With goals that include community education, community building, and caretaking, the Forestry Outreach Center of Berea College (FOC) provides a space in which people of all ages can learn about the natural world and, specifically, the Berea College Forest. “Using a model of community education in which each person participates as both a teacher and a learner,” the FOC explains, “our hope is that the Center will act as a bridge between College and community, fostering an attitude of stewardship of the lands and waters that sustain us.”
To this end, the FOC welcomes visitors to participate in engaging activities tailored to meet the needs of learners of all ages, including school and community groups. For no charge, the FOC offers interdisciplinary environmental education for school and community groups utilizing pre-designed activities (like those from award-winning EE curriculum guides such as Project Wild, Project Wet, and Project Learning Tree) or activities tailor-made for a class. The FOC team can also plan pre- and post- activities to help visitors make the most of their visit.
And what better place to enjoy those activities than the mountains surrounding Berea that are home to three of Kentucky’s beloved trails, the Pinnacles, Brushy Fork, and Anglin Falls? “Sharing a forest experience brings people together,” the FOC says, “and builds lasting relationships that strengthen communities.”
In addition to providing EE experiences for all, the FOC manages the Berea College Forest, maintaining and improving physical facilities while enhancing, studying, and utilizing varied sources including wood products, water, recreation, and wildlife. “Learning about forest lands, air, and water renews a sense of stewardship,” the FOC explains, “and reinvigorates a commitment to care for the earth.”
To learn more about Berea College’s Forestry Outreach Center, an organizational member of KAEE, visit their website and explore their social media accounts (and their Forest!).
By Leigh Cocanougher
Lexington mayor Linda Gorton has declared October 14-19 “Environmental Education Week” in Lexington. Coinciding with the week in which Lexington will welcome more than 1,000 educators and EE professionals to the North American Association for Environmental Education’s Annual Conference and Research Symposium, Environmental Education Week will be a celebration of the region’s natural resources—“from the horse farms to our streams and to the majestic Kentucky River,” Mayor Gorton says—and serve as a reminder that “to sustain the precious land and waterways of our great city requires the stewardship of every person, as well as future generations.”
“Stewardship is not possible,” Mayor Gorton states in her declaration, “without a strong sense of connection to the natural world and an understanding by our individual and collective responsibilities to protect it.”
The declaration also explains how environmental education increases student engagement, improves student achievement in core subject areas, and increases student awareness about how their actions affect the environment.
Read Mayor Gorton’s full declaration here. To learn more and register for the NAAEE Annual Conference, co-hosted by KAEE and taking place during Environmental Education Week, visit the registration page here.
...Project Learning Tree
Using trees and forests as “windows to the world,” Project Learning Tree (PLT), hosted by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, has since its founding in 1976 reached 138 million students, increasing their understanding of the environment and actions they can take to conserve it.
Like environmental education at its core, Project Learning Tree helps students learn how to think, not what to think, about complex environmental issues, forever aiming towards its vision of “a future where the next generation values the natural world and has the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed decisions and take responsible actions to sustain forests and the broader environment.”
Made up of three equally important components—high-quality instructional materials for grades PreK-12; carefully designed professional development; and an extensive distribution and support network—PLT was designed to gain the confidence of the education community. “Educators would have to like it, trust it, and use it.” At the same time, its creators wanted to ensure that the curriculum was “balanced, fair, and accurate” and that it “encouraged students to consider all sides and factors when making decisions about the environment.”
PLT has long been recognized as one of the premier environmental education programs in the world, and this September, PLT’s “Carbon & Climate” curriculum for grades six through eight was named a Learning® magazine 2020 Teachers’ Choice Award for the Classroom winner. (PLT’s “Energy in Ecosystems” for grades three through five and “Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood” have also received Teachers’ Choice Awards for the Classroom.)
Teachers, parents, and EE practitioners of all stripes are invited to review PLT’s many free online resources, from STEM strategies to sample lesson plans to family activities. Activities are “practical, hands-on, and fun, and aligned with state and national academic standards, including the Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core State Standards, College, Career, and Civic Life Framework, Head Start, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children,” the PLT website explains.
KAEE has served as the state sponsor and coordinator of Kentucky PLT since 2012. Want to learn how you can become certified to use PLT curriculum or how we can help you host a PLT workshop in your area? Visit our PLT webpage here!
PLT at a Glance
Project Learning Tree advances environmental literacy and promotes stewardship through excellence in environmental education, professional development, and curriculum resources that use trees and forests as windows on the world.
Project Learning Tree is committed to creating a future where the next generation values the natural world and has the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed decisions and take responsible actions to sustain forests and the broader environment.
Provide students with the awareness, appreciation, skills, and commitment to address environmental issues
Enable students to apply scientific processes and higher order thinking skills to resolve environmental problems
Help students acquire an appreciation for and tolerance of diverse viewpoints on environmental issues and develop attitudes and actions based on analysis and evaluation of the available information
Encourage creativity, originality, and flexibility to resolve environmental problems and issues
Inspire and empower students to become responsible, productive, and participatory members of society
By Leigh Cocanougher
Advancing Environmental Literacy
This July, the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education’s Board of Directors approved the organizations’s new Strategic Plan, a plan with the vision of “a sustainable world where environmental and social responsibility drive individual and institutional choices” and the mission to “increase environmental knowledge and community engagement in Kentucky through the power of environmental education.”
To see the vision through, KAEE has its sights set on several goals, including advancing environmental literacy; increasing public support for and investment in the field of EE; reaching broader audiences; better telling the story not only of what we are doing but also why EE is so crucial for the future of Kentucky; and cultivating collective impact to create a stronger and more inclusive EE movement.
Just a month after the new plan’s adoption, progress is under way. In this first of a series of stories about the ways we are making said progress, we will focus on our organization’s plan to advance environmental literacy, not only in our own state but in the southeastern region—and across the entire country—as well.
One of the many ways KAEE works to advance environmental knowledge is through facilitator trainings. Held all around the state, these trainings allow teachers, nonformal educators, and others to become certified by KAEE to host their own educator trainings in one of our curriculum programs: Project Learning Tree, Project WET, Project Wild, and Leopold Education Project. Whether they are working in the classroom, at a nature center, in a university, in the state government, or elsewhere around the state, our facilitators create a powerful network of educators who not only offer environmental education training to their community but help propel environmental literacy across the commonwealth.
“KAEE Facilitators are an amazing group of educators,” says Brittany Wray, KAEE Education Director. “They’re passionate, dedicated, and determined that everyone deserves environmental education. They are at the heart of the mission of our organization—delivering environmental education to Kentuckians.”
Another means of propelling environmental literacy in Kentucky is met through KAEE’s educator workshops. In June 2019, two such events took place—an intensive, three-day EE Bootcamp, where participants connected environmental education (EE), conservation, and natural resources with academic standards; and the annual Outdoor Learning Symposium, where more than 40 educators, administrators, and EE professionals from around the state spent the day learning how to effectively engage their students in outdoor and environmental education.
Through both facilitator trainings and educator workshops, KAEE is able to offer professional development opportunities directly to those “boots on the ground” who are working to advance EE in their own way.
Increasing environmental knowledge in Kentucky, though, is an ongoing task, so KAEE has plans (many already underway!) for meeting this goal using new and engaging methods. Want to learn more about them? Stay tuned for the second part of our Strategic Plan series!
By Leigh Cocanougher