Environmental Education from a Taxi Cab Driver in Bermuda?

Bermuda! The British oversees island territory, home of the Rum Swizzle, Crystal Cave, several protected species such as the white-eyed Viero, the endemic Shield Fern, and where men wear high socks paired with Bermuda shorts.

What started out as merely accompanying my partner for a corporate work trip turned out to be an impactful education about the local environment.

We took a taxi cab ride from our hotel in the capital city of Hamilton to tour the famous Crystal Cave and hike Walsingham Nature Reserve, aka “Tom Moore’s Jungle”.

Bermuda Roof

Our taxi cab driver was a local named Craig. Ten minutes into the drive he pulled over on the road to show us the unique Bermuda roof that is designed to catch and purify rain water. He stopped at a trash incinerator plant to show us where non-plastic rubbish is burned and the ash used to make cement for building around the island. The plastic waste is separated out and recycled. In his strong creole slang he told us about the salt water desalination plants, and how climate change has been increasing the frequency and strength of hurricanes on the island, but that thankfully the reefs protect it somewhat.

He also pointed out the Bermuda Aquarium and Natural History Museum where we can go to learn more about sustainability efforts on the island. All of this was completely unprompted. We had no idea that getting from point A to point B would include a heartfelt discussion about the sustainability of his island home.

The EPA defines Environmental Education as having the following components:

  • Awareness and sensitivity to the environment and environmental challenges
  • Knowledge and understanding of the environment and environmental challenges
  • Attitudes of concern for the environment and motivation to improve or maintain environmental quality
  • Skills to identify and help resolve environmental challenges
  • Participation in activities that lead to the resolution of environmental challenges

By these standards, our cab ride certainly had elements of environmental education.

Shawn McCrohan

Crystal Cave

The EPA also says that environmental education does not advocate a particular viewpoint or course of action. Rather, environmental education teaches individuals how to weigh various sides of an issue through critical thinking and it enhances their own problem-solving and decision-making skills.

I sometimes wonder if these parameters are slightly at odds with the human experience of integrating our hearts and minds to create the world we want, because the attitudes we model as a society are impactful and important, and sometimes that includes advocating a particular viewpoint. Participation in activities that lead to the resolution of environmental challenges may indeed include a course of action. By these standards, whether we received environmental education from our taxi cab driver becomes more grey, as is often the case when exploring the fascinating realm of non-traditional EE.

Never the less, as part of my exploration of environmental education efforts around the world I decided to use this EPA checklist to decide if what I’m experiencing is environmental education, or environmental information.

Environmental Education

Environmental Information

Increases public awareness and knowledge of environmental issues

Provides facts or opinions about environmental issues

Does teach individuals critical-thinking

Does not necessarily teach individuals critical-thinking

Does enhance individuals’ problem-solving and decision-making skills

Does not necessarily enhance individuals’ problem-solving and decision-making skills

Does not advocate a particular viewpoint

May advocate a particular viewpoint

So, did we receive environmental education from our taxi cab driver in Bermuda? I’m not sure! But I will say it was impactful, and it made me appreciate the environmental efforts taking place on the island of Bermuda. It also got me fired up to want to help protect this beautiful landscape.

Hamilton, Bermuda

The area of non-traditional environmental education may be the next frontier for the field of EE to embrace and support.

The North American Association for Environmental Education lists the following careers as being environmental education related on their jobs and career page.

Zoos and Aquarium Educator, Park Naturalist, Architect, Environmental Engineer, Journalist, Youth Worker, Artist, Environmental Educator, Conservation Biologist, Farmer, Musician, Religious Leader, Fashion Designer, Forest Ecologist, Community Liaison,  Activist, Teacher, Director, Education Manager, Development, Volunteer Manager/Coordinator, Botanist/Horticulturalist, Journalist/Communication, Camp Staff, Consultant, Formal Educator (Professor, teacher, etc.).

I think that makes our taxi cab driver Craig a community liaison extraordinaire!

Check out this list of Bermuda flora and fauna under the protected species act: https://www.gov.bm/sites/default/files/PSA-booklet-June.pdf

Building Cross-Age Environmental Education Collaborations

Collaboration between Fountain Hills Charter School & Prescott College’s Environmental Education Certification Course Students

Middle School students from Fountain Hills Charter School (FHCS) learn about environmental education using the outdoors as their classroom.

