Blog

  • 13 Mar 2013 5:24 PM | Anonymous member
    In May of 2009 I was introduced to the MAEE community when I joined the board of directors (I was appointed to finish a vacated term). The close-knit community of board directors and members welcomed me warmly, and I quickly came to value the board and the broader MAEE membership for their friendships, support, professionalism, and fun.

    Now in 2013, I’m pleased to continue the tradition as I, along with four other returning directors, welcome seven new colleagues to the MAEE board of directors. They join us at an exciting time.

    Minnesota and its communities, EE and otherwise, simply do not stand still. Similarly, our strategies and plans simply cannot extend six years into the future--an eternity in our swiftly changing political, social and cultural communities. That’s why the 2013 MAEE board are proud to be taking our first steps down the path that the 2012 board has gifted to us--a strategic plan that the 2012 board worked diligently to bring to life. This plan will shape the next two years of MAEE’s work, and will be revisited and revised after that, allowing it to remain relevant and responsive to the Minnesota of the day.

    We've hit the ground running. Already new ideas are bubbling out of this enthusiastic, dedicated group, including improvements to existing programs, procedures… not to mention the solidifying plans for a first-rate conference in June 2013: “Exploring Our Communities.”

    Attendees to the Minnesota Environmental Education Conference consistently comment on the value it brings to their professional lives. What will you experience at the 2013 conference? Meet up with new and longtime members, exchange ideas with others in your field, build your professional network, and much more. Find out more in the conference section of our website and be sure to check back often as more plans come together. We can’t wait to see you there!

    Yours in EE,
    Stefan Theimer

  • 18 Feb 2013 9:28 AM | Anonymous

    How to be Conscious Consumers Leading into Spring

    by Rachel Maxwell, MAEE Board of Directors 

    February can be a tricky month for us Minnesotans.  We start to see mirages of unfrozen lakes, farmers' markets, and walking outside without fear of falling. At the same time that our thoughts turn to warmth and springtime, more snow comes down and winter goes on.  

    Despite the bad rap that February seems to get, there is more to this time of year than meets the eye.  The beauty of this time of year is that it is a time for preparation - preparation for that ultimate transformation that comes with spring.

    We participate in activities like spring cleaning, giving up or taking on things for Lent, and renewing our minds and bodies through spring break vacations.  We, as nature, have the opportunity to begin anew, to put our best foot (or feet) forward.  As we consider the approach of spring and the turning of the seasons, we are often brought inward to consider our own lives and how they match up to our values, dreams, and passions.

    In many ways, what we choose to consume, to avoid, to create, in the privacy of our homes is a greater vote for or against the environment than how we educate in the public eye. So this spring, let’s walk the talk as environmental educators – let’s be environmental educators in our lifestyles, through our actions and daily choices, through conscious consumption.

    It can often be daunting to try to make the "right" choice when it comes to what is good for the environment, ourselves, and others simultaneously. It can sometimes feel like we are choosing between the "lesser of two evils" rather than a black and white choice of what's better over what's worse. 

    Below are some resources for conscious consumption (many of which are locally-based) that you may find helpful as you spring clean your lifestyle.  Through aligning our values with our lifestyles, we can be even better environmental educators at home and in the store.  

    Food/Shopping

    • Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Pocket Guide - includes a guide you can print and carry with you as you shop and dine to determine the seafood choices that are healthiest for you and the environment
    • Environmental Working Group’s Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce - because sometimes buying organic can be a difficult transition financially, this guide helps you prioritize what you purchase organically based on the amount of pesticides in different items
    • Twin Cities Local Food - an online marketplace where you can order a variety of products from local farmers and producers in the Twin Cities area - includes up-to-date, in-season selections
    • Local Harvest - find local CSAs, farms, farmers' markets, co-ops
    • Contempl8 T-Shirts - Minneapolis-based company that prints eco-friendly, water-based T-shirts using 100% wind power
    • Better World Shopping Guide - grades companies and products on factors including human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement, and social justice
    Home/Garden
    • Home Energy Squad - trusted energy experts come to your home and install energy-saving materials - you only pay for materials; Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy provide labor and installation
    • Monarch Painting - painting service in St. Paul that uses low or zero VOC paint
    • Ecological Gardens - garden service in Minneapolis based on permaculture principles - create each unique landscape with a base of harmonious design elements
    • Mirasol Farm - organic bath and body products homemade from raw ingredients - River Falls, WI 
    • Peapods Natural Toys - a mother-owned family store in St. Paul offering natural toys, baby slings, natural baby care products, cloth diapers, and books
    Miscellaneous
    • BikeMN - a guide to biking in Minnesota
    • EcoEnclose - sells compostable, biodegradable, and sustainable packaging/shipping materials 
    • Seventh Generation - green cleaning products, laundry detergents, non-toxic cleaners - sold all over

