Higher Education Collaboration Boosts Exemplary Certified Environmental Educators in Arizona

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Evaluating the Long-Term Results of Environmental Education Curriculum in Traditional and Non-Traditional Educational Settings

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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.

Arizona Environmental Literacy Strategy

In previous communications we’ve shared that AAEE is working with a diverse group of stakeholders to develop an Environmental Literacy Plan for Arizona. The Environmental Literacy Committee has taken a few big steps toward making this happen. We’ve used feedback from our Environmental Literacy Summit that was held in March 2016 combined with research on the state of environmental education and general education in Arizona to develop some draft recommendations.

Our first recommendation is to focus on a strategy rather than a plan. Strategies are active, responsive to changing needs and adaptable; exactly what we need for Arizona. We don’t need a plan that sits on a shelf, we need a strategy that inspires and rallies.

Components of the strategy include: developing strong networks among formal, non-formal, and informal learning experiences; demonstrating relevancy to all stakeholders in Arizona; building capacity for environmental literacy through professional development, promoting strategies that prepare children for sustainable jobs; supporting the development of sustainable schools; and building a long-term support network for the strategy along with means to evaluate success.

Our next steps are to refine the strategy’s components with clear action steps and share these widely for feedback. If you’re interested in participating in these conversations consider joining the Environmental Literacy Committee.