KAEE Education Director Brittany Wray
1. If you could be any animal, which would you be? Mountain lion...I’d be special, an introvert, and a total danger to society.
2. What is the top destination on your would-love-to-visit list? New Zealand. I will walk the hills of Middle Earth one day.
3. What is your favorite place to visit in Kentucky? The Pinnacles in Berea. It’s such an amazing hike and the view is very hard to beat. I love these mountains!
4. Who inspires you? I’m currently very inspired by C.S. Lewis. I can’t get enough of his books. I’m just amazed at how intelligent he was and how well he was able to share his passion through his books.
5. What’s the last book you read? The Catcher in the Rye (physically reading) and Mere Christianity (audio)
6. Who would you most like to swap places with for a day? An executive producer at Pixar in the middle of creating a movie, any movie. I love behind the scenes footage for animation, whether it is the computer generation or filming with the voice actors.
7. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be? Telekinesis
8. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Cerulean. Always my favorite blue.
9. What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten? It’s not that weird but probably calamari. I mean, eating squid is pretty weird for someone who didn’t know what an avocado was until college.
10. What do you find most energizing about environmental education? The most energizing thing about EE to me is the hope that it gives. The hope for a better future. I have always planned to change the world and now one of the ways I plan to do that is through EE.
11. What was your first job? Babysitter
12. What is something you saw recently that made you smile? Dwight trying to convince everyone in the office that he should cook the duck he ran over on the way to work. He said it was a Christmas miracle.
13. What is something—big or small—that you think you’re really bad at? I’m really terrible at things like pool, darts, bowling….not sure why or if these games/sports fit into one class. But I’m horrible.
14. What is something—big or small—that you’re really good at? Top-of-the-line cornhole player. Honestly, I should be in tournaments.
15. If you had to pick one age to be permanently, what age would you be? Ugh..this is a tough one. If I could be 24 and still have my kiddos, that’d be it.
16. What fictional place would you most like to visit? Westeros and/or Essos...wherever I could find Daenerys and her dragons. Also, specifically within Westeros, I’d have to see Winterfell.
17. Who is your least favorite superhero? This is going to be unpopular, but probably Batman...I just don’t find anything particularly wowing about him. He doesn’t usually dominate and seems to always be hurt, which are two things you don’t really want to see in a superhero. I loved Dark Knight, so do not come at me.
18. What is one hobby you’d love to get into? Calligraphy. I love to write notes and make plans and it just seems like it would be even more fun to do those things in calligraphy.
19. If you could visit another period in time for a year, what time would you return to? I'd definitely go back and meet the physical person of Jesus. I'd love to follow him around for a year.
20. What is your favorite aspect of being part of KAEE? I just love these people. I remember when I first started working for KAEE and after every meeting or event I’d think to myself, “How do these people keep getting more and more awesome?” The supportive and collaborative nature of people who call themselves environmental educators is something to be admired, and I absolutely love being a part of this group.
If you’ve read about our week at the recent NAAEE ee360 Leadership Clinic, you already know that we’re a proud affiliate of the North American Association for Environmental Education. But did you know we’re also a proud affiliate of another remarkable EE network? In our role as a member of the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA), Kentucky (through KAEE) teams with EE associations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee to further the mission of increasing environmental knowledge and community engagement through the power of environmental education.
As part of this eight-state alliance, SEEA members collaborate on a number of projects, grants, action plans, shared spaces, and more. Additionally, the individual members continually inspire and support one another and frequently share with the group news of their own successes and conundrums.
Today we want to share some of those recent successes with you! Here are a few updates from our friends in SEEA:
Alabama (Environmental Education Association of Alabama): The Annual Mountains to Gulf Workshop was held June 23-30 and was a great success. (Check out dozens of amazing photos from the event here!)
Florida (League of Environmental Educators in Florida): LEEF’s board will have a retreat in mid-August to discuss takeaways from the ee360 Leadership Clinic, where a Florida team of five participated. That team “is enthusiastic about leading the way to meaningful change and improvement when we begin working with the LEEF board” later this summer, they said.
