With its mission to “provide wildlife-based conservation and environmental education that fosters responsible actions toward wildlife and related natural resources,” Project WILD is an interdisciplinary EE program that helps participants develop an awareness, appreciation, and understanding of wildlife and habitat. Introduced in 1983, it has reached more than 100 million youth through more than 1.5 million educators and is one of the largest wildlife education programs in the world. Project WILD is administered by the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA).
Project WILD curriculum is developed by scientists and those in natural resource management, reviewed and field-tested by educators, and aligned with national educational standards. And, to that last point, the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education has partnered with AFWA to document how more than sixty Project WILD activities containing science content (and all from the fourth edition of the Project WILD K-12 Curriculum & Activity Guide) correlate with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
KAEE Education Director Brittany Wray, longtime member and recently retired Eastern Kentucky University professor Melinda Wilder, and retired fourth-grade Madison County teacher Vivian Bowles have spent the past few months diligently reviewing the activities and developing a companion document detailing each activity’s correlation to the three dimensions of science: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science & Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts. These correlations also provide educators with the Performance Expectation each activity supports.
In addition, the KAEE team is also creating each activity’s “guiding question,” or brief suggestion relating to a phenomenon (or phenomena) that helps educators connect phenomena at the beginning of their students’ learning experience, thereby increasing its relevance for students and helping guide students' inquiry and learning.
“In Kentucky, our facilitators train more educators in Project WILD than any other program we host,” Brittany says. “The Project WILD curriculum is an excellent tool for nonformal educators and formal educators alike. We are thrilled to partner with them in making Project WILD even more applicable to the formal educator with the development of these correlations. Teachers and students are held to high standards, and Project WILD can provide amazing experiences that lead students to a deeper understanding of the three-dimensional nature of science through wildlife.”
Learn more about Project WILD and how you can become trained in the curriculum here!
By Leigh Cocanougher
Join us—virtually!—this September! The 2020 Kentucky Association for Environmental Education Annual Conference will be held online this year, allowing for expanded creativity, recorded sessions (so you can attend ALL of them instead of being forced to choose between offerings), virtual happy hours, and a tremendous amount of EE information and fun!
We know that for many of our members and friends KAEE’s annual conference is like “a big family reunion” and an in-person event not to be missed, and the decision to transition to a virtual event for 2020 was bittersweet. Our board of directors and staff had numerous conversations about options for hosting the conference, and in the end, we all decided that moving to an online format for this year was the best way to keep everyone—the individual participants and our communities at large—healthy and safe.
And there are countless perks to the new format: recorded sessions that participants can watch anytime; opportunities to incorporate creative technology into sessions; reduced registration costs; virtual meetups for special interest groups; regional outdoor activities tied to conference themes; virtual happy hours; and more.
Call for Proposals
The call for proposals is open, and given our plans to transition to an online format, we have extended the deadline to submit a proposal to June 7. To submit a proposal for a virtual session, complete the form here.
This year's theme is "Community Engagement: Building Sustainable Communities through the Power of Environmental Education.” Conference strands for 2020 include Education (EE Curriculum Programs, K-12 Education, Adult & Family Education, STEM, Green & Health Schools, etc.), Partnerships & Innovation (Community Partnerships, New & Innovative Projects, etc.), Civic Action (Community Service Projects, Service Learning, Green Schools Community Projects, etc.), and Capacity Building (Outreach, Fundraising, Communications, Messaging, Branding, Technology, etc.)
Conference registration, with a reduced cost and sliding scale for participation, will open this July. For more details, visit the 2020 KAEE Conference webpage.
Tomorrow is #kygives20, and so many of our members and friends are among the 246 organizations joining together with Kentuckians for a powerful day of action!
The eighth annual Kentucky Gives Day is hosted by Kentucky Nonprofit Network and benefits 501 c(3) charities and organizations in the fields of human services, health care, children, the arts, humanitarian aid, animal welfare, the environment, and more.
Lasting 24 hours, the event allows participating organizations—many of whom are, like our members, the “boots on the ground” in their fields of work—to raise funds that, now more than ever, are greatly needed and appreciated.
“COVID-19 has changed so much, but it can’t change Kentucky’s giving spirit,” said Danielle Clore, CEO of Kentucky Nonprofit Network. “Kentuckians are needed to rally for a powerful day of action on May 12 to support the causes that help keep our communities healthy and thriving. Together we can keep Kentucky strong."
Learn about all the participating organizations and make your donations at kygives.org/.
Like educators all around the world, Emily Webb has recently developed numerous virtual lessons to keep her students engaged and learning while they are at home. Co-director and lead teacher at Lexington Friends Preschool, Emily recently incorporated environmental education into her distance learning curriculum with a unit about seed dispersal.
