EE in Mexico: Exploring the Sonoran Desert Bioregion on a Fieldtrip to CEDO in Puerto Penasco, Mexico 

At the 2018 North American Association for Environmental Education Conference in Spokane, WA, it was all about the power of networks and creating a force for the future. Over 30 countries were represented at the event, including Ghana, Botswana, Nepal, Ireland, New Zealand and Mexico. EE is a global movement, and when we are united with common goals, success is inevitable.

Since 1980, the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO) located in Puerto Penasco, Mexico has been working to protect the environment on many levels, including community, scientific research, and environmental education programs that focus on biodiversity, estuaries, deserts, coasts, oceans, tide pools and watersheds.

The Sonoran Desert Bioregion is a special place that has an area of over 100,000 square miles, including Arizona, the Colorado River, Sonora, Mexico, the Sea of Cortez, and parts of California. This provides the potential for great synergy in a space that has been shared for thousands of years.

In its 30-year history CEDO has established a variety of networks including:

  • Local Communities (check out Nature Arte)
  • Local Fisheries
  • City of Tucson which was recognized by UNESCO for its gastronomy
  • US Fish and Wildlife
  • Arizona State University
  • University of Arizona
  • Mesa Community College
  • Universities in California
  • Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation

CEDO has also established the most comprehensive education program for fisherman EVER in the Upper Gulf Reserve. It has been an enormous effort.

Fact: Did you know there are only 13 critically endangered vaquita porpoises left in the world?  The world’s most rare marine mammal, is on the edge of extinction. They are endemic to the northern part of the Gulf of California.



2018 Outstanding NAAEE Affiliate Award Goes to AAEE

We are pleased to announce that the Arizona Association for Environmental Education has won the 2018 Outstanding NAAEE Affiliate Organization Award! All of our Board and committee members have worked so hard over the last two years to reinvigorate this association and participate at the national level. Thanks to everyone who has contributed time and effort to elevating the profession of EE in Arizona!

The North American Association for Environmental Education recognized AAEE for the following accomplishments:

AAEE made significant contributions to the field of EE by launching a new website and expanding member resources, increasing the number of Basic EE Certification graduates in Arizona, developing a new strategic plan based on non-profit self-assessment tools, supporting NAAEE initiatives including The Guidelines for Excellence Series, Natural Start and The Global Environmental Education Partnership (The GEEP), and collaborating regionally.



NAAEE’s Guidelines for Excellence: Community Engagement Guidelines Workshops

Betsy Wilkening (Education Coordinator, Tucson Program, Arizona Project WET) and LoriAnne Barnett (Education Coordinator; USA National Phenology Network at UArizona) attended the NAAEE 2018 Pre-Conference Train-the-Trainer Workshop for delivering best-practice content to our communities using the Community Engagement Resource, Number 6 in the broader NAAEE Guidelines for Excellence Series. This set of Guidelines focuses on community wellness and is designed to help environmental educators create inclusive environments that support effective partnerships and collaborations. Five Key Characteristics of sound Community Programs include:

  • Developing content that is community centered
  • Ensuring that your program is built on sound environmental education principles
  • Being collaborative and inclusive and thoughtful in your design
  • Outcomes are designed to be oriented toward capacity building and civic action
  • Adhering to a long-term investment in change

Many programs across our state, including those currently offered by Arizona Project WET, the USA-NPN’s Nature’s Notebook Local Phenology Leader Program, and the Arizona Master Naturalist Program have these characteristics already built into their foundation. The Guidelines for Excellence are also foundational to our Arizona Association for Environmental Education Certification Programs.

Both Betsy and LoriAnne will be developing Community Engagement workshops open to participation by others in the very near future. They are members of the NAAEE Guidelines Trainers Bureau, along with Lisa Herrmann from the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation in Phoenix. The Trainers are planning a series of workshops around the state in 2019, including sharing information at the planned 2019 AAEE Annual Conference (date September, TBD). There is a Guidelines for Excellence Workshop Scheduled in Yuma on February 9th, 2019 at the Colorado River State Historic Park. We will also be adding options for participation in Tucson, Phoenix, and Prescott soon, so stay tuned for more information. Details will appear on our eeWorkshops page as they become available. We hope you’ll join us!