Georgia (Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia): After completing the June ee360 clinic—what they called “an intense experience in a beautiful setting”—the five-member team representing the Georgia alliance traveled to Yosemite to see if Half Dome could really compare with Stone Mountain. (We’ll keep their conclusions about that debate to ourselves.) They then returned to their home state full of ideas to move their alliance forward. “After lots of reflection and discussion about challenges and obstacles,” they said, “we are focused on planning for how to get our organization prepared for hiring an executive director in 2020.”
Mississippi (Mississippi Environmental Education Alliance): MEEA is currently undergoing wonderful transformations and recently met with the Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy to learn about becoming a 501(c)3 organization. MEEA’s Debra Veeder shared that they have set deadlines to have their organization’s bylaws completed incorporated by the end of July and to “hopefully become a 501(c)3 by the end of September.”
North Carolina (Environmental Educators of North Carolina): Two representatives from EENC participated in the ee360 Leadership Clinic, where the organization’s Executive Director Lauren Pyle led a presentation about crowdfunding. EENC will host its third Summit of NC Environmental Organizations on July 12 in Raleigh. They have also received a grant from NAAEE to become the official host and sponsor for Guidelines for Excellence workshops across the state. (The Guidelines for Excellence is a series of materials to help environmental educators hone their practice and programs to national standards for high-quality EE programming. Guidelines for Excellence workshops have been approved as Criteria I workshops in the North Carolina EE Certification program.)
South Carolina (Environmental Education Association of South Carolina): In mid-June, EEASC hosted approximately 75 educators at its Annual Conference at Moore Farms Botanical Garden in Lake City, where participants enjoyed a diverse array of sessions, field trips, and networking opportunities in a beautiful southern garden setting. Lauren Pyle (you may remember that she’s EENC’s Executive Director!) and Dr. Brad Daniel (more about him below) led a session on board development, strategic planning, and fundraising for conference participants. EEASC also launched a redesigned website in June with a new look, structure, and functionality (check it out at www.eeasc.org), recently established a statewide environmental education listserv, and is in the process of launching regional listservs for each of EEASC’s designated regions.
*Special thanks to Brad Daniel for including updates about SEEA affiliates in a monthly newsletter so all members can celebrate! Dr. Daniel wears numerous hats in the EE realm, serving as Executive Director at 2nd Nature TREC (Training, Research, Education, Consulting); Partnership Chair at Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC); Chair of the Leadership Team for the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA); and member of the AEE Southeast Region Council.
By Leigh Cocanougher
NAAEE’s 48 Annual Conference is focused on the many ways that education is helping to create a more just and sustainable future for all. Sessions will focus on the three interwoven pillars of sustainability—social equity, shared prosperity, and environmental integrity—as well as how education can build hope, motivate action, and help achieve the global Sustainable Development Goals championed by the United Nations and leaders in more than 170 countries.
The conference will also highlight efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere, has access to nature and high quality environmental education. Come share ideas and explore ways to create a more sustainable future through the great power of environmental education!
For the complete list of sessions, special events, field trips, and more, click here.
Special Discount for KAEE Members
Because KAEE is co-hosting the event, members of KAEE are entitled to a special discount on their conference registration. Organizational Members of KAEE may use this special discount for up to three team members when registering for the NAAEE conference. Not a member yet? Join us! We’re happy to help answer questions about individual or organizational membership levels, and we’d love to have you as part of KAEE!
PACIFIC GROVE, CA: Along with EE champions from 19 other states, KAEE Executive Director Ashley Hoffman and Outreach Coordinator Leigh Cocanougher spent the last week of June at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California, as participants in the NAAEE ee360 Leadership Conference. The group of formal and nonformal educators, board members of numerous NAAEE Affiliates, and professional EE staff spent the week discussing everything from strategic planning to equity and inclusion to grant writing, as well as how to strengthen the Affiliate Network and maximize the impact of EE across North American and beyond.
