Envisioning a world in which “action-oriented education enables every child to understand and value water, ensuring a sustainable future,” Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) is built on the premise that water connects all humankind, is for everyone, must be managed sustainably, and depends on personal responsibility and action.
From developing heavily utilized water resource education materials to offering educator training workshops to organizing community events such as water festivals, Project WET works with people around the world to advocate for the role of water education in solving complex water issues. “Our Earth’s finite but renewable water resources affect the health and well-being of every person on the planet,” Project WET says. “That means we must protect, conserve, and manage the water we have. Water education helps us do that.”
In the U.S., the Project WET network includes state agencies, municipal utilities, zoos and aquariums, faith-based organizations, colleges and universities, and many other organizations with an interest in water and education. Additionally, Project WET has a presence in more than 70 other countries; Project WET materials have been customized, localized, and translated for countries ranging from China to Uganda.
The Project WET team develops their materials with a broad range of educators in mind, from classroom teachers to nature center staff to zookeepers to parents. The program’s educational activities are designed to seamlessly complement existing curricula, with activities fulfilling objectives and educational standards not only in the sciences but other disciplines, from fine arts to health, as well.
In Kentucky, KAEE provides the daily operational activities of Project WET through an innovative partnership with the Kentucky Division of Water (KDOW), which serves as the host institution of Project WET and provides essential funding for the program as well as a limited number of teacher stipends and curriculum guides. In 2019, more than 12 workshops coordinated by KAEE and our facilitator network focused on Project WET activities.
“The Project WET Foundation is an amazing organization that develops curriculum and resources that are invaluable to formal and nonformal educators alike,” says Brittany Wray, KAEE Education Director and Kentucky's state co-coordinator for Project WET. “Project WET activities promote critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that educators are searching for.”
Learn more at projectwet.org.
By Leigh Cocanougher
Dr. Melinda Wilder has been recognized by the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) as the 2019 Higher Education Educator of the Year for her lifelong service to the field.
In 1983, Wilder began her career as a middle school mathematics and science teacher. In that role, she developed her school’s outdoor classroom to teach a variety of subjects in natural settings. That experience and her passion for teaching about the environment led her to obtain a Ph.D. in science education. Wilder began teaching in the College of Education at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) in 1994 and became the Director of the Division of Natural Areas at EKU in 2005. The following year, she led the development of an environmental education endorsement program at EKU that was accredited by NAAEE and later by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.
Over the last decade, Wilder has sat on the board of the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education, partnered with Ecology Project International and improved Yellowstone National Park’s teacher fellowship program. “By working with preservice and inservice teachers through undergraduate and graduate classes at the University, I hopefully initiated a ripple effect—wherein they too help their students connect with the natural world,” said Wilder.
The Higher Education Educator of the Year award honors individuals for their efforts in promoting environmental education and using the environment as a context for learning in their teaching. “Dr. Wilder has been a superstar in environmental education, always looking for ways to integrate environmental education into her teaching and helping students gain the knowledge, skills and know-how to be a positive force for sustainability in their communities,” said Judy Braus, Executive Director of NAAEE. “Her career exemplifies leadership, volunteer spirit and innovation and we are thrilled to recognize her outstanding accomplishments in the field.”
One of the longest-standing members of the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education, Melinda continues to work tirelessly with KAEE to ensure its continued success and growth. She served on the Board of Directors from 2006-2010 and the governance committee from 2015-2019. She has been an instructor in the Professional Environmental Educator Certification Course, an NAAEE accredited program, for 13 years. In 2015, Dr. Melinda Wilder was awarded the KAEE Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding commitment and service to EE.
By Colby Parkinson, NAAEE
In today’s climate—social, political, and literal—our young people’s ability to spend meaningful time outdoors each day has never been more important. We know that our children will be tasked with solving the planet’s increasing environmental problems, and it is our duty as today’s adults to give them first the opportunity to love their natural surroundings: to watch the squirrels in their backyards, recognize the call of the cardinals in their trees, study the bees and butterflies in their gardens. The greatest gift we can give to our children is a love for the outdoors, and the greatest gift we can give to the outdoors is a generation of children who love it.