In October, the students spent three days at Tonto Creek Camp, which is north of Payson. The students participated in multiple learning modules including the amazing race adventure challenge, the low ropes course, STEM archery, stream & pond ecology, a nocturnal hike, wilderness survival, a hike to a waterfall, and a visit to a fish hatchery.

In November, the Fountain Hills Charter School 4th-8th grade students were partnered with Ms. Ellen Bashor’s students from Prescott College who are part of AAEE’s Environmental Education Certification Course. Together the FHCS and Prescott College students visited the Desert Outdoor Center, which overlooks Lake Pleasant. They experienced hands-on learning about edible plants in the Sonoran Desert, map skills using a compass, ecology around Lake Pleasant, microscopic aquatic life, invasive species, and desert survival.

December’s field experience took the FHCS students to Prescott. They first visited Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary where they learned about endangered animals like the black-footed ferrets. Next, they visited Watson Lake where their Prescott College buddies taught them about the lake, the native plants that grow around it, and the Save the Dells movement to preserve the iconic Granite Dells landscape. Afterwards, the college students gave the FHCS middle school students a personalized tour of Prescott College. One of the most impressive places was the warehouse where the college keeps all of the equipment for their outdoor adventure classes. The building houses supplies for camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, climbing, rappelling, search & rescue, and more.

Forming the cross-age collaboration made the hands-on learning opportunities even more meaningful and impactful. FHCS and Prescott College hope to continue the collaboration and help students of all ages develop valuable skills and become knowledgeable about the amazing natural resources we have in Arizona.



Joining Together To Celebrate Conservation Efforts

On January 19th, 2019 over 30 organizations joined together for a Conservation Expo hosted by OdySea Aquarium Foundation. The event was free to attend and taught guests about the amazing things local organizations are doing to help protect animals and the environment.

The Phoenix Zoo, Heritage Park Zoological Society, Phoenix Herpetological Society, Liberty Wildlife, Arizona Humane Society, Arizona Game & Fish Department, Rattlesnake Solutions, ASU DeNardo Lab, Fallen Feathers, Scottsdale Community College’s Center for Native & Urban Wildlife, and OdySea Aquarium brought animal ambassadors for guests to learn about.

Keep Scottsdale Beautiful & Keep Phoenix Beautiful taught people about reducing, reusing, recycling, and repurposing and the Adopt-a-Road program. Arizona Wildlife Federation encouraged guests to create sustainable gardens for wildlife. STORM (Stormwater Outreach for Regional Municipalities) explained that only water should go down the storm drains.

Plastic Pollution Prevention educated guests about the harmful effects of single-use plastics on marine life and the environment. Guests signed a pledge to reduce single-use plastics and were given a free reusable straw, straw cleaner, and travel pouch.

Youth for Troops and Tempe Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution showed guests how to make plarn out of plastic bags and crochet them into mats for the homeless. The American Cancer Society showed guests how to make reusable bags from old t-shirts.

CEDO (Center for the Study of Deserts & Oceans) Intercultural Research Institute came from Tucson and Mexico to teach people about the vaquita, which is the most critically endangered marine mammal with less than 30 left in the world.

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program taught people about sustainable fishing and making informed seafood choices. Blu Culinary Creations and Santa Monica Seafood made free sustainable fish tacos for guests.

Other organizations that brought information and interactive activities included: Aramark, ASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Audubon Center, Butterfly Wonderland, Clean Air Make More, Event Network, North American Native Fishes Association, Project WET, Reid Park Zoo, SRPMIC CDD Environmental Protection & Natural Resources, Tonto Creek Camp, UofA’s Marine Awareness & Conservation Society (M.A.C.S.) Club, White Mountain Nature Center, and more.

Local students participated in a conservation art challenge and displayed their artwork at the Expo. Boy Scouts created the wooden organization signs from recycled pallets.

A survey showed that 99% of the guests surveyed said that they learned something new about conservation during the Expo and 98% of the guests surveyed said that they learned about organizations that they weren’t aware of before the Expo. There are so many great organizations working to protect animals and the environment. Together we can make a difference!

