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  • 21 Mar 2017 1:01 PM | Anonymous

    By: Guest blogger Bailey Stanard

    “I told you so” is the first thing that came to mind upon reading the recent article stating “an estimated more than 500 birds killed annually…” in the flyway above U.S. Bank Stadium. As I read further, my blood began to boil. I shouldn’t be surprised that when I mentioned the article at work (in finance), my coworkers were more interested in the views, seat prices, and concession options than the accountability of the owners, banks, and construction companies to create a structure safe for all creatures. I shouldn’t be surprised that companies are more interested in cost analysis and net profit than populations of migratory Ruby Throated hummingbirds. I shouldn’t be surprised… but as I sit here with my mouth open… I am.

    What are we willing to sacrifice to make a change? What are morals and ethics worth? What does integrity cost?

    Environmental stewardship isn’t easy, it IS sacrifice. Those working with environmental organizations know personal sacrifice starts with the little (emphasis on little) monetary benefit received every two weeks. Many of us, including myself, work part time, seasonally, or volunteer for the chance to make our voices heard. We tell stories, hoping to establish an emotional connection and instill some kind of response, to affect one single person or child to remember a place, a species, or a feeling. We operate on the notion that this will enact action (monetarily or otherwise) that trickles into change.

    Any good storyteller knows that the perspective and language used to communicate the story is essential to the audience remembering it. With maple syruping in full swing, I am reminded of one of the greatest storytellers ever from my Master Naturalist Course, Brett Sieberer, retelling an oral history of the discovery of maple sap. The story was memorable because of the passion and feeling Brett had telling the story. But, how can you impact others that don’t share the same values with stories to invest in environmentally appropriate actions?

    Interacting with naysayers feels like screaming to be noticed, heard, or seen. Communicating with those with power and influence that make decisions on our behalf can be exhausting. I realize I cannot ignore that appealing to a construction company to care about the population of snow buntings is a fool’s errand. However, I can take on a perspective that appeals to both parties and addresses concerns from both sides of party lines. I can tell the story I need them to hear by using the language of financial management. I can support my ethical and moral integrity with data and facts.

    There are times when I want to revert to the girl in the hemp beanie with strong convictions about the forest community, but the woman with spreadsheets and business acumen can make a difference too. My personal mission is to improve the world that I live in. As environmentalists, we’re exceptional storytellers; we just need to get creative with whom we’re telling the story. Maybe “I told you so” is the wrong approach; maybe the story needs to start with “Once upon a time”…


  • 16 Feb 2017 8:34 PM | Anonymous


    By: Wendy Tremblay, MAEE Board of Directors and Early Childhood Nature Specialist

    “Why do you do it?” A simple question. Not always with a simple answer. 

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    I’ve been asked this question more than once in the past month, and it really got me thinking about my purpose. Not just in my current job or my role on the MAEE board of directors, but overall. Why do I do the things I do?

    I currently work as a Nature Specialist at a private preschool in Mendota Heights. I have enjoyed my 7 years of work there, and now have the luxury of sending my children to the same school. My prior jobs included the typical environmental education variety of part-time and temporary positions to somehow get close to the 40 hours needed to maybe pay the bills. In the EE world, well paying, full-time positions are hard to come by, for a variety of reasons. If this is true, then “why do you do it”?  

    The same could be said for a career in education, particularly early childhood education. Current research and trends are showing the need for a quality education, and the earlier in life, the better. So it would make sense that we would need quality teachers to provide a variety of high quality experiences for our early childhood audience. Yet, the salary for most early childhood teachers is close to minimum wage and teacher burn-out is a real worry. “Why do you do it?”

    I started to take a look at my priorities. As a nature specialist, my priorities are not only to get the children outside, but to provide them with outdoor nature experiences where they can take that sense of wonder and amazement about our natural world into the next phases of their lives. As a mother, I want the same for my kids, and I try to add outside time into our daily schedule as much as possible. As the current MAEE president, I hope that our little non-profit organization and all of the work we do will work to empower educators to bring lessons outside and explore the curiosity of students. 