“I asked the children to make a seed dispersal apparatus to see how far they could make a single dandelion seed travel,” she said. And the ideas her students showed her were outstanding. With his parents’ permission, Emily shared with us a video of kindergarten student George Bell and his “throw blow” machine. “This family helped incorporate all aspects of STEM learning for their child,” Emily said. “The new, sudden role of homeschooling their child, a new skill for so many parents, was pulled off really well!”
Other lessons in the EE unit included counting the number of seeds on the head of a dandelion, watching a couple of short videos on different ways seeds travel, and a comprehension activity using Eric Carle's book "A Tiny Seed.”
“I love seeing pictures of the children's work at home,” Emily says. “Several of them will send videos or post videos of themselves doing the activities in their yards, in their pajamas, with their siblings. They seem relaxed and happy, and I am encouraged knowing these activities give them meaningful and creative ways to spend time with their families.”
Because for students in preschool and kindergarten so much of the learning is experiential, Emily said, “a big part of the experience is learning with their peers,” which has been brought to a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “So I've suggested parents use virtual meeting platforms so the kids can do the activities together.”
Emily feels that her kindergarten students participating in the daily online videos are “enjoying the content, sparking discussion at home, and extending the activities.” Even knowing this, though, she does miss “the energy and spirit the children bring to the lessons” while in school together. “When I’m doing a lesson to an empty room or computer screen, I can imagine what the kids at home are saying/how they are reacting,” she said. “Usually their questions and enthusiasm are what drives the curriculum, so it definitely feels like a big piece of the puzzle is missing right now!”
Though Emily and her fellow teachers in Kentucky and around the globe are eager to return to the classroom, all of them are inspiring us and others in their innovative, adaptable lesson plans and virtual activities. They remain our heroes, during this time and for evermore.
By Leigh Cocanougher
Now more than ever, we know that connections are crucial. Connections to friends, family, colleagues, and the outdoors. One silver lining we in the environmental education field have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic is a newfound appreciation for outdoor spaces and opportunities to access them. People around the world have gained a new sense of wonder and respect for the outdoors, and we believe this new sense of appreciation will continue even after the pandemic wanes.
We have long believed that outdoor experiences connect us to ourselves, to each other, and to the world around us, reminding us that we are part of a much bigger story. Never has this seemed more true than today. Building connections to the natural world increases people’s quality of life, health, and social wellbeing, and we believe this is the key to a sustainable future.
Today, we and millions of people all around the world will celebrate our planet while striving, unceasingly, to improve it. Today, we will connect with others to further the movement toward a sustainable future. And today, we will reflect on what gives us hope, what we gain from time outdoors, and what inspires us each and every day. Today, we ask, what does hope look like to you?
By Leigh Cocanougher
Although thousands of Earth Day in-person events, fairs, and advocacy gatherings have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people around the world are still planning major celebrations and calls to action that will take place on this year’s Earth Day. A monumental event in 2020, April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which began when American educators and students—more than 20 million of them—mobilized to be a driving force for protections for our planet.
For more than a year, conservationist and environmental education organizations and supporters have been connecting to build a never-before-seen movement for the 50th Earth Day. And though the world looks very different now than it did when the planning for Earth Day 2020 began, those plans haven’t slowed down. Looking for ways to get engaged this Wednesday? There are so many amazing events and activities to choose from! Here are just a few--
1. The Earth Day Network, with a goal of building the world’s largest environmental movement to “drive transformative change for people and planet,” has worked with more than 75,000 partners in more than 190 countries to focus year-round on “positive action for our planet,” and have in light of the pandemic created an online map and calendar where people can find “Digital Earth Day Events” near them.
2. Kentucky Waterway Alliance has created an entire day of free, family-friendly Earth Day activities for folks to celebrate “Earth Day at Home.” At 9am on April 22, their Backyard Bioblitz kicks off, followed by their “Certify Your Backyard” wildlife habitat session, a “Lunch and Launch” virtual paddle livestream, and a #TrashTag Backyard Edition. Learn more here!
3. Judy Braus, Executive Director of the North American Association for Environmental Education, says that “as we head into Earth Week and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we are at a pivotal point, just as we were 50 years ago. What’s different today is our unprecedented opportunity to communicate across borders and boundaries to get through a global crisis with shared thinking and innovation for the world we want going forward.” See her recent Earth Day message here.
4. The NAAEE is joining with the Walton Family Foundation's campaign to post and share positive news stories and ideas that will provide a welcome lift to our audiences. Organizations and individuals participating in the #EarthDay2020 campaign are encouraged to share photos, videos, and stories of how being outside recharges hope and connection to the outdoors and one another, using the #EarthDay2020 hashtag.