The NAAEE Affiliate Network, comprised of 56 organizations, provides a forum for ongoing dialogue, shared learning, and joint activities to enhance EE capacity. Throughout the ee360 Leadership Conference, representatives from 20 of the state affiliates engaged fully in these very activities. “It’s so wonderful for us to come together to share our successes and work together to address the conundrums we’re all facing,” said NAAEE Executive Director Judy Braus.
An intensive session on “Transformational Leadership” kicked off the event with a series of facilitated and peer-to-peer discussions led by Eileen Everett, Executive Director of the Environmental Education Association of New Mexico. Following the opening session, afternoon workshops focused heavily on strategic planning and building board effectiveness.
On Tuesday, equity, inclusion, and diversity took center stage, with workshops led by Jean Kayira and Libby McCann from Antioch University New England. “This kind of work,” Kayira said, “is not a destination; it is a journey. And authentically engaging everyone is key.”
Wednesday was filled with fundraising strategies and grant writing advice, including a session co-presented by KAEE’s Ashley Hoffman in which she and Brad Daniel, Executive Director at 2nd Nature TREC in North Carolina, discussed the value of regional collaborations.
After plenty of team planning sessions throughout the week, state teams led group presentations on Thursday, many of which centered on community building and inclusion. “We need to sit down with our communities and listen first,” said Hōkū Pihana, Program Manager for the Hawaii Environmental Education Alliance. “We need to listen to digest and understand what everyone wants to bring to the table. It’s going to take all of us to power our canoe forward.”
This idea of inclusion beautifully mirrors the goals of ee360, NAAEE’s newest initiative to support innovative environmental education across the country. The organization explains that “through a cooperative agreement with U.S. EPA and seven partner organizations,” they are “leading an ambitious five-year initiative to support a diverse cadre of environmental education leaders that are better prepared to increase environmental literacy for everyone, everywhere…Together with our partners and advisors, NAAEE is bringing more than four decades of expertise to our effort to grow, strengthen, and diversify the field of environmental education.”
“Piece by piece,” said NAAEE’s Braus at the conclusion of the conference,” community by community, school by school, we are making a difference in saving the world.”
By Leigh Cocanougher
CHICO HOT SPRINGS, MONTANA: KAEE Education Director Brittany Wray attended Project WILD’s Annual Conference in Chico Hot Springs, Montana, in late June, where she and her fellow participants strengthened the Project WILD network as they collaborated, held business meetings, and traveled to Yellowstone National Park for the “WILD in the Field” event.
"We spent a whole day in Yellowstone learning about the educational programs provided by the national park service," Wray said, "and participated in their version of 'Oh Deer,' a beloved Project WILD activity."
The group also learned about the collaboration between the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service to conserve lands for wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and visited the Yellowstone Forever Center to learn about climate, geology, and physical science in the park.
LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY: “Education in the environment. Education about the environment. Education for the environment.”
This idea, presented by environmental education (EE) champion Dr. Terry Wilson, kicked off the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education’s annual Outdoor Learning Symposium, held on June 18 at Lexington’s Frederick Douglass High School. More than 40 educators, administrators, and EE professionals from around the state spent the day in workshops focused on advice and educational tools to help teachers gain the skills and confidence needed to effectively engage their students in environmental education lessons.
The event’s sessions were tailored to meet the needs of both administrators and teachers. Administrators engaged in sessions focusing on assessment, funding, research, and the principal’s perspective on outdoor learning. In other sessions, teachers completed training on practical application, resources, and ways to incorporate outdoor learning in their own classrooms.
Wilson, retired Western Kentucky University Center for Environmental Education Director and Professor, led the event’s keynote speech. Rather than focusing on the term “environmental education,” he shifted the discussion toward “education in the environment.”
