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