Higher Education Collaboration Boosts Exemplary Certified Environmental Educators in Arizona

As many of you know, the Arizona Association for Environmental Education’s (AAEE’s) environmental educator certification program has been growing for over a decade now. Beginning in 2007 & 2008 with knowledgeable and dedicated volunteers (Lisa Herrmann, Julie Gidley, Karen Schedler, and Lynn Fleming), the first pilot program ran in 2010. After the release of the program’s online platform in 2015, the number of certified environmental educators in the state grew to 40 by the end of 2016. Since then, enrollment and excitement for Environmental Educator certification has steadily increased.


And, so does awareness of this opportunity. Currently only 13 states offers EE certification pathways.  As a result, AAEE increasingly finds itself responding to national inquiries from other state’s looking to our program as a model template. As the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) asserts, “Professional certification ensures that individuals are fully prepared for work within a specific field of expertise. Certified environmental educators meet stringent requirements for proficiency in both the interdisciplinary content and pedagogy necessary to develop and deliver high quality, effective EE programs.”  This is exactly what AAEE’s program delivers. Here in Arizona, AAEE’s accomplishment has been drawing increased attention from higher education institutions as well.

Early in 2018, Prescott College environmental education instructor and AAEE board of directors member, Ellen Bashor, pointed to this clear opportunity for collaboration between Arizona institutions. Prescott College, a small and mighty college with the mission, “to educate students of diverse ages and backgrounds to understand, thrive in, and enhance our world community and environment,” quickly agreed to launch a pilot program. Their institutional goals clearly aligned with AAEE’s vision of, “a vibrant and ecologically sustainable future for Arizona with  a well-informed and engaged population comprised of socially and ecologically responsible institutions.” Then came the challenge: how does one unite a year-long, self-paced, online course with a semester-long, experiential, & place-based curricular framework?

With collaboration and input from AAEE board members, the certification committee, and Prescott College faculty, the Prescott College Environmental Educator Certification course was born. This course combined critical readings, field trips (comprised of observations, lectures, and service learning across the state) in-class discussion & activities, and AAEE’s certification assignments & portfolio-building online platform. Other organizations that partnered in this experience include Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, the Desert Outdoor Center, Educational Expeditions LLC, and Fountain Hills Charter School. The resulting pilot program was an enormous success. As final reviewing wraps up in January, AAEE & Prescott College aim to graduate their first class of 11 certified environmental educators from this new collaboration.

Students that enrolled in this class ranged in age from early twenties to thirties, with a spectrum of backgrounds and life experiences, and degree focuses in a variety of departments from Adventure Education, to Environmental Science, to Education, to Human Development. In their Capstone essays, many wrote of their educational journey through this pilot program. One Adventure Education student noted that this course, “reaffirmed and excited me to bring EE more into my Outdoor Education practices. Although the Outdoor Education setting lends itself well to be a part of environmental practices, many people do not take advantage of it and choose not to incorporate it full into their curriculum, instead only having some nature lessons as a side to the technical skills being taught.”

Other students spoke to a truly comprehensive learning experience. An Education and Human Development student explained that becoming an exemplary environmental educator, “takes form with the growing proficiency of environmental literacy, understanding the foundations of EE, professional responsibilities (i.e linking standards, navigating complex environmental issues through education not advocacy, staying current, and seeking out and maintaining growth-oriented relationships), planning and implementing (meeting learner needs, use of outside resources, identifying and utilizing diverse settings, and curriculum/lesson planning), fostering learning, and knowing how to use proper techniques in the field of EE for assessment and evaluation.”

In their Capstone assignments, all the students emphasized their increased understanding of, and respect for, the skills necessary to navigate complex, and sometimes controversial, environmental issues with learners of all ages and backgrounds. As one summarized: “a big lesson for me this semester was the importance of education and not advocacy.” Overall, it was truly inspiring to witness these students move through this process and both Prescott College and AAEE are proud of their expanded knowledge of, skills in, and dedication to the field of environmental education. With certified environmental educators like these heading out into the world, our future is indeed bright.

Are you interested in becoming a certified environmental educator?! Click here for to apply today!

AAEE Board Member, Ellen Bashor, to Implement Innovative Educational Program in Arizona


Arizona, August 17, 2018—Thirty-two outstanding Fellows from around the world have been selected by the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) in cooperation with U.S. EPA to help address community environmental and social issues around the world. Ellen Bashor, of Prescott, AZ, joins a diverse group of talented educators and conservationists who are using the power of education to help tackle tough issues in their communities and striving to create a more equitable and sustainable world.