    I know my answer to this question will not be the same as yours. We all have a drive, that thing that pushes you to get up every morning and add things to your to-do-list. Our priorities might change from day to day, but the overall goal should remain. What is your passion? What drives you?

    “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.” -David Sobel

  • 16 Jan 2017 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    By Guest Blogger: Bailey Stanard

    As a part time interpretive naturalist sitting in the warm office of my full time job while my naturalist coworkers get to explore the great outdoors this week, I find myself a little less envious than on a warm spring day. Being a Minnesotan all my life, I would think I would be used to the frostbite wind chills, ice comets on the road shoulders, and skate worthy sidewalks. Though, every year it always seems to terrify me a bit more than usual and this year more than any other.

    Each day I try to deny myself that this winter must have been the same as last year, that I am remembering it wrong and it’s my bad memory to blame for the colder temperatures and lack of snow. Every year, I try to convince myself climate change is happening slower. I want to believe that the world is changing and nature nerds like me are making a significant impact to the political state. And then the election happened…

    Leading up to the results there were many stances that threatened parts of nature conservation and preservation that were of particular interest. Some of the unknowns at the time included: the EPA appointment, energy policy and economics, carbon dioxide emission laws, and the regulations of wetlands. All of these issues have a direct impact on climate change and these actions may well dictate its progression.

    I was in Mexico when I heard the news, voting absentee of course. The next day I flew home and all of my friends updated me on where they were when they heard the results, which people tend to do when a historic event occurs. The next day I traveled to Finland, MN to the Minnesota Naturalists’ Association Conference feeling apprehensive and a bit less sparkly.

    I was surrounded by true experts, inspired by their experience and unwillingness to waiver in the true face of adversity. I talked to as many people as possible about their challenges and the differences they personally make on environmental education in Minnesota. One seminar I attended was about lichens (which I know next to nothing about). I learned all about identification, testing, and the journey that presenter Joe Walewski had taken with his passion. I felt that ignite into my love of nature and I found myself tracking down Jane Votca, a Naturalist with Three Rivers Park District and a truly remarkable human, and told her we must do this lab at our nature center.

    As the weekend progressed I found opinions not defeated but motivating with an overwhelming willingness to take control and work harder in the signs of hardship. I found a positive and compassionate force to push progression and work longer with messages of hope and persistence. Despite the current state of politics and the state of climate change, I find myself filled with gratitude amongst a community of naturalist warriors who are willing to brave Minnesota winters to educate in a chance to preserve our most precious resources.

  • 21 Dec 2016 8:42 AM | Anonymous

    By: Britt Gangeness

    --Britt Gangeness coordinates and develops outreach and education projects at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). She has been working with the Minnesota Humanities Center on the Smithsonian Water/Ways project since 2014 and was thrilled to see the exhibit hit the streets this summer.

    Minnesota has a very unusual geographic position. We sit atop a triple, continental-scale water divide, a divide that sends water north to the Hudson, east to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic, and south to the Gulf of Mexico. Almost all of our water comes to our state as rain or snow.

    This means we are not receiving polluted water from a state with lower environmental standards. But it also means we have a responsibility to keep water clean—for our communities and for other states and nations.

    Whoa, that’s a big responsibility. How are we doing?

    There is a scientific answer, based on numbers and data compared to water quality standards. But there is also a community answer, which is comprised of the voices of people who care about that place and live in that place.

    On June 25, the Smithsonian Water/Ways tour opened in Spicer, Minnesota. The exhibit draws upon science and the humanities to explore water and what it means to Minnesotans—exploring water from scientific, historical, and cultural perspectives.

    Through my work on the project, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about water quality from my MPCA colleagues, listen to interviews of people from the six tour sites, and collect images of the special places they describe. Now I don’t just think of regional water quality trends. I think of people—THESE people. And I smile, because there are an awful lot of people out there who care about all the little plants, and animals, and flow rates, and smell of the mud, and the places where loons nest (to name a few of the many things they care about). They treasure the special events in their lives that happened in and around the water.

    That’s one of the strengths of the humanities, I think. We understand things in a new way. We bring people to the table that might not usually sit down together. In our case, we build common awareness about water, help create a shared vision for clean water, and inspire broader participation in that future.

