on the student level (with dues being $25 annually) and general level (with dues of $50 annually). New benefits to the individual general level include a 20% discount on KAEE conference registration, significant discounts for participation in our eeCredentials or individual courses, and (when we are able to host them safely!) an increased number of all-member and regional member meet-ups.
For organizations wishing to become members, two levels are now available. One level, with dues of $250 annually, offers one free conference registration and up to two members listed in the member directory and who are able to receive discounts on conference, eeCredentials and other member offerings. A $500 organizational membership level is also available, which offers two free conference registrations and an unlimited number of members listed in the directory and able to receive member discounts for conference, eeCredentials, and other offerings.
Several membership benefits will stay the same under the new model, including national and state recognition, exclusive networking opportunities, voting rights within KAEE, merchandise discounts, publicity through stories written and shared by KAEE, and coaching and consulting services.
And, of course, membership in KAEE connects you with fellow environmental education practitioners and enthusiasts from all over the state, giving you the chance to learn from, support, and be an integral part of the movement to advance environmental knowledge across Kentucky and beyond.
To learn more about becoming a KAEE member, visit our Member Center!
By Leigh Cocanougher
In the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape that is 2020, school administrators and educators are working unceasingly to ensure students, and the communities in which they live, stay healthy throughout the next school year. Knowing that they are already receiving guidance from numerous organizations and governing bodies--and also knowing how many benefits there could be to expanding outdoor education this fall--the North American Association for Environmental Education has just released eeGuidance for Reopening Schools, a new publication that offers support for schools and districts as they find ways to safely and equitably reopen for students this fall.
The guide includes strategies for adhering to physical distancing guidelines (such as using school grounds for outdoor classroom spaces) as well as advice for how school districts can engage community environmental and outdoor education programs as alternative resources for learning. It also shares ways administrators and teachers can tap into the expertise of environmental educators to support teaching and learning, whether in the classroom or at home.
To shape the guide’s recommendations, NAAEE Affiliate organizations (like KAEE) conducted more than 65 community feedback calls with hundreds of environmental and outdoors learning providers located around the country. Numerous members of the Affiliate Network contributed the guide, which offers dozens of specific recommendations for schools and districts to leverage the opportunities inherent in environmental and outdoor education programs and staff.
The guide stresses the many ways environmental and outdoor education programs can help schools reopen not only safely but equitably as well. “The outdoors is a resource for learning, engagement, and health, and it should be available to all, not just a privileged few,” the guide’s authors write. They spell out the growing inequities and increasing achievement gap caused by COVID-19 school closures and at-home learning, demonstrating why school districts should see this fall as an ideal time to embrace outdoor education.
“Experiences in nature and greater access to the outdoors is associated with reduced stress, greater mental and physical health, and well-being,” the guide says, and there “are many community resources that can help provide support. These recommendations can help school districts, teachers, and parents explore new ways of tackling these challenges and thinking about how and where students learn, and what sorts of partnerships that can best support a return to school that is not only safe, but contributes to a vastly more healthy and meaningful education.”
NAAEE’s eeGuidance for Reopening Schools is available online and delves into topics including
● Extending and Expanding Learning Spaces into the Community
● Using the School Grounds for Learning
● Supporting Teaching and Learning
● Creating Healthier Learning Environments
● Virtual Teaching and Learning
● Supporting At-Home Learning
You can access the complete eeGuidance for Reopening Schools here.
By Leigh Cocanougher
Despite the unexpected challenges that arose during their senior year at Fort Thomas Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, Colleen Epperson’s students left behind a legacy at their school through the help of a Kentucky Association for Environmental Education mini-grant, awarded to Epperson at KAEE’s most recent Outdoor Learning Symposium.
Epperson, who teaches chemistry and AP environmental science, used the mini-grant to build with her students an outdoor classroom at Highlands High. With the funds from the grant, they were able to purchase plants, bluebird boxes, and a trail camera; these materials and the class’s sweat equity allowed them to lay the foundation for an outdoor learning space that will be enjoyed for years to come.
With the onset of COVID-19 and the transition to virtual learning, the students were unable to complete all steps of the project, such as leading local elementary school students through some Project Learning Tree activities in the new outdoor space, but Epperson says she believes they are “well on our way to creating a safe and accessible space for outdoor learning.”
“There was a lot that went on over the course of the year,” she says, “although we will not be able to use the space until we are able to assemble again, hopefully in the fall. We were able to add to our existing rain garden new plants, bird feeders, milkweed, and other perennials, bluebird houses, and a clear trail through a field and forest that leads to a creek.”
The class also created a comprehensive photo journal for the Outdoor Classroom Project, which they are using to apply for Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools certification for Green Spaces.
Learn more about Highlands High and the school's commitment to EE here!