    More than anything, these resources are meant to be a start, an encouragement to refocus our lives as the rest of the natural world begins anew this spring.  Please feel free explore what might be more local to your neck of the woods, and to share with others around you.  

    While consuming more consciously might feel more expensive on the wallet, consider the many hidden costs associated with less healthy/environmentally-friendly alternatives.  As you consume consciously, you may also find that the thing you thought you need is more of a want - so as you cut back and focus on the reduce part of "reduce, reuse, recycle," you will find you have more money to invest in things that are better for you and the environment.

    Now, go and have a happy February! 
  • 14 Jan 2013 11:54 AM | Anonymous
    13-year old Miranda Andersen on Nature Deficit Disorder at TEDxYouth 

     - By John Smith, Will Steger Foundation, MAEE Board of Directors
    Miranda Anderson (source: http://www.tedxkidsbc.com/mirandaandersen/)

    Worried about the future of our youth? Perhaps you have good reason to be.  However, here is one short video proving that your worries are not the full story - it'll brighten your day! (Skip ahead in the video to 43:43) 

     (to see Miranda Anderson's speech you will need to skip ahead in the video to 43:43).  

    Watch as this 13-year-old delivers a professional speech defending experiences in nature and her inspiring encounter with Richard Louv.  Maybe I should call this post "Hero Youth and the Amazing Things They Do With Technology".  What do you think?

     - John Smith
    Education Assistant
    Will Steger Foundation

    MAEE Board of Directors
  • 02 Jan 2013 1:02 PM | Anonymous member
    Hamline University studies the history of environmental education in Minnesota

    Over the past three years, Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) has undertaken a project to collect oral histories from Minnesota’s environmental educators. The project, which was funded by Legacy Grants through the Minnesota Historical Society, was done in two phases. The first phase focused on the “pioneers” of environmental education in the state, examining the period between 1970 and 1990. This phase of the project was created by Kevin Clemens as his capstone thesis for a Master’s degree in Environmental Education from Hamline. A second phase of study, which was undertaken in 2012, examines the period from 1990 to the present and has been managed by Clemens in his role as a Research Fellow at CGEE.

    Minnesota has played an important role in the development of environmental education. The early pioneering work of educators such as Sigurd Olson, the development of the MN Environmental Education Council in 1971, the MN Environmental Education Board in 1976, and the creation of Residential Environmental Learning Centers and EE graduate degree programs have kept Minnesota at the fore of environmental education. Despite this, little has been written about the state’s contributions to the rich history of environmental education. In 2010, CGEE initiated a multiyear research project to address this shortcoming.

    Oral history is an appropriate method of documenting the history of Minnesota’s environmental education efforts for several reasons. Although written archives exist, primarily residing with the Minnesota Historical Society, the thought processes, inspiration, and innovation that went into creating education programs is not always clear from the available information. By interviewing those involved, these important aspects of Minnesota’s education programs can be better understood. Audio recordings and transcripts of the recordings were created using the best practices and recommendations of the Oral History Association. In addition, CGEE videotaped the oral history interviews for possible future use in a documentary dealing with the subject.  

    For the first phase, thirteen “pioneers” were interviewed. These included former classroom educators, non-traditional educators, legislators, and individuals involved in Environmental Learning Centers. The second phase, which is just finishing now, covers the time frame of 1990 to the present and includes classroom educators, state and local officials, and others who have played a role in Minnesota’s environmental education programs. It is anticipated that this will include another 12-14 interviews.

    “The project was primarily created for data collection,” notes Clemens. “We aren’t that concerned with analyses at this point. The important thing is to get the audio recordings and transcriptions into the archives so that future researchers will have them as a resource.” The audio recordings and transcripts are available for interested educators and researchers through the Minnesota Historical Society’s Research Library, through Hamline University’s Bush Library, and through CGEE.


