Last weekend I attended the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education Conference. The first morning started off with snow. Lots of snow. Like a foot of snow to be more exact! The keynote speaker was incredible. She is the president for the National Environmental Education Fund, and she spoke about the different ways the Fund is trying to reach out to new audiences and the lessons she has learned in her life. Afterwards we had small group discussions, and she joined our group. So as a brand new intern, it was really crazy for me; I do not have much experience in environmental education, and I have to tell these educators my opinion on environmental education. However, no one made me feel excluded, which was something that continued the rest of conference. The educators at this conference weren’t there to teach, but to learn. Even the ones who had been teaching for years and years and years are still learning and improving their methods (the conference was filled with lots of “oooh’s” and “ahhh’s”). And there were educators from many different places. There was even an educator who discussed the importance of the ocean, though we are in landlocked Colorado. My biggest lesson from the first day is to keep an open mind and keep learning. Even as the educator. The beauty of nature is how interconnected it all is, so just keep learning.
My second morning I got to contribute some ideas to the CAEE about ways to improve their certification of environmental education to high school/undergraduate students. For lunch I had a very deep conversation about diversity issues in environment education with Dave Sutherland from Boulder County Open Spaces and the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. Then afterwards for our second keynote, I learned another lesson: anyone, at any age can be an educator. And yes, there were children from elementary school, middle school and high school teaching us about their experience as educators and why they love the outdoors. So we got into small group discussions again, and one of the questions they asked were “whose job is it to solve all of the problems?” I realized it’s everyone’s. Everyone can contribute. Kids teach cool and amazing things to their parent’s all the time. I learned that it is up to everyone to do their part.
So with that, I want to encourage everyone to keep an open mind and an open heart when it comes to environmental education. Don’t shut down ideas, but really listen to them. If we want to fix problems, we have to listen and understand every side in order to solve them. Well, that’s all folks!