In 2014, three organizations set their sights on strengthening environmental education around the world by building capacity and focusing on collaboration and shared best practices. Those organizations—the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration, and the North American Association for Environmental Education—joined EE leaders from several countries to discuss common needs for improving the use of, access to, and quality of EE. The results were compiled into a list of more than 25 topics relating to EE, with these ranking as the most important globally in environmental education:
The outcome of the initial conversation was the creation of the GEEP (Global Environmental Education Partnership), a global initiative with a mission to “create a vibrant and inclusive learning network designed to strengthen environmental education globally to create a more sustainable future for all.”
Following the inceptive planning sessions, a steering committee conducted surveys, research, and interviews before meeting in person in 2015 to articulate the GEEP’s purpose, mission, goals, and objectives. The next year, the advisory group set forth the strategy and pathways for governance, and in 2018, a sub-group of this advisory committee updated the vision, mission, goals, governance, and membership “to reflect the evolution of the partnership.”
Much like the NAAEE (which serves as Secretariat for the GEEP), EE associations like KAEE, and our partner affiliates around the U.S., the GEEP is made up of environmental education policy makers, administrators, and educators who represent government and/or nongovernmental sectors in countries throughout the world. With its collaborative nature, the GEEP enables members to share their expertise and experiences on improving the “quality, practice, and impact of environmental education.” Additionally, it provides a platform for members to discuss obstacles to improving EE in their countries and to “expand the reach of EE” by reaching out to new and underserved communities.
Want to learn more about the GEEP and how you can get involved? Explore their website and sign up for their newsletter here!
By Leigh Cocanougher
This July, the Board of the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education approved the organization’s new Strategic Plan, a plan that focuses on one overarching question: “What would it take for us to truly achieve our vision?”
“Embarking on a new strategic plan has come at an opportune time for KAEE,” writes KAEE Executive Director in the plan’s Executive Summary. “Throughout the past few years we have made great strides to strengthen the organization and move toward becoming a thriving, resilient nonprofit. With this significant growth has come the chance to reflect and focus on ways we can better meet the needs of our education community and succeed in achieving our mission.”
The mission? To “increase environmental knowledge and community engagement in Kentucky through the power of environmental education.”
And the vision? “A sustainable world where environmental and social responsibility drive individual and institutional choices.”
The newly adopted Strategic Plan explains that “environmental education (EE) provides the skills necessary for people of all ages to make intelligent, informed decisions about the environment and how they can take care of it. EE builds human capacity, influences attitudes, and can lead to action. Most importantly, it can help people make informed decisions about the environment that lead to lifelong stewardship and a more sustainable society.”
With this definition and the new mission and vision in mind, the plan lays out goals and strategies in key areas including “Advancing Environmental Literacy,” “Building Our Audience,” and “Cultivating Collective Impact.”
With clearly defined desired outcomes, the plan includes strategies for success in all three areas. KAEE will continue—and strive to broaden—the work the organization has long been doing in the realm of promoting professional development and best practices in EE. They will with great intentionality work to increase public support for and investment in the field of EE, reach broader audiences, and better tell the story not only of what they are doing but why EE is so crucial for the future of Kentucky. And they will determinedly strive to bring people together to create a stronger and more inclusive EE movement.
“Taking a systems-thinking approach to this work has helped us understand that we have a huge opportunity to increase our impact,” Hoffman explains. “We recognize that a significant part of our role is to support the ‘boots on the ground’—the educators who do this work every day. Our new plan emphasizes the important role we play as a backbone organization, supporting and enhancing that community-level work where real change is happening. We truly believe that this is how we will achieve an environmentally knowledgeable society.”
By Leigh Cocanougher
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