    To ensure that Minnesota’s fish are safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our lakes are safe for swimming, we need to do a better job. Decades of monitoring and studying watersheds gave us scientific answers to water quality. Now we must bring this data alongside the voices of the people who care about and live in Minnesota to realize our clean water future.

    The Smithsonian Water/Ways project is a start and I’m excited to see what bubbles to the surface during the Minnesota tour!

  • 16 Nov 2016 9:30 PM | Anonymous

    By Jennifer Elsen                   

    I attended the North American Association for Environmental Education conference in Madison, Wisconsin, October 19th-October 21st. It was held at the beautiful waterfront convention center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright on Lake Monona. When I arrived early morning at the center, I was first drawn to the sunlight coming over the lake and the view of people rowing canoes across the calm waters.

    On Wednesday, I was fortunate to go on the Sand County Tour to the Aldo Leopold Foundation and the International Crane Foundation,an hour west of the capital in Baraboo, WI. The luxury bus was full when we set off on our road trip to see the “shack,” the Leopold’s cabin in the piney forest, and LEED certified Legacy Center. The International Crane Foundation, has all 15 species of crane from around the world. The rare cranes reside in holdings, while the local common cranes are free to come and go each season.

    Thursday began with multiple sessions given as round table discussions, a series of short presentations, hands-on presentations, and traditional presentations. A panel of four speakers occurred over lunchtime on Inspiration to Impact and Why EE Matters. The speakers discussed what inspired them to become who they are today, why they care about the environment, and what they are each doing to inspire others. A short film screening called Some Animals are More Equal Than Others: Keystone Species and Trophic Cascades was shown in the evening, followed by a Q&A session.

    On Friday, I enjoyed the opportunity to tour the Madison Children's Museum and see their green roof with edible gardens and interactive structures: such as tunnels, a climbing tower, and a chicken coop. The museum is in an old department store from the 20’s and is LEED gold certified. Madison is built on sacred ground and the philosophy was to convert this existing structure into a useful and creative space instead of destroying it for a new and improved one.

    I recommend attending the NAAEE conference in the future. I am happy to be a member of the North American Association for Environmental Education, the early childhood division Natural Start, as well as a past board member of MAEE, the Minnesota state affiliate.

    Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to be a part of this great movement, to be inspired and impacted by professionals in the environmental education field, and to be inspired to impact others in my teaching at a nature-based preschool in West Saint Paul.


  • 25 Oct 2016 4:33 PM | Anonymous

    As a statewide organization, MAEE tries to serve EE professionals throughout the state, but we can’t be everywhere at once, so we need your help! We would like to express our gratitude to our new Regional Advocates: Kayla and Forrest; and new Advocacy volunteer, River! 

    Welcome to our Northwest Regional Advocate Kayla Rauchwarter, based in Detroit Lakes, MN! Kayla is currently in graduate school for fishery management at American Military University. She was previously involved in outdoor recreation and led hikers and climbers out in Seattle, WA. She thinks environmental education offers the skills necessary for people to live as one with the world and hopes to become a strong educator in her fishery management career. In her free time, Kayla enjoys climbing, kayaking, hiking, reading and spending time with her family at the farm and outdoors! Kayla says, "Becoming a regional advocate offered me a step in the direction towards my career goals!”

    Welcome to our Central and Southeast Regional Adovcate Forrest McKnight. Bio coming soon. Thank you for your commitment, Forrest.

    Welcome to our Advocacy volunteer, River Ostrow. River graduated from the University of Minnesota, Morris in 2014 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and English. After graduating, she worked at outdoor education centers teaching science classes and spent a year as a farm-to-school coordinator in a small town in Vermont. Now that she has returned to her hometown, St. Paul, she is eager to find ways to get involved in the movement to enhance every child’s connection to our environment. River is excited for the opportunity to help advance the mission of MAEE in any way she can. 


  • 15 Sep 2016 7:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    By Uma Campbell

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    Are you looking for new ways to keep kids busy after school and on the weekends? Luckily, there’s one fun project that is perfect for kids of all ages, and it’s educational, too! Dedicate your time with your kids to teaching them about climate change and why everyone on the planet needs to make an effort to stop it.