    Kevin Clemens can be contacted about this project at kclemens01@hamlineuniversity.edu.

  • 05 Dec 2012 12:37 PM | Anonymous member

    President's Perspective--December 2012

    -By Britt Gangeness, 2010-2012 MAEE Board President

    After three years as the MAEE president, I am passing the torch to Stefan Theimer next month. In my last Present’s Perspective it is exciting for me to be able to share a new MAEE strategic plan that will guide the organization's work in 2013 and 2014.

    Through a strategic planning process called Real Time Strategic Planning, the 2012 board learned to think and discuss opportunities and challenges through a strategic lens. This is, of course, what a board of directors ought to do, but it can be very challenging. We learned to separate our project work from our strategic thinking this year. It was a great step for the board!

    The Real Time Strategic Planning process asked us to agree on the identity of MAEE, the opportunities we face, and the focus we feel is appropriate for our organization. In short, MAEE will use the next two years to focus on coordinating a strong annual conference, highlighting successful programs and professionals, creating more opportunities to connect members with each other, and building our advocacy work. We hope that our advocacy work, in particular, will expand our network to include a larger group of supporters of EE who may not be involved in EE professionally.

    Here is a summary:

     

    MAEE organizational strategy

    We advance our mission of supporting and advancing EE throughout the state and seek to strengthen the role of EE as a solution to our pressing environmental and societal challenges by serving EE professionals, K-12 educators, students, and supporters of EE in Minnesota.

    We will build upon MAEE’s unique strengths:

    • We bring together diverse EE community members.
    • We hold a professional and quality state EE conference.
    • We support legislation and advocate on behalf of the EE community.
    • We have international affiliation with NAAEE, and have access to the resources available through their affiliate network.

     

    Programmatic and operational strategies:

    How we will do this:

    Help our members address challenges, deliver quality EE, and learn from each other.

    Coordinate an annual conference that builds capacity of members to addresses challenges and provides opportunities to share with each other

    Highlight successful programs and professionals through awards and communications

    Provide financial support to conferences

    Connect members to resources and each other.  

    Advocate for environmental education and assist others in advocating for environmental education.

    Increase board capacity to understand legislative issues and to more broadly speak as advocates for EE.

    Join coalitions or boards that advance EE in our state.

    Identify, track, and support relevant legislation, drawing on the resources provided by the NAAEE Action Network.

    Inform membership & EE supporters about relevant legislation through communications and website.

    Facilitate opportunities for members & EE supporters to advocate for EE by providing information, training, easy-to-submit letters.

    Be a financially stable organization with transparent processes and sound business practices.

    Recruit board members and volunteers who are assigned to these duties.

    Build board understanding through discussion and trainings.

    Provide transparent financial reports to board and membership.


    If this information surprises you, makes you happy, or makes you troubled, we’d like to know! Strategic thinking is an ongoing process, not a long-term road map. 

    For me, the ability to articulate an identity statement that includes a WHY statement was a great breakthrough. Why do we support and advance EE in our state? Well, we--me, you, all MAEE members--do this to “strengthen the role of EE as a solution to our pressing environmental and societal challenges.”* This is the source of our passion and our motivation. Though there are other ways to address these challenges this group is down-right convinced that EE is crucial!

    It has been an honor and a challenge to lead an all-volunteer organization. The most valuable assets an organization has are the long-term volunteers and supporters who understand the needs of the organization. I don’t intend to stop volunteering for MAEE. I just intend to participate in different ways.

    Whether you are a new member, past board member, or current volunteer I encourage you to get involved in the future work of MAEE. How do you do that, you ask? Make a donation or write an email to maeeinfo@gmail.com describing your interest it the projects above. We’ll connect you with the appropriate committee.

    Yours in EE,

    Britt Gangeness, 2010-2012 MAEE Board President

    *Thanks to the NAAEE Affiliate Network strategic plan for the wording and inspiration for this part of our identity statement!

  • 29 Nov 2012 12:16 PM | Anonymous member

    Rail River Folk School

    - By Brett Cease & Britt Gangeness, MAEE members

    Folk schools are popping up around Minnesota and present a unique venue for environmental education. Folk schools use short courses to teach skills and traditions. Classes are on topics such as traditional arts and crafts, farmsteading, sustainable living, and other lifestyle skills. Courses are often taught by community members and are focused on adult and family audiences. Topics and teachers emerge from the history, location, and interests of the community.