The fellowship program is a part of the National Environmental Education Training Program established by the U.S. EPA’s Office of Environmental Education, a national professional development program that has been building the professional capacity of educators since 1992. NAAEE, in cooperation with U.S. EPA, leads a consortium of nonprofit, higher education, and federal partners in the latest phase of the program, called ee360. The consortium works together to provide professional development opportunities for educators and strengthen the field of environmental education. The program also focuses on building leadership skills and providing high-quality resources for the field.

This class of 32 Fellows represents 14 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and four countries: India, Nepal, New Zealand, and China. Support for the international Fellows was made possible through a generous grant from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. The goals of the fellowship are to bring talented and passionate community leaders together to hone their community leadership skills (including strategic communications, fundraising, evaluation, strategic planning, and more) and build a professional learning community that Fellows can tap into as they develop a local community action project. All Fellows are using education to address an environmental threat and improve community well-being.

“I’m blown away by this group of leaders. They are inspiring, passionate, skilled, and committed change makers! As the world continues to grapple with the right strategies to address environmental threats, we can’t forget that community education and action are some of the most effective tools in our toolbox,” said Judy Braus, Executive Director of the North American Association for Environmental Education. “The wonderful exchange of ideas, experiences, stories, and resources, as well as the lasting bonds that were built during their time together at the leadership workshop, have given these fellows an invaluable boost to their projects, scaling the impact of their work to a new level.” “It’s amazing to see that Ellen Bashor’s work in the Arizona Environmental Education community and beyond has made a positive impact and that those efforts are recognized by NAAEE and ee360,” said LoriAnne Barnett, Arizona Association for Environmental Education’s President. “We’re excited to leverage what Ellen Bashor, a member of our Board of Directors, gains through this fellowship to continue to cultivate an environmentally literate community in Arizona, empowering all sectors to improve the collective effectiveness of environmental education.”

Fellows were selected based on four key criteria: experience in environmental education, commitment to community development, engagement in community partnerships, and creation of innovative solutions. These Fellows are working on projects ranging from getting young people engaged in ecologically sound farming practices to building community resilience, promoting citizen science programs to tackling water quality, showcasing the links between sanitation, health, and the environment, and using virtual reality to promote caring about marine issues.  

As part of the eighteen-month program, Fellows benefit from:

  • An intensive five-day leadership and professional development workshop held in July 2018
  • Engaging webinars throughout the duration of the program
  • Access to mini-grant funds to support innovative community action projects
  • Mentoring and networking opportunities, including access to NAAEE’s eePRO professional development site
  • Scholarships to attend the 2018 NAAEE Annual International Conference, a gathering of more than 1,000 environmental education leaders from around the world

To learn more about Ellen Bashor and her planned community action project, visit http://www.naaee.org/ee360fellowship.

About Arizona Association for Environmental Education

As one of the 56 Affiliates within the Affiliate Network of the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), the Arizona Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) supports formal and informal educators providing programming and content to a wide variety of citizens of all ages. As an Affiliate of NAAEE, we host a variety of networking and professional learning opportunities in state, as well as collaborate with other NAAEE Affiliates to host events at the annual NAAEE conference as well as webinars, online discussions, and blogs. AAEE strives to provide professional development opportunities, such as the Environmental Education Certification Program, across the state of Arizona.

About ee360

An ambitious multi-year initiative, ee360 connects and promotes innovative leaders dedicated to advancing environmental literacy for everyone, everywhere. Led by the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), ee360 is made possible through funding and support from US EPA and seven partner organizations representing universities and nonprofits across the country, and five federal agencies. Through this partnership, ee360 brings together more than four decades of expertise to grow, strengthen, and diversify the environmental education field. Visit ee360.org to learn more.

Arizona Association for Environmental Education Supports #RedForEd

The Arizona Association for Environmental Education stands with #RedforEd.

We stand with the Arizona teachers who are struggling with inadequate wages, inadequate funding for supplies, and inadequate buildings to teach in. We stand with the children whose educational experiences are diminished due to this lack of funding, despite the inspiring compassion and generosity their teachers bring to the classroom each day. As an organization dedicated to the field of formal and non-formal environmental education, which promotes best practices in all we do, we know that providing children with the quality of education they deserve, indoors and out is inhibited by limited monetary and legislative support.