By Leigh Cocanougher
Exploring the diversity and wonder of an ecosystem through new EE credentials course: Appalachian Mountain Ecology
I recently had the opportunity to delve into one of KAEE’s newest Professional Learning Leader eeCredential elective course offerings, Appalachian Mountain Ecology. This course was designed by EKU professor emerita Dr. Melinda Wilder to provide educators with the knowledge of ecological principles within an Appalachian Mountain context. I can attest to the fact that it did just that and more! Along with providing a solid overview of ecological principles based on this particular ecosystem, it also introduced me to some really interesting regional organisms in a fresh context. The following highlights are just a small sampling of some of the topography, plants, and animals I got to know through this course and the companion text: Hollows, Peepers, & Highlanders: An Appalachian Mountain Ecology by George Constantz.
A Region with Deep History
Did you know? The early Appalachian mountains rose as the first primitive fishes appeared on Earth over 500 million years ago. Appalachia existed for 200 million years before terrestrial organisms evolved to occupy it.
Did you know? Unfortunately for the bees that pollinate lady’s slipper plants, their visit to these flowers does not prove productive for the insect itself. The bees are in search of pollen or nectar and end up finding neither. They are tricked into the trap of the flower sack and leave pollen grains from a previously visited flower and pick up pollen from the anther, but get nothing in return before exiting the flower.
Color Changing Copperheads
Did you know? Juvenile copperheads display tail tips of bright yellow or yellowish-green to lure small frogs, but as they grow, their tail changes color to reds and tans to lure rodents.
Lady Knows What She Wants
Did you know? As an integral part of the mating ritual, male hangflies will present females with a meal of caught prey for her to inspect and if acceptable, eat. This “gift” of prey is a precursor for copulation.
Darter Daddy Daycare
Did you know? Dominant male darter fish can essentially abandon their offspring because other floating males are readily available to “egg sit.” Both males benefit from this process. Dominant males gain freedom to continue to reproduce elsewhere and floating males gain a safe (and highly sought after) rock under which to reproduce.
Appalachian Mountain Ecology encouraged me to flesh out my understanding of several ecological principles while providing an introduction to many specific species in a region that I care deeply about. The course feels more like a walk with a seasoned naturalist than a curriculum requirement. If you are keen on discovery and finding connections within a regional context, this course is for you!
By Katherine Bullock
Kentucky Association for Environmental Education facilitators create a powerful network of educators who not only offer environmental education training to their communities but also help propel environmental literacy across Kentucky. The network is made up of educators from all walks of life; you can find KAEE facilitators in elementary classrooms, at nature centers and state parks, in universities, in the state government, and more.
To make the process of becoming a facilitator more accessible and inclusive, especially to those living in far reaches of Kentucky who may not have access to paid time off, flexible scheduling, or travel budgets for multi-day workshops, KAEE is currently developing a Professional Learning Leader eeCredential. Designed to build the capacity of its participants to host high-quality environmental education workshops, the eeCredential includes five courses and the culminating project of co-facilitating a curriculum educator workshop.
As a train-the-trainer learning program, the Professional Learning Leader eeCredential will enable participants, upon completion of the set of courses, to become facilitators and themselves lead workshops across the state. The training, offered online, will include a mix of videos, webinars, and assignments and will include a number of interactive elements to engage participants. The capstone piece allows participants to co-facilitate a workshop with a trained facilitator who can assess their facilitation skills.
“Our facilitators and educators are the ‘boots on the ground,’ working directly with their various audiences to advance environmental knowledge in Kentucky,” says KAEE Executive Director Ashley Hoffman. “Our goal is to support those efforts by providing them with easily-accessible professional learning opportunities designed to help them in their work.”
Courses in this eeCredential center around the Next Generation Science Standards and include
Because this eeCredential is a robust professional learning experience with a significant time commitment, and due to the pandemic and our inability to meet in person, we currently require that participants have previously attended at least one environmental education training or workshop. However, anyone interested in taking a single course or set of courses rather than the full eeCredential is invited to do so (check out the available courses here)!
Participants will receive a badge for each course completed, and those who complete the entire eeCredential will also receive a certificate of completion and a certificate for becoming a certified KAEE Facilitator.
To see the course plans and cost breakdowns, please visit the Professional Learning Leaders eeCredential webpage. (Spoiler alert--KAEE members get a big discount!)
The registration window for this pilot launch is June 22-July 3. Participants will be notified of acceptance no later than July 6 (and sooner if possible), and the Participant Orientation Webinar will be held on July 7. Coursework, which is asynchronous following the orientation, will begin on July 8.
Further details about the schedule, outlines, prices, application, and more, visit the Professional Learning Leaders eeCredential webpage.
Knowing that the rural nature of our state has for numerous years been a barrier for many educators to attend professional learning programs—especially those more robust programs that take longer than one day—we, in partnership with several fellow North American Association for Environmental Education State Affiliates and other experienced consultants, have been developing a growing list of eeCredentials--online trainings that include a mix of videos, webinars, and assignments, as well as interactive elements to engage participants.
Each eeCredential will focus on a single subject and will be made up of five courses, equivalent to a three credit hour college course. Courses can be mixed and matched to earn difference eeCredentials and can also meet requirements for continuing education for Professional Environmental Educators.
Stay tuned for next week's announcement about our first eeCredential's registration period!
KAEE is one of the country’s oldest associations supporting environmental education. We comprise people from all walks of life, coming together to support EE.