    In many ways, folk schools are another example of quality adult education because they include social time, peer-to-peer teaching, and an emphasis on self-development, rather than tests and grades.

    To give you a better picture of what goes on at these wonderful places, here is a snap shot of one folk school in Minnesota, the Rail River Folk School in Bemidji.

    Rail River Folk School

    Rail River Folk School (RRFS) began in the late fall of 2010 from the inspired vision of two women in Bemidji, Jessica Saucedo and Rochelle Carpenter.  Fed up with many of the consumeristic elements of our modern society, Saucedo and Carpenter wanted to provide an alternative gathering space to offer local Bemidji community members the opportunity to teach each other how to become more resilient and interdependent through traditional skills and crafts.

    RRFS opened up to the public in a former vegetable warehouse located downtown right alongside Bemidji’s train tracks, just west of the small section of the Mississippi River between Lakes Irving and Bemidji, hence "Rail River."

    With an emphasis on accessibility and affordability, RRFS has uplifted the diverse wisdom of area locals since its inception and has provided a wide-swath of classes for all who can attend--from Akido to seed starting, basic carpentry to chicken processing.  Many of the events are even free (with an average cost being around only $20) and rarely require prior registration.

    In addition, RRFS hosts many community gatherings, from the first Friday Art and Northwoods Music Collective to the Headwaters Food Sovereignty Council’s monthly organizational meetings.  They have also become a key drop-off location for local farmers and Community Supported Agriculture to pass on their produce to the local community.

    Beginning New Year’s 2011, RRFS partnered with the Indigenous Environmental Network, (a local non-profit with global connections for environmental advocacy on behalf of Native rights), along with the local MN GreenCorps to embark on a very unique program billed as “Sustainable Tuesdays.”

    The concept was simple--every week on Tuesday evening Sustainable Tuesdays would provide a two-hour class focusing on some element of sustainability and/or Environmental Education to anyone in the public who wanted to attend.  Since then, over 40 programs have been taught to over 1000 total attendants, averaging over twenty-five participants a week.  The classes have covered topics as diverse as wild edible identification, solar panel workshops, waste reduction and energy efficiency strategies, and the opportunity to make your own rain barrel and composting worm bin. 

    After almost a year since it began, this past week over twenty community members came together for Sustainable Tuesdays to learn how to weave their own snowshoes and make their own candles. As usual, the attendants ranged in age from kindergarten to retirement and came together in RRFS's common space to learn and share together.

    The current program coordinators Simone Senogles (IEN) and Caitlyn Schuchhardt (MN GreenCorps) began the evening by introducing the process of how to melt beeswax and make candles, followed by former coordinator Brett Cease discussing the history and tradition behind snowshoeing.

    After the group divided, Cease dived into working with a set of pre-bent white ash frames from Country Ways and the nitty-gritty of snowshoe weaving--covering the merits of the girth hitch and slip knot as well as the details of varnishing and proper care throughout their use in exploring the beautiful winter landscapes of Minnesota.

    By the programs' end, all of the participants had something to show for their efforts. Whether it was a mason jar filled with a beeswax candle or an early woven set of snowshoes to finish later at home--all who attend Rail River Folk School take a larger piece of being connected to their community in sustainable and environmentally-aware ways back home with them.

    Other Folk Schools in Minnesota

    Five folk schools of note in our area are the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Milan Village Arts School in Milan, Driftless Folk School in Viroqua, WI, Rail River Folk School in Bemidji, and the Two Rivers Folk School in St. Paul.

    The folk school model can also be used in an informal way, where families get together to teach each other what they know about traditional foods, crafts, and skills.

    How might the folk school model be applied in your community?


    About the author

    Brett Cease recently finished up his term with the MN GreenCorps, collaborating with the city government and its sustainability committee to advance the MN GreenStep Cities program. He also partnered with local schools, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and local community education outreach through the weekly Sustainable Tuesdays program held at the Rail River Folk School. Passionate about environmental and outdoor education, he is completing his teaching licensure in secondary Social Studies. Contact him at brettw.cease@gmail.com. For more information about Bemidji’s ongoing programming, visit: http://greenlivingbemidji.areavoices.com.