2018 NAAEE Conference Recap!

Our AAEE Affiliate had awesome representation at the 2018 NAAEE Conference in Spokane, Washington last week. We counted at least 12 folks from Arizona (I’m sure there were more unknown to us, yet!) and enjoyed a Coffee Meetup on Friday morning to share ideas for collaborating in the future. Presentations from Arizona members included talks from Molina Walters (Motivating College Students for the Environmental Education Profession; “Sense of Wonder” Nature Journaling); Betsy Wilkening and Caroline Pechuzal (Enhancing Community Resilience to Climate Change through Education); Ellen Bashor and Sarah Foglesong (Equity and Inclusion through Nature Play); and LoriAnne Barnett (You can do it! Accomplishing Strategic Goals with an All-volunteer Board; EE Certification: The Benefits of Being Certified; Natural Resource Volunteer Education: Utilizing an Environmental Education Framework; Fine-tune Your Message for EE Organizations and Affiliates; and Certified Local Phenology Leaders: Creating Successful Communities Through Citizen Science). Several Arizona folks also participated in the Research Symposium held prior to the main event, including Elisabeth Roberts (NAU; PLACE4FEWS: Community-Based Food, Energy, and Water Systems Education for Resilience). Feel free to reach out to us here if you’d like to know more about what was presented. And if you were there and wish to join us, please let me know! We’d be glad to add you to our list of contacts. Email to get connected.

Pepe Marcos-IgaAdditionally, conference-goers paid tribute to one of Arizona’s brightest lights in environmental education. Pepe Marcos-Iga passed away in September due to complications from cancer. Pepe was such a wonderful force in our EE and our Arizona community – he was full of spirit and his innovation will be deeply missed by all. Pepe worked in the EE field for several decades – he joined NAAEE as a Together Green Fellow, served as a member of the leadership team of the EECapacity project, EPA’s National Environmental Education Program, and eventually joined the NAAEE Board of Directors in 2007. He served as the Board’s Chair in 2011. He worked in Tucson at the Environmental Education Exchange as an International Programs Director and, most recently, worked for the Western National Parks Association as their Chief Operating Officer. Pepe served on the Guidelines for Excellence Trainers Bureau and helped to deliver content to Spanish-speaking audiences. He was a champion of community engagement. At the conference there was a beautiful tribute to him delivered by Judy Braus, NAAEE’s Executive Director, stories were shared and fellow friends wrote in a memory book in his honor. You can read part of Judy’s tribute here. In Tucson, over 200 friends and family gathered to celebrate his life earlier this month.  NAAEE launched an awards program in Pepe’s honor this year at the conference as well: The Pepe Marcos-Iga Award for Innovation. The NAAEE Staff have created a GoFundMe Campaign to help support his family during this difficult time and provide for his children’s education. If you wish to contribute, visit the Celebrate Pepe Marcos-Iga Page. If you knew Pepe, your life was richer for it. He will be deeply missed.

Participants learned a lot from over 1300 environmental educators from around the world. We were inspired by Keynote speaker Brady Piñero Walkinshaw from Grist Magazine, a Plenary Panel on Democracy, Civic Engagement, and Environmental Education moderated by David Orr and including Timothy Egan, Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, and Janet Tran; a Plenary Discussion on EE: A Force for the Future facilitated by Paul Baribault, including Kevin Chang, Shaun Martin, Sheila Williams Ridge, and Jane Wei-Skillern; and by a closing panel discussion Falls along the Spokane Riveron Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Young Leaders Making a Difference, facilitated by the 2018 30 Under 30 Fellows.

The NAAEE conference is always a fantastic time to connect with other like-minded educators, learn more about what is happening in our field with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and to rejuvenate your programs and courses with new ideas. Conference-goers return with new connections and friends who serve as inspiration for the important work we do in our communities. Next year’s conference will be hosted by the  NAAEE Affiliate in Kentucky during the second week in October. Stay tuned for more details about how you can submit a presentation or become more involved!