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.
We know that this is a challenging time for everyone as we navigate the impact of the coronavirus and do all we can to prevent it from spreading further. We recognize that many of our more vulnerable populations stand to be the most affected due to lost wages, lack of childcare, job layoffs, and so forth. We also understand that in addition to impacting each of us on a personal level, the pandemic is having significant impacts on our organizations, our communities, and our programs that will likely affect us for quite some time. Knowing we are all navigating similar challenges, and being aware of the current need for social distancing, we would like to provide a couple of opportunities for you to stay engaged and benefit from the EE network you are a part of, connecting with others in the environmental education community and discussing how you or your organization is responding to the coronavirus outbreak.
Monday, March 16, from 2-3:30pm - Nonprofits, Agencies, and Community Organization Leaders: Join us to share your questions and suggestions about issues related to event and program cancelations, how you are communicating with the public, how to address lost sponsorships or revenue, disinfecting public spaces, how to handle staffing issues, etc. We will also discuss opportunities participants see as being available for serving our communities, serving our more vulnerable populations, and offering alternate engagement options.
Tuesday, March 17, from 3-4:30pm - Environmental Educators, Professors, and Classroom Teachers: Join us to discuss how/if you are transitioning to virtual or non-traditional instruction, how you are handling your EE programs, opportunities for encouraging outdoor time for families during the school closures, how to communicate with the public, and so on.
These will be open space forums for us to share and learn from one another. To join either or both sessions, click on the links available on our event calendar.
Fifty years ago, educators and students were the driving force behind the success of the very first Earth Day. Now, the Earth Day Network wants to support formal and non-formal educators as they implement environmental and civic education programming as the world celebrates the 50th Earth Day on April 22.
Inspired to build the world’s largest environmental movement that will “drive transformative change for people and planet,” the Earth Day Network strives to diversify, educate, and activate the environmental movement worldwide. Working with more than 75,000 partners in more than 190 countries, they focus year-round on “positive action for our planet.”
As part of this year’s 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the Network is inviting educators around the world to register as Earth Day Schools. By doing so, teachers and administrators will join a global network of educators striving to increase climate and environmental literacy. Registered schools will also be added to the global map, where students can see how the stewardship activities they participate in throughout 2020 relate to work being done by their fellow students throughout the world. To join this global network of Earth Day Schools, please fill out the Earth Day School Form.
The Earth Day Network has also created an interactive map where users can find Earth Day events—from citizen science activities to cleanups to presentations to fairs to rallies—near them, wherever they are. Hosting your own Earth Day event this year? You can register it here!
By Leigh Cocanougher
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.