  • 03 Nov 2012 6:37 PM | Anonymous
    Hennepin County Fix-It Clinics

     - By Britt Gangeness, MN Pollution Control Agency & MAEE Board President

    Fix-it Clinics bring people together to reduce waste and share skills.As an MAEE member whose “paid job” is to reach adults with environmental information and resources, I am fully aware of the challenges of engaging adults. 

    That’s why I was super excited to hear about Hennepin County’s new Fix-ItClinics. At these events, residents bring in small household appliances, clothing, electronics, mobile devices or other broken items. With free, guided assistance from a volunteer with repair skills, attendees disassemble, troubleshoot and try to fix their item. 

    Nancy Lo, coordinator of the Fit-It Clinic program, said one of her favorite “fixes” was when a woman brought in her sewing machine. “After a lot of diligent work and help from at least 3 people, the sewing machine was up and running plus the woman learned how to use her machine. There were hugs all around!” 

    It’s not just about fixing things, it’s about learning about “the way things work.” The October 7th event at Southdale Library brought in 20 people. Of the 34 items they worked on, 85% were either fixed or they just need a part and the resident was told how to finish the fix. Most importantly, people at the Fix-ItClinics seem to be having fun

    Fix-it clinics bring people together to reduce waste and share skills.Programs like the Hennepin County’s are popping up all around the U.S. According to Nancy, “the other clinics vary a lot. Some are regular (i.e. third Thurs night every month), some are always in the same location, some move around, some have lots of people come, some have a handful.” There is a nice set of articles on the Fix-It  Clinic webpage that describe this global movement. 

    Teaching adults  

    I believe the Fix-It Clinics do a good job of meeting the unique needs of adult learners. Here is a 20-minute online presentation about adult learners from Extension and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that I recommend to anyone who works with adults: https://umconnect.umn.edu/adultlearning/

    To sum it up:  

    1. Adults have problems to solve
    2. Adults are self-directed learners
    3. Adults are vulnerable

    To engage adults, we must help them solve a real problem, match lessons to their needs and knowledge level, and help them succeed. Fix-It Clinics do just that--they fix real broken stuff, they match experts with beginners, and thrive on the excitement of a successful fix.

    Learning from each other 

    For other MAEE members who work with adults, there may be a lesson to learn from the Fix-It Clinics. How could you use more peer-to-peer teaching? How could you directly address the “problems” of your students? 

    Nancy’s advice to anyone starting a new program to remember that “promotion is very important, especially with something like this program, which is so new.” 

    More information and upcoming clinics are listed on the Hennepin County webpage: http://www.hennepin.us/fixitclinic

    Hennepin County is an MAEE Organizational Member. Find their contact information on our organizational member page:http://www.minnesotaee.org/organizations 

    Britt Gangeness works for the MN Pollution Control Agency and serves as the President of the MAEE Board of Directors.


  • 10 Oct 2012 9:26 PM | Anonymous
    The King of Place-Based Education

     - By Dan Schutte, Environmental Education Specialist at North Shore Community School and MAEE Board Member.

    Source: http://ivla.org/conference/2012/david_sobel.phpMAEE had the pleasure of collaborating with the UMD College of Education and Human Services Professionals to co-sponsor a visit from David Sobel to the UMD campus in Duluth for a full day of workshops and presentations on September 18th. Sobel is the leading voice for place-based teaching as a solution to many education woes. His visit was riddled with gems and insight for every classroom and school - here are a few snapshots that I would like to share.

    As he arrived to campus, his one request for the event organizers was to allow time in the afternoon schedule for a quick dip in the cool, refreshing waters of Lake Superior. “Oh, you brought a wet suit…?” I asked, somewhat surprised. “No, I brought my swim suit though, and I should be fine. I swim the year-round off the coast of Maine. Forty-six degrees is about the average, so this should feel warm.” Wow. It came out later in the day that David enjoys getting in a natural water source when he visits a place; it provides a memorable experience to any trip, and helps him feel he’s truly “been” there.

