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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!


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

There are many lesson plans and program activities available to teach students and participants about environmental issue analysis. But how often do educators go back and evaluate whether learners have processed the results, formed their own opinions, and potentially experienced a behavior change? The environmental education field would benefit greatly from the documentation of the evaluative results from these lessons and program activities, using shared concepts and language.

Most traditional and non-traditional educators who work to communicate environmental concepts to their community scour the internet or look to colleagues for ideas when teaching a new concept. A quick internet search on issue-based lesson plans and activities returns more entries than can be processed in a short period of time. Sometimes these lessons appear in blog posts like this describing their immediate application results. Often the discussions about learning outcomes are anecdotal based upon the educator’s experience with their participants during the activity itself.

Many environmental issue-based lessons are written for K-12 teachers or higher education faculty but there are other professionals who engage learners in non-formal learning about environmental or natural resource concepts. The language used to describe formal lessons or programs contains jargon specific to formal or non-formal learning environments but the methodology for evaluating learning outcomes is the same. Non-formal and non-traditional educators more often evaluate their programs, not just for participant learning achievements but for value-added and behavior change results due to expectations from funding organizations. Can all educators can benefit from measuring long-term results of our applied lessons and activities?

Following the Guidelines for Excellence EE Materials by NAAEE, foundational environmental education materials are:

  • Fair and accurate, considering a diversity of opinion and background experience
  • Conceptually deep, considering awareness, feelings, values, and attitudes
  • Hands-on activities for people of all ages designed to build life-long skills
  • Action oriented, a call to action via civic responsibility
  • Instructionally sound, using learner-centered concepts and include assessment
  • Useable and replicable by others for similar results

These concepts are broadly applicable to both formal/non-formal and non-traditional educators and should be considered when developing any content designed to teach issue-based, controversial environmental topics, especially when seeking behavior change.

Many models, including NAAEE’s Guidelines, recommend remaining unbiased, refraining from inserting emotive language, and using science-based concepts and data to communicate effectively. No matter the age of your students or participants creating a space that is safe where people can freely share their thoughts and values without judgement is important.

Discussion should be designed to:

  1. find common ground
  2. focus on facts and data supporting all viewpoints
  3. engage participants using hands-on and action-oriented activities
  4. evaluate and revisit the big picture.

The last step is critical to checking for understanding. If time has elapsed since the lesson delivery and the evaluation is specific to the issue-based engagement, educators can often determine if the activity had lasting effect.

Research-based literature describes methodologies for teaching controversial environmental topics, including those that have a strong human-centric influence and involve an understanding of how humans are part of the issue and potential solution.  These are difficult to teach because more often than not students of all ages are influenced by many external factors such as family values, morals, economics, other complicated ethos, or nihilism. Examples of controversial topics include:

  • climate change
  • animal production practices
  • nutrition
  • forest management
  • pesticide use
  • water quality

Despite nuance, presenting content grounded in scientific fact and identification of all possible perceived values can lead to sound decision making.

Formal educators can benefit from thinking beyond the curriculum and 5E lessons being taught during the current academic year with the current students. Developing a programmatic model for evaluation beyond testing current students for achievement of learning outcomes involves thinking about the lasting benefits both to current students as well as the application of curriculum in the future. Documenting these results and sharing them are excellent strategies for moving the field of environmental education forward, making it a valued part of foundational learning and state-wide department of education strategy.

Construct lessons and activities designed to achieve a deep understanding of environmental issues

What is a “deep understanding” of an environmental issue? A deep understanding moves beyond a student or participant communicating knowledge at the conclusion of a lesson or activity. A deep understanding includes immediate and long-term reflection on difficult concepts, with time to revisit the issue within the learner’s community or family. Activities that evoke deep understanding fall on the programmatic spectrum, meaning the learning outcomes reach beyond current curriculum or activity learning outcomes. The outcomes are, by design, long-term.

It is hard to check for lasting learning outcomes and potential behavior change after conducting a lesson in the classroom, in a one-day program, or on a field trip. Students need to process and internalize difficult concepts, especially those involving human interactions with nature, which are shaped by experiences, values, and knowledge before and after the effects of any particular environmental education lesson can be known. Simply encouraging students to discuss and debrief after a lesson on climate change, food production and consumption, forest management, or other complicated issue, may have lasting effects but those effects will not be known unless educators are able to follow up after an elapsed period of time.

Plan to follow up with learners after an elapsed period of time

In formal and non-formal learning environments it is valuable to think about the effect the lessons and activities have beyond the experience itself. Formal educators may have the advantage of having access to students for more than one year, even if they are not in their classroom. Further, some schools are designed to include thematic curricular models or systems-based thinking. Thus, conducting a brief evaluation 6 months or a year after the lesson or activity was delivered may be easy if other administrators or educators in the school are amenable to collaboration.

Non-formal educators and non-traditional educators who only see, or communicate with, their participants once could prearrange a follow up with participants, or a subset of participants. This can take the form of an email survey where people may self-select after participation, or if the group of participants are from a school or adult program, permission can be gained to ask follow-up questions after the experience.

We recognize there are many barriers within learning environments preventing future follow-up. The idea is to think beyond the immediate lesson delivery and develop methods to assess at least a few learners in the future. Not every learner need be evaluated, rather a sample of evaluative results can still be of value.