“What can we do in order to conduct ‘education in the environment?’” he asked. “To teach in a different learning environment than what we and our students may be used to? We find our outdoor classrooms. See what’s there. Use it in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary ways. Use it to teach as many subjects as you can. Measure a tree trunk. Make a sundial. Go geocaching. And what about the arts? Writing? Social studies? Lessons in every subject can happen outdoors. Hypothesizing. Mapping. Taking a 100-inch hike.”
Identify little things around your campus, he advised, and begin asking questions. “A simple stump could become a record of change over time. Why is one year’s ring so much thicker than the one beside it? What happened that year that would’ve made for such a change in the thickness? What can we learn from these rings?”
Once teachers have assessed what’s present in their school’s outdoor spaces, they can begin enhancing those outdoor spaces. “There’s no limit to the kinds of enhancements you can make,” Wilson said. “Add a pioneer garden, an amphitheater, animal track plots, an arboretum, a time capsule, native grasses and wildflowers, trails, tree, a bird blind, a compost pile, the list goes on and on. And then we can expand what that ‘outdoor classroom’ means. Could it include a park down the road? A nearby ditch? The stream that borders our property? What could we do there?”
Individual teacher sessions expanded upon this idea. Dale Booth from the Kentucky Division of Water offered teachers a variety of ideas for field trips and classroom activities to incorporate stream education into their curriculum. “Teaching Outside,” a session dedicated to teachers and led by Vivian Bowles, retired Madison County science teacher, centered on behavior, time, and instructional management tips essential for authentic outdoor learning opportunities across the curriculum—even in the most unlikely places. In a “Lessons Learned” session, several teachers shared their “Wish-I-Had’ve-Knowns, Best Partnership-Evers, and Learning-As-We-Go’s.”
Administrator sessions focused on similar topics, though through a slightly different lens.
In “Research from the Field,” Cassy Elmore from Lincoln Co. Middle School and Meg Gravil from the University of Kentucky shared findings from their own research projects, which focused on outdoor EE field trips and test-taking outdoors.
“What I love most about EE is how interdisciplinary it is—you can use EE in lessons on math, civics, language arts, even cooking and food,” Gravil said. “EE is a great avenue to deliver any type of academic learning.”
She used the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary aspects of EE to create Growing Up WILD-inspired field trips as part of her research, which focused on early childhood education and EE. The teachers involved in her research reported that the study activities bridged learning standards and field trip learning objectives, as well as that Growing Up WILD made Next Generation Science Standards “fun and accessible” and that EE is an appropriate way to incorporate and meet learning standards.
Elmore’s research project asked whether taking tests outdoors could increase students’ test scores. “I’ve had 15 years’ experience in the classroom,” Elmore said, “and in my experience, kids long to be outside of the four walls of the classroom.” Her findings, taken during a six-week energy unit for her seventh graders at Lincoln County Middle School, showed that in both the pre-test and post-test periods, students did achieve higher scores when taking the tests outdoors. Debbie Sims, former principal of LCMS who was the principal at the time of Elmore’s research, said of the project and EE in general that she “witnessed firsthand the impacts of outdoor learning. It can ignite excitement, discovery, and lifelong memories.”
Other administrator sessions included principals’ viewpoints on the use of the outdoors as a classroom, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of outdoor learning as well as some examples of outdoor learning at their schools or districts. And a session jointly led by KAEE and the Kentucky Environmental Education Council shared information about green schools programs available in Kentucky and additional funding available for outdoor learning.
Following the workshops, teachers and administrators enjoyed a “Community Partner Speed Dating” event, an opportunity to network with community partners eager to assist them with outdoor learning implementation. Tresine Logsdon, Energy and Sustainability Curriculum Coordinator at Fayette County Public Schools, spearheaded the networking event. Among the partners participating were Bluegrass Greensource; Campbell County Environmental Education Center; Eco Go; Fayette County Farm Bureau; Food Chain; Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources; Kentucky State University; Lexington Parks and Recreation; Seedleaf; Sustainable Communities Network; UK Arboretum; UK Urban Forest Initiative; University of Kentucky; the Department of Landscape Architecture at UK’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment; Wild Ones and Garden Club of Kentucky.