    David’s day was packed, starting with a presentation to UMD pre-service teaching students about the importance of providing variety, community connections, and real-world experiences into the lives of our students through their educational experiences. We looked at several examples of projects that involved students engaged in curricular activities while studying the sources of their cafeteria foods and engaging in service-learning projects with professionals to solve problems in their local communities. He also reminded the audience that these experiences aren’t always easy to create. They take time, effort, creativity, and passion. However, when accomplished the depth and relevance of the education that students receive warrant the extra effort.

    In the afternoon, David facilitated a small group session that brought in Duluth members of the Duluth-area education and civic communities to hear about David’s research and experience identifying seven activities that kids from around the world inherently enjoy, and which form the basis of his 2008 book Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators. Participants were given the chance to work in small groups under the guidance of David to design educational projects to be implemented at their place of work and based on one of the seven design principles. Both participants and observers were impressed by the creative processes that occurred and the project ideas and designs that people took away from the meeting.

    Finally, David gave a public presentation in the evening on the importance of nature-based play in the cognitive and social development of children. He provided research indicating that engagement in unstructured, nature-based play can help kids develop into healthier, safer, stronger, and more creative adults. At North Shore Community School in Duluth, Minnesota, the physical education teacher who attended David’s presentation has already begun classroom activities that incorporate David’s suggestions. The day after seeing the presentation, she took kids to the woods to engage in creative forms of play, building, problem solving, and teamwork. Last week, she said:

    “I won’t teach another year without it. The immediate effects – the cooperation, problem solving, creative thinking, friendship-building –are things that will benefit these kids in school and throughout their lives”.

    We were happy to find such an immediate report of success from the field.
    David’s day in Duluth was a gift those who participated, and to the field of education in our state and region. More about David’s research and experience can be learned from his numerous books, including Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities, Mapmaking with Children, Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Educaiton, Childhood and Nature, Wild Play: Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors, and Children’s Special Places.

    Dan Schutte is a professional environmental educator for the North Shore Community School north of Duluth Minnesota.  He is also an MAEE Board Member.


  • 15 Sep 2012 4:26 PM | Anonymous
    Rec-reate, Re-create in Retrospect

     - By Sarah Schimek, Program Cordinator at River Bend Nature Center, Fairbault, MN

    Photo credit: Minnesota DNRWhen I reflect on this year’s MAEE conference, “Rec-reate Re-create,” at Itasca State Park several highlights come to mind and it was hard for me to settle on something to write about. I got lots of great ideas for including STEM topics into our current activities here at River Bend; I found the history tour incredibly useful when I brought a group of 10-12 year old campers up to Itasca 3 weeks after the conference; I thought Mike Mann’s keynote session, “Screen to Green,” was innovative and fun. But I finally decided that my most valuable take-away was the networking and social interaction piece.

    For me, social events and schmoozing have always been one of the most awkward parts of attending professional conferences. Many times I will know a few people by name or reputation, a few that I will recognize by face, and even fewer that I know well enough to feel comfortable walking up and starting a conversation with. Am I shy? Not really, in fact I would consider myself pretty outgoing. A large part of my career has involved public education and outreach and I feel quite comfortable with that. There’s just something about a conference social that brings out the wallflower in me.

    But this year’s MAEE conference felt different. Maybe it was just the more relaxed nature of the MAEE community, or perhaps it was the beautiful setting of Itasca and the Mississippi Headwaters, or even the cash bar. Or perhaps not. More likely it was dancing with barefoot Board Members Katie-Lyn Bunney and Kristi Anchor Pursell during the Summer Solstice Social and trying to keep up with John Smith as Terrence Smith played a fast-paced reel. The Summer Solstice themed social was a great way to get people moving after a long day of driving and sitting and a fun way to break the ice for networking. It’s hard to be shy when you are swinging your partner round and round! The music by Terrence Smith was upbeat and catch and the Mary Gibbs Headwaters patio provided the perfect dance floor. I am actually looking forward to next year’s conference social with high hopes. Advertise music and dancing and I’ll be there for sure! 

     - By Sarah Schimek
    Program Coordinator at River Bend Nature Center, Faribault, MN
    2012 MAEE Conference Volunteer
  • 13 Aug 2012 11:06 PM | Anonymous
    Unless

     - By Brandon Baker, MAEE Member

    Students participating in the School Forest Program, which is funded through the LCCMR.“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.
    These words, the last ones spoken by the Lorax to the Once-ler in Dr. Seuss’ book, get right to the heart of environmental education. For me, it clearly states my goals every time I am teaching a group of students. My hope is not that my students leave remembering every fact I taught them, it’s that they learn to care about what I am teaching them. 