5. Project Learning Tree has compiled stories and resources to help educators and youth learn about sustainability issues, climate science, and actions they can take this EarthDay and every day. PLT has also worked with Earth Day Network, Project WET, and Project WILD to produce a guide that lists all our available education resources to advance climate education.
6. NASA, which began celebrating Earth Day 2020 on March 3 with a "50-Day Countdown" of daily social media posts and daily blogs on NASA's Earth Day website, shares a toolkit of activities for students and families. On April 22, they will air the Earth Day episode of "NASA Science Live," which will feature NASA experts discussing how NASA science and tech are used to understand and improve the environment. The show will air at 3pm EST on NASA TV, YouTube Premium, Facebook's Watch Party, and Periscope/Twitter.
7. “We never envisioned spending the 50th Earth Day this way. Primarily indoors,” says The Nature Conservancy. “Yet here we are, collectively playing our part to help solve a global problem like COVID-19. The environmental challenges of our present day are also formidable. Humanity can solve these challenges. Look no further than the movement sparked by that initial Earth Day in 1970. People came together and urged their leaders to advance cleaner air and water. We all have a part to play in the next 50 years.” Check out their Earth Day 2020 collection of stories of hope here.
8. Harvard's Division of Continuing Education is hosting a momentous global online celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 at 9:30am EST. Learn more and register here.
9. From April 22 to April 24, the Sierra Club is hosting a livestream featuring activists, performers, thought leaders, and artists coming together “for an empowering, inspiring, and communal” virtual event. Learn more and register here.
10. To mark the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, National Geographic is showcasing efforts being implemented around the globe to help protect the natural world. Check out their seven good-news wildlife stories from the last year, see how Texas hounds are helping chase down poachers in South Africa, and discover how Polynesian sailing vessels are being used to clean up microplastics.
Happy (almost) #Earth Day2020!
By Leigh Cocanougher
It is hard to believe it has been ten years since I joined KAEE as its Executive Director. It has truly been the best job ever, and I’ve been reminiscing on how fortunate I have been to have had this opportunity. I have met so many amazing and empowering leaders over the past ten years, both in Kentucky and across the globe. I have made some of my closest friends. I have never stopped learning and growing. Looking back on how much has changed--what an amazing journey it has been.
My first introduction to environmental education was a summer job I took working at Salmon Camp in Kodiak, Alaska, while I was pursuing my wildlife ecology degree. I still remember the faces on those kids when they caught their first salmon—the pure excitement and love of the outdoors. You can’t find that behind a screen. That is where I learned firsthand the value of engaging future generations in significant outdoor learning experiences where they are learning risk, discovery, imagination, and autonomy. I knew from this experience that I cared deeply about the mission of KAEE, but it wasn’t until I became immersed in this work that I came to understand how profoundly important it was to the future of our society. If there is one thing the current pandemic has taught me, it’s how quickly the world can change and how important it is to understand the interconnectedness of our manmade and natural systems if we want to be a more resilient society. That is why I work for KAEE and why I wholeheartedly support the work we are doing to ensure more Kentuckians have the opportunities to learn about these connections.
This job and the people I’ve met along the way have truly made me the person I am today. KAEE is more than a job or an organization; it is an amazing network of people I’m honored to know and work alongside.
Ashley holds a B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida and a Masters in Nonprofit Administration from North Park University School of Business and Nonprofit Administration. A demonstrated leader in the field of EE, she has served as the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) Affiliate Network Chair, is as a member of the NAAEE Advisory Council and is the Executive Director of the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA) in addition to being the Executive Director of KAEE. She is also a Certified Professional Environmental Educator, a certified member of the NAAEE Guidelines Trainers Bureau, and a board member of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
By Ashley Hoffman
Anyone needing a bit more time to get stuff done these days? We hear ya. To give everyone who’s interested in presenting at the 2020 Kentucky Association for Environmental Education Annual Conference ample time to submit a proposal, we’ve extended the deadline to May 17.
“Annual Conference is a blast,” said recent conference co-chair Joanna Ashford. “It’s a great time for educators, both formal and nonformal, to come together to brainstorm, attend sessions, and figure out what everybody across the state is doing both for students and adults.”
Held in a different location each year, KAEE’s Annual Conference allows us to “showcase all the great things happening around state,” said KAEE executive director Ashley Hoffman. “It’s an opportunity for our members to get out and see what’s going on in different areas, learn from each other, and bring back ideas to their centers.”
And this, Joanna said, helps “us increase the work we are doing for EE.”