“Ending the day with this event was ideal because KAEE is all about helping our educators make connections,” said KAEE Education Director Brittany Wray. “To have the chance for formal teachers and administrators to meet with organizations who are eager to help them meet their goals and strengthen EE in Kentucky was a great finale to a great symposium.”
By Leigh Cocanougher
CRAB ORCHARD, KENTUCKY: Surrounded by the green that is summer in Kentucky, 20 educators from around the state gathered at Maywoods Lodge this week for the Kentucky Association of Environmental Education’s first EE Bootcamp, where participants spent three days in the green connecting environmental education (EE), conservation, and natural resources with academic standards.
Designed not only for formal educators but also for those working in the field through their roles as staff in state parks or reserves; environmental, residential, and nature centers; or farmers markets, the intensive workshop enhanced educators' understanding of the Kentucky Academic Standards through environmental education activities. Upon completion of the three-day event, participants were trained as certified educators in Project Learning Tree, Project WET, and Project WILD.
Held in the 1,700-acre natural area and wildlife refuge at Maywoods, Eastern Kentucky University’s Environmental and Research Laboratory, woods, lake, and streams surrounded the participants during the activities, providing the ideal classroom for the workshop.
The bootcamp was facilitated by Dr. Melinda Wilder, Director of the Division of Natural Areas at Eastern Kentucky University and professor of science and environmental education; Vivian Bowles, retired Madison County science teacher; Brittany Wray, KAEE Education Director; and Ashley Hoffman, KAEE Executive Director. Each day’s activities focused on trainings from Project Learning Tree, Project WET, and Project WILD, with time dedicated to connecting each session to the Academic Standards following the hands-on, minds-on segments.
The bootcamp’s keynote speech came from Dr. Wilder, who has been a member of KAEE for 38 years. She explained that environmental education and “teaching outdoors” are not synonymous, though both are greatly beneficial. The difference, she said, lies in the ways environmental education “uses the environment as a context to teach knowledge, dispositions, and skills as opposed to ‘teaching outdoors,’ which is simply going outside to do some type of academic activity.” The environmental context in EE “is used in a systemic way rather than just tied into random moments,” she said. “You don’t need to use it every day, every week, but it’s intentionally tied into lessons throughout the school year.”
What followed were 13 examples, taken from the training guides for Project Learning Tree, Project WET, and Project WILD, of how to intentionally tie environmental education into lessons throughout the school year. After each activity, the group came together to discuss which Standards were directly targeted in the activity and what additional or different Standards could be targeted if teachers wanted to take a different approach to that particular lesson.
“It’s always beneficial to do the lessons as the student,” said sixth grade science teacher Elizabeth Woods of Floyd County schools. “Completing the activities through the students’ perspective helps you better plan the lessons and realize what would work best.”
While the majority of participants were formal teachers in Kentucky schools, five were nonformal educators who found the workshop beneficial for the ways it gave them a new perspective on the work they do. Connie Lemley, who coordinates educational programs for the Franklin County Farmers Market, said that although knowing the Academic Standards doesn’t relate directly to her work, she’s “grateful for all the deep thinking and ideas about how to present these topics.”
Others in the nonformal educator group said learning about the Standards can help them structure their guided visits with school groups and will allow them to better tailor their lectures to certain age groups. “EE can be tied into about anything we do,” said Debra Necessary of Lake Cumberland State Resort Park. “Now, knowing the Standards, it’d be easy to tie what we do into the class’s curriculum.”
No matter whether they’re teaching in the state’s classrooms or the state’s parks (or any of a thousand other places), participants left feeling empowered to intentionally build EE into their work.“Everything we do,” said Bootcamp participant and University of Kentucky Ph.D student Melissa Benson, “can be built on environmental education.”
By Leigh Cocanougher