Participants will return to their community with the information about the environmental issue fresh in their minds. They may on their own ask family, coworkers, or other community members about the concepts discussed and reflect further on their own value placed on economics or their constructed environmental ethic. If they do not reflect on the experience on their own, reflective questions designed to understand and elicit an understanding of the concepts (for the learner) and viewpoints (for the educator) can be very useful to developing a stronger program or curriculum in the future. Thus, the data gathered can be formative and serve as foundational to effective activity design.

Examples of post-activity evaluation questions in formal and non-formal/non-traditional learning environments:

Environmental issue lesson and learning outcomes* Sample post-lesson evaluation Sample long-term evaluation               (6+ months- 1 year)
Formal (6-8th Grade) Forest management – Examine the balance of human-use of forest products and sound forest management. Lesson includes a trip to a local forest ecosystem. What is a healthy forest ecosystem? What forest products do we use? Can we live without them? How does the availability of the resource affect its cost? How can we use these renewable resources and not damage the ecosystem? Have you revisited a healthy forest ecosystem? What forest products have you used on a regular basis? Have you considered your use of forest products since your initial visit to the forest? If not, why not?
Non-formal/Non-traditional (Adult audience/Professional farmer or landscaper Pesticide use – Describe the ecological implications of using too many pesticides. Lesson includes a hands-on activity designed to demonstrate the broad application of pesticides. What are some strategies to mitigate short and long term problems caused by extensive use of pesticides? What changes have you made to reduce your affect on the environment from pesticide use?

Have you helped anyone to understand the potential problems?

*We will post the full 5E Lesson Plan (Forest Management by Nick Carroll) and Program Activity Agenda (Pesticide Use by Peter Warren) on the website soon.

Document the results and summarize and share findings

Creating a shared list of aligned learning outcomes, post-lesson or activity evaluation questions, and long-term evaluation methods and responses will be helpful to our environmental education community. As with any formative evaluation, having information available about what works and does not work will help us to better understand the synthesis and understanding of complicated environmental issues and lasting effects of participation. Having a list of participant learning outcome results available to you for more than one year will inform how you do the activity or lesson in the future.

Educators and learners will benefit from gaining a better understanding of longer-term learning outcomes and impacts. Knowing whether learner knowledge is retained and applied can help us to design better curriculum and programs. If we have a shared list of outcomes from teaching difficult environmental issues, together we can enhance critical thinking skills of learners of all ages.

Discussion:

What are the barriers to conducting follow up evaluations with participants in any learning environment?

In your educational setting how might you go about following up with learners after an elapsed time?

Would you be willing to share achievements from teaching controversial environmental topics from your immediate lesson or program and follow up with those participants in a few years’ time? If so, what can AAEE provide to make sharing those results easier?

Resources and Links

NAAEE’s Guidelines for Excellence Series

Cotton, Deborah R.E. (2006) Teaching controversial environmental issues: Neutrality and balance in the reality of the classroom. Educational Research. Vol. 48., (2)., 223-241. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228785938_Teaching_controversial_environmental_issues_Neutrality_and_balance_in_the_reality_of_the_classroom

Program Development and Evaluation, University of Wisconsin-Extension

Evaluating Learning Outcomes for Citizen Science

Conservation Education Program Development, USDA

Project Learning Tree: https://www.plt.org/

 

Hiking from Dana to Petra: Exploring Environmental Education in Jordan

The Kingdom of Jordan is an Arab nation on the east bank of the Jordan River. To the north is Syria, to the east Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and to the west across the Dead Sea is Israel. In its narrow canyons stand tombs, temples, and monuments masterfully carved into pink sandstone. The object of my desire on this hiking adventure was to reach the ancient Nabatean City of Petra, also called the “Rose City”. And as I do with all of my travel, I inquired about environmental education efforts in the region.

Shawn McCrohan-Dropping Down into Petra Along The Jordan Trail

From our guides I learned that Jordan is now the second-most water poor nation in the world, which is exacerbated by the refugee influx from Palestine, Iraq and Syria. Our guides came right out to express their belief in man-made climate change, and over the course of 10 days I would learn how this and other environmental issues affect the region, as well as the programs and efforts to address them. Or as Jawad, our lead guide, hysterically said, “We need to kick people’s asses more!” His point being that, as is the case in many places around the world, enforcement of environmental policies is still a major barrier to success.

I’m a firm believer that some of the most influential environmental educators come in the form of non-formal or non-traditional outdoor leaders such as travel guides, who lead people on a journey of self-discovery and appreciation for new lands. Guiding people along the path of being tangentially aware of a place, to loving it, becoming part of it, and wanting to protect it fiercely. Our guides were exceptional, and made it a priority to explain to us visitors from around the world (Australia, Scotland, UK, Italy, Germany, and USA) how the nation of Jordan and its communities are experiencing environmental issues.

Hiking Up Sand Dunes in Wadi Rum

Here in Arizona, we are well acquainted with the desert environment and the importance of water conservation. The average rainfall in Jordan is between four and nine inches per year. In the Sonoran Desert we get about seven inches of rain per year. I was continually struck by the parallels between Arizona and Jordan, especially the landscape. However, one reminder that I was no longer in Arizona was the daily Islamic call to prayer coming from surrounding mosques. Hearing this to me was an exotic and exciting reminder that I was in a foreign land, and I loved it!

We began our