Currently, the state of Arizona is ranked among the bottom of the states for public school funding and equitable distribution of that funding. We have teacher shortages, students without school supplies, cut field trips, outdated textbooks with inaccurate information being utilized, underpaid or absent support staff positions, and so much more. These issues affect not only those in public education but the communities as well. The United Nations defines Sustainable Development as “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Currently, we have funding issues that not only do not meet the needs of present students, but make it more difficult for our teachers to give future generations of Arizonans the knowledge, efficacy, and agency to meet their own needs. This situation is not sustainable, and the Arizona Association for Environmental Education stands with #RedforEd to advocate for change.

Right now, as environmental educators, we’re turning our green color   #RedforEd in solidarity with all Arizona educators, their students, their students’ families, and all the communities out there. AAEE envisions a future where education, environmental education, and those involved receive the resources they need to succeed!

#GreenforRed #RedforEd

South Mountain Environmental Education Center: Building Community to Build Environmental Stewards!

In February 2016, the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation (ACNC) reopened the South Mountain Environmental Education Center in partnership with the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. Our joint mission is to offer environmental education to South Phoenix communities and visitors to South Mountain Park.

While celebrating the biological diversity of one of the largest municipal parks in the nation is an important aspect of our work, good environmental education also honors and celebrates the cultural history that has shaped the park and the people that live in the surrounding communities today. In this spirit, ACNC has been focusing on building relationships to help us understand the values, needs and interests of the people of South Phoenix and the great organizations that have been doing work locally for many more years than we have.

With support from local funders and the Flinn Foundation we’ve been hosting networking events to meet community members and seeking out partnerships with local organizations to help strengthen our collective impact. To support our friends at the Parsons Leadership Center for Girls and Women at Camp South Mountain as they launch their first summer camp in the new center, ACNC and South Mountain Park staff teamed together to provide a half-day training for brand-new summer camp instructors about the natural history of the Sonoran Desert, techniques for engaging youth and how to be safe in the hot desert.

Our work together helps ensure that youth are receiving high quality environmental education experiences while we celebrate the strengths of each organization.

Why I EE…

National EE Week is April 23 – 29 and to celebrate we’d thought we’d take a moment to reflect on our work and celebrate everyone that is part of the EE community.

Traditionally environmental educators have been thought of as non-formal educators that facilitate programs and formal educators that use environmental lessons in their classrooms. These individuals are fantastic environmental educators AND so are the many people that work for the environment in many other ways.  Musicians, artists, journalists, biologists, activists, religious leaders are just a few of the types of people that engage others in developing skills, understanding and passion to address local and global challenges. These people, like non-formal and formal educators, inform, inspire and influence attitudes.

Why do we do EE?

Because people have an incredible impact on the Earth and we are also the only ones with the power to make it a positive one. EE helps develop critical thinking skills, sense of place, problem solving and empowerment.  We do EE because we care. We do EE because we want to help others think beyond themselves and care for future generations of people, plants and animals.

There are so many reasons that EE is critical today and every individual that approaches learning or engagement with the intent to empower, inspire and inform about the environment is an environmental educator.

Why do you EE? Tell us why and be part of the conversation online by using the hashtag #whyiee.

Thank you for all that you do and keep inspiring others!

Happy National EE Week!


100 Years in the Making: Wilderness & Education

This past month, the National Park Service celebrated their 100th birthday. This 100th year marks their continued effort to preserve “unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”

In addition to the many programs that the National Park Service offers for preservation projects and community outreach, their education programs have also been widely acclaimed as well. With programs like Every Kid in a Park and others offered for educators such as professional development, field experiences, and distance learning, the opportunities for environmental education is vast.

The National Park Service offers some of the most effective environmental education programs and materials in the county, with many offering the ability for educators to get students into the wilderness and learn not just in a classroom, but in nature itself.

Other programs like Distance Learning provide the opportunity to interact with National Park Service Rangers and learn more about various national parks throughout the country. In addition to all of these options, the park service also offers in-class materials that can be used to strengthen curriculum and offer a variety of options for educators.

With the mission of the Arizona Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) being to improve the quality, scope, and effectiveness of environmental education in Arizona, the National Park Service is one of the most helpful and valuable assets, to not only organizations like ours, but educators throughout Arizona.

Which Arizona National Parks have you visited over the last year? How many National Parks have you visited in your lifetime?

To learn more about the National Park Service’s 100th birthday and their educational programs, visit https://www.nps.gov/teachers/index.htm. #FindYourPark