    Why should kids learn about climate change? Kids are the future, and they will inherit this planet one day—and all the damage previous generations have done to it. Scientists understand time is running out to limit climate change to only 2 degrees Celsius. Because of this, it’s important you teach kids how to live a more sustainable life and limit the damage to this planet.

    But, getting kids interested in such a complex and scientific topic can be difficult, but not impossible. Here's how it can be done:

    First, help them understand.

    Kids can’t get involved with something unless they thoroughly understand it, so explain climate change to them in a kid-friendly way by using visuals. For example, the concept of greenhouse gases may be lost on kids, but if you turn it into a fun science project, they’ll be able to see what you’re talking about. Get an empty aquarium tank and put it upside in the backyard on a sunny day. Place one thermometer on the outside of the tank and one on the inside. Show your kids how the temperature inside the tank increases faster than the temperature outside of the tank. Then, explain how this is happening to the Earth, too. Gases are trapped inside the atmosphere, just like the heat is trapped inside the aquarium. Once kids understand what climate change is, you can start motivating them to take action against it.

    Download an app.

    Kids are very tech-savvy, so if you allow them to learn while also playing with an app, you will probably have more success. Download the app “Painting with Time: Climate Change” to show kids how certain areas have changed over time because of the negative effects of climate change. Although you can’t pick specific areas in Minnesota that they are familiar with, they will still get the idea once they see how much damage is being done to the world.

    Visit a museum.

    There are a number of museums in Minnesota that can help kids learn about the environment and what can be done to help it, such as the Science Museum of Minnesota. Either take your kids on a Saturday afternoon, or sign them up for a weekend youth camp at the museum so they can learn around other kids their age.

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    Show them how to live green.

    Now that kids are aware of what climate change is and the effect it is having on the environment, show them how to live green to reduce their carbon footprint. Teach kids to turn off and unplug devices when they are not in use, and show kids how a small change like switching out light bulbs can save energy and make a difference. On the weekends, instead of loading up your car and going to the mall or movie theater, hop onto a bike and reduce carbon emissions by biking through town with your kids.

    Kids may have heard the term “climate change” before, but it’s up to you to help them understand just how serious this issue is, and how important it is for them to get involved. 

  • 14 Aug 2016 12:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Saturday, August 6, 2016 was a beautiful morning for this year’s MAEE “Grow in the Open” Conference with a clear sky, little wind, temp.’s just under the averages, and low humidity!

    I wish I could’ve only bicycled to the Conference as I had desired, and that was probably my biggest regret of the day. The Conference began with the keynote speaker, Chad Dayton, who challenged us regarding communicating the positive impact of EE, policy advocacy and reform, and community involvement. Chad’s sweeping, informative, overview was followed by a brief divide and collaborate and upon reconvening we lightning shared our collective discussions with highlights like “healthy environment, healthy us," community mapping to know who the agencies are and what the barriers are, identifying the economics of the big players (city governments, corporations, and school districts), and making public lands more accessible. 

    Following Chad’s keynote address there were two breakout sessions, lunch, annual member meeting, two more additional breakout sessions, and a brief closing session. I attended Britt Gangeness’ “Using the SEEK website to promote your work” where I was encouraged to pursue using SEEK’s “Partner” resource. This was followed by Anna Dutke and Leah Bulver’s (Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools) “Implementing Nature Preschool and Kindergarten in a School District” where I was encouraged by a public school district embracing EE demonstrated in their expansion from prekindergarten to kindergarten to thirty other classroom teachers who will be incorporating an Outdoor Classroom. Lunch was enhanced by the gorgeous weather and the annual Member meeting was informative. The third session was difficult for me to decide, but I was glad to have participate in Stephanie Kappel’s (Como Zoo Representative) “Hands-on Curriculum for a Crowded Planet” where I was engaged in activities like “Measuring a Million,” “For the Common Good,” and “Food for Thought.” The final session was Melissa Tobias and Jennifer Elsen’s (Dodge Nature Center Preschool) “Environmental Education for the Littlest Ones (3-5 year olds)” where I was able to hear from some of this year’s Nature-Based Preschool National Conference locale’s employees. The Conference was closed out by Angie Ziobro’s well designed “Blue Marble” send-off.