At KAEE, this duty is forever in our minds. To see through our vision of a sustainable world where environmental and social responsibility drive individual and institutional choices, we strive each day to ensure Kentucky’s children have daily opportunities to know and love their natural world—to engage in education in the environment, about the environment, for the environment. To do so, we rely on the gifts and donations from people who support environmental education and the work we are doing in the field. Donations to KAEE allow us to train educators, bolster community engagement, build collective impact, and continue our efforts in ensuring that environmental education is incorporated into all of Kentucky's classrooms.
Join us today in seeing our vision through, and help us make a true impact in our state, region, country, and world. Help us ensure that our youngest generations have the chance to explore, hike, swim, climb, paddle, camp, bike outdoors. Help us help them love the outdoors. Help us help them protect it.
By Leigh Cocanougher
Held at Lexington’s McConnell Springs Park, KAEE’s 2019 Excellence in EE Awards Ceremony and Annual Member Meeting took place on Tuesday, October 29, and welcomed more than 40 KAEE members and friends with the opportunity to network, hear KAEE updates, vote on current association matters, and recognize KAEE’s award winners, the Kentucky Environmental Education Council’s Master Educators, and the retiring and new KAEE board members.
During the event, KAEE Executive Director Ashley Hoffman thanked the 2018-2019 Board of Directors and offered additional words of gratitude to those board members who have now completed their service—Mark Young, Trevor Claiborn, Jennifer Meunier, Carmen Agouridis, and Henrietta Sheffel. Henrietta, who has just completed seven consecutive years on the KAEE board, has served as treasurer since 2012, and her remarkable dedication to the organization was highlighted during the meeting.
Hoffman also provided her annual Executive Director update, sharing the ways KAEE is working to advance environmental literacy around the state and beyond through educator and facilitator workshops, soon-to-be-released online EEcredits program, working groups who are connecting EE activities with education areas beyond science, and by serving as a pilot state for the North American Association for Environmental Education’s “Adopt the Guidelines” of Excellence trainings. She also highlighted KAEE’s ongoing and important work with the Southeastern Environmental Education Association and the NAAEE, as well as sharing highlights from the recent NAAEE Annual Conference, which KAEE co-hosted.
Members who were in attendance then approved the 2019 board slate, which included returning board members Jennifer Beach, Vivian Bowles, and Tonya Swan and new board members Jackie Gallimore and Jason Nally. Remaining on the board for the 2019-2020 year are past chair Billie Hardin, chair Jennifer Hubbard-Sánchez, vice chair Blair Hecker, secretary Whitney Wurzel, and members Arnetta McClary and Rae McEntyre.
Members in attendance also approved changes to the KAEE Constitution, which include the addition of new term limits and specify that no board member can serve for more than seven consecutive years.
KEEC’s Executive Director Billy Bennett and Administrative Specialist Wesley Bullock then recognized the 2018 and 2019 Master Educators, who have completed the state’s Professional Environmental Educator Certification course and, afterward, completed six consecutive years of continuing education requirements in the field. The list includes Joe Baust, Vivian Bowles, Ashley Hoffman, Kathleen Johnson, Ginny Lewis, Tresine Logsdon, Diane Moon, Karen Pratt, Michelle Shane, Henrietta Sheffel, Andy Sigmon, Christa Weidner, Terry Wilson, and Maria Zoretic-Goodwin.
The KAEE 2019 Excellence in EE Awards recognize Lee Newbury (Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Environmental Education), Carmen Agouridis (M.K. Dickerson Award for Excellence in Environmental Education), Ashley Mike (Rising Star Award for Excellence in Environmental Education), Highlands High School (Outstanding PreK-12 School for Excellence in Environmental Education), Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy (Outstanding Community Partner for Excellence in Environmental Education), and Maker’s Mark Distillery (Outstanding Business for Excellence in Environmental Education).
To conclude the event, Dr. Terry Wilson, a founding member of KAEE and beloved EE champion in Kentucky and way beyond, introduced KAEE's new Legacy Fund. Wilson spoke of his background in EE, his dedication to its mission, and how he is helping jumpstart the Legacy Fund with a $5,000 gift not to be used to support the great work already being done by KAEE but to “do magic,” he said, “beyond what KAEE has been able to do thus far.”
By Leigh Cocanougher