    (photo courtesy of Amy Kay Kerber, MAEE Member and Committee Volunteer)

    When I teach about salamanders, I don’t focus on the fact that because salamanders are amphibians they are some of the most endangered animals in the world. I focus on the fact that salamanders are the only vertebrates that can regrow their bones, and that in the lab they can even regrow their brains! I believe that by teaching my students the wonders of nature they will grow to care for it, and caring for it will lead them to take action.

    Unless students are taught about nature how can they come to care for it? How many of you have had students so afraid of nature they can’t step foot in the woods? I know I have had many students on the verge of tears because they had never been in the woods before and were afraid that something was going to hurt them. With a little education, however, they were soon running and playing among the trees. They were even beginning to care for the woods.

    Unless environmental education’s importance is realized, however, many students will never learn about nature, overcome their fear of it, or develop a connection to it. Unfortunately, environmental education is often considered to be a low priority. The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) was created in 1988 in Minnesota by a Constitutional Amendment establishing the
    Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The LCCMR is a committee made up of 15 members who decide what environmental and natural resource projects should be funded by the Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund. The mission of the Natural Resource Trust fund is to provide a long-term, consistent, and stable source of funding for activities that protect, conserve, preserve, and
    enhance Minnesota's "air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources" for the benefit of current citizens and future generations. Providing more than $360 million to more than 800 projects since 1991, many of these projects were based on education. Examples of large environmental education projects funded by the LCCMR include the first GreenPrint – State Plan for EE (1991), The Heron Lake ELC Ecology Bus (1993), Leopold Education Project (1995), EE Teacher Training (1995), SEEK (1995), School Nature Area Project (1995 and 1997), Minnesota Frog Watch (1997), Minnesota Schools Cutting Carbon (2008), Will Steger Foundation Climate Education (2010), Digital Bridge to Nature (2010),
    EE and OE Integration Grades 7-12 (2010), School Forest Expansion (2010), and the Junior Master Naturalist Program (2011).

    Unless citizens are educated stewards of the environment, how can anyone expect them to protect Minnesota’s natural resources? Unfortunately, environmental education is not being funded by the LCCMR as it once was. Environmental Education was not even listed as a funding category in 2006, 2007, and 2009. For the 2012-2013 year: 
    • 25 of the 169 proposals received by the LCCMR were for environmental education. 
    • Environmental education had the second most proposals 
    • The LCCMR recommended for funding only 2 of the 25 environmental education proposals. 
    • This resulted in environmental education having the fewest recommended proposals out of all of the categories by the LCCMR for the 2012-2013 year. 
    For comparison, the category with the greatest number of proposals, Land Acquisition and Restoration, at 31 proposals, had 17 of their proposals recommended for funding by the LCCMR. While preserving land is very important, unless people are educated about the value of the land you are protecting or restoring, can you ever really protect it? Why isn’t the LCCMR considering environmental education a high priority?

    Unless the LCCMR are told by citizens that environmental education is important to citizens, it likely won’t become a high priority for them. I know you care about environmental education. You probably even care about it “a whole awful lot.” Now you need to do what the characters in The Lorax did when they realized they cared, take action. Just as they planted a seed, so can you. Contact the LCCMR
    and tell them how important funding environmental education is
    . You are already planting seeds in your students’ minds in the hopes that someday those seeds will sprout and they will take action. Do what you hope your students will someday do and take action now. The LCCMR states on their website that they would like ideas and advice on how money from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund should be spent. You can find the contact information for the LCCMR 
    at: http://www.lccmr.leg.mn/Members/members.html.

    Unless we, as environmental educators, advocate for our field and educate others on the value of it, environmental education will continue to be considered a low priority. While advocacy makes many of us uncomfortable, it is an extension of what we already do as teachers and the next step for those of us who care about nature and education. The Lorax tells us that unless we care, things will not get
    better. Show you care by e-mailing the members of the LCCMR. If enough of us tell the LCCMR that environmental education is important, perhaps we won’t be haunted by the Lorax’s last word, “Unless.”

    Brandon Baker is an MAEE Member and a volunteer with the MAEE Legislative Committee.
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