    It was a tremendous day, and I’m grateful for the generosity of MAEE and its supporters to allow me the opportunity to be encouraged and see the pathways that I, too, may take within my own school district in furthering environmental education.

    Written by Conference Scholarship Recipient Dan Gruhlke, Pinewood Elementary SchoolMonticello, MN


  • 18 Jul 2016 5:15 PM | Anonymous member

    Agriculture and Environmental Education
    by Ethan Lewis

    On July 16th the organization I work with participated in the Eat Local Farm Tour. We had approximately 300 people come out to our farm to learn about chickens and their benefits, take wagon rides out into the fields and do family activities. It was a very visual demonstration of people’s growing desire to connect with our food and those who grow it. On a personal level, it was affirmation that my passion to use agriculture and food to connect people to their environment was desired.

    This may appear to be a strange feeling since four of the last five-blog posts have been related growing food in some capacity. But this is a more recent trend in the field of environmental education. I certainly wasn’t taught at University that agriculture could be a vector for building relationships to the land and fostering an environmental ethic. But it makes sense. There are countless articles of research lending support to how build an environmental ethic in individuals. One of the common themes is an adult role model guiding children in the outdoors.

    I know I was lucky enough to have lots of those in my life – both grandmas took me to farms to pick fruits and vegetables, my mother gardened and my dad is an excellent (not that I’m biased) cook on the grill or over an open fire. While I am the only one of three kids who is in the environmental field, my siblings both have a strong environmental mindfulness. My brother loves just being outdoors with no particular agenda. While my sister enjoys U-pick veggies and fruits and gardening, brining her son with her. She started him at 2 years old, in case you are wondering how young you can go.

    But I know not everyone has a green thumb or wants to balance accidental plant deaths caused by a “helpful” 2 year old with producing as much as you can in a garden. But there are many options available to us here in the Twin Cities Metro, as well as, the greater U.S. There is Gale Woods Farm, who among other things has Saturday Mornings on the Farm programs. Scout groups can participate in programs at Minnesota Food Association. Both Dodge Nature Center and Children’s Country Day School have a strong farm component to their preschools. The point isn’t really what you do with children. But to enjoy doing them. So I challenge everyone to go out and experience some agriculture with your family and friends.

  • 16 Jun 2016 7:51 PM | Anonymous

    By: Liz Hasty

    My husband and I recently moved in to our first home. It is quite the upgrade from the tiny condo we moved out of including the backyard space. The previous owners of the house had put raised garden beds in the backyard and my husband and I couldn’t wait to get our hands in the soil this spring.

    My father is Italian and all through the dozen plus moves my family made when I was kid, my dad always had a tomato plant and some basil growing in our yard. Depending on the space, we sometimes added in hot peppers, lettuce and my favorite, strawberries. My dad would make big pots of sauce with the tomatoes and basil and over pasta, as a family, we would discuss ways to keep the squirrels out of the garden.

    Following in my dad’s footsteps, I planted tomatoes, basil and an assortment of vegetables. I’ve been lucky to not have squirrels in my garden… yet. I want to explore new ways to cook with my veggies and I’ve begun to check out some cooking classes around town. Cooking classes can be really expensive, but I have found some places that really give you a lot for your buck.

    Gale Woods is a working farm located in Minnetrista. For just $12, I learned how to pickle and can a variety of vegetables. At the end of the three hour class, each participant took home four small jars of their pickled creations. Gale Woods has a beautiful space and offers classes throughout the year. Most of the food used in their classes come from the farm itself. They even have classes where you pick the food first (or milk the cow or gather the eggs) and then cook it together. What a great way to show your kids where our food really comes from.

    My second favorite place is Theodore Wirth Pavilion located in Minneapolis. They offer a variety of cooking classes throughout the year including how to use essential oils in your cooking and summer camps based around cooking for kids. For $8, I spent a cozy winter’s evening with my neighbor and a warm cup of hot chocolate, learning how to make krumkake. We made four different varieties with plenty to sample and take home.

    What are some of your favorite places to take cooking classes in Minnesota? Leave your comment below. I would love to hear from you!


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