This year's conference will be held Sept. 17-19 at Jenny Wiley State Park. With the theme "Community Engagement: Building Sustainable Communities through the Power of Environmental Education," conference strands include Education (EE Curriculum Programs, K-12 Education, Adult & Family Education, STEM, Green & Health Schools, etc.), Partnerships & Innovation (Community Partnerships, New & Innovative Projects, etc.), Civic Action (Community Service Projects, Service Learning, Green Schools Community Projects, etc.), and Capacity Building (Outreach, Fundraising, Communications, Messaging, Branding, Technology, etc.).
“Coming to conference is joyful,” Joanna said, “and you create friendships that will last for a lifetime.”
Visit our conference webpage for more details. We hope to see you this September!
Along with most people all around the world, many of our members and friends are facing immense challenges during the rapidly changing COVID-19 pandemic. Some are working remotely for what might be the first time ever. Some are on furlough. Some have found themselves suddenly without employment. Some are trying to balance working at home and homeschooling their children, whose schools are closed. If they’re like us, many are worried about parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors. And we know that many are worried about the still unknown impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic may have on their jobs, their organizations, their staff, and their educational missions.
We also recognize that many of our more vulnerable populations stand to be the most impacted due to lost wages or jobs, the absence of childcare, and a number of other factors. Wherever you are, and however you are feeling, we are here for you. We are all in this together, and our network is strong.
KAEE is committed to collaboration and network-building as part of the current and long-term solutions to this crisis. We are working with our state partners, our counterparts in other states, the North American Association for Environmental Education, and other national partners to compile and provide resources and bring our communities together. No one should feel like they have to navigate this alone.
We believe that although we don't know what the outcome of this situation will be, it helps to stay positive. Get outside. Watch some pandas. Or puppies. Or the Northern Lights. And if you need support, please don't hesitate to ask. We and Kentucky’s amazing EE network are here to help.
Doing your part to flatten the curve doesn’t mean you can’t get out and enjoy the spring. Now more than ever, people of all ages need the proven benefits of time outdoors (including reduced stress and anxiety!). Looking for ideas and inspiration? Check out some of our recommendations below for ways to get outside this month while keeping yourself and others healthy. And for great outdoor education ideas for home learning, be sure to check out this post from the Kentucky Environmental Education Council!
Outdoor family experiences
-Take a hike. Many nature and hiking trails around the state remain open for hikers. (For the latest on public lands access across Kentucky during the COVID-19 outbreak, check out Explore Kentucky's guide here.) Just keep social distancing recommendations in mind on the trails!
-Go biking. Whether on a trail or in your neighborhood, a bike ride is an ideal activity
-Take your kids on a bug hunt (and/or bird and/or butterfly hunt)!
-Count the stars and name the constellations. Make your own star finder from NASA!
-Have a family campout. Like several of Kentucky’s state parks, many campgrounds are still open this March.
-Explore nearby streams.
Outdoor experiences near home
-Get a jumpstart on spring planting.
-Take a walk or jog. Benefit from movement and fresh air!
-Incorporate the outdoors into your children’s day. While schools are closed, parents and guardians can keep their little learners engaged with the world around them. Though no formal curriculum is needed for some students, hundreds of curricular outdoor activities are available for free online. Check out some of our faves here!
-Start (or continue) a nature journal.
-Practice outdoor yoga or meditation.
-Have that family campout take place in your own backyard (s’mores, anyone?).
-Make sidewalk chalk artwork.
-Design a simple kite and take it flying.
-Play yard games (badminton, anyone?).
-Create a backyard nature fort with branches, rocks, and leaves!
Activities in or about the outdoors for times you are without easy access to a green space
-Take a walk or jog. Take advantage of wherever you are to explore your outdoors.
-Lead lessons about the outdoors while you’re indoors. Many activities are designed to be entirely flexible and allow for learning about the outdoors from inside a formal classroom or at home.
-Read a book/draw or paint/play a card or board game on your balcony or patio. Take your schoolwork and other fun activities outside, too.
-Check out wildlife webcams (like the Dale Hollow Eagle Live Stream) and live streams from zoos and nature centers. Conservation educators with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources are currently hosting special Facebook Live sessions at 1pm (Eastern) on weekdays. These sessions live stream on the Salato Wildlife Education Center's Facebook page (@SalatoWildlifeEducationCenter).
-Make a homemade bird feeder, or buy one to hang on your deck.
-Take virtual (and free) tours of 31 national parks. No, it’s not like visiting them in person. But it’s very cool. And you can do it from your couch, which at the moment isn’t a bad thing.
-Plant spring flowers and herbs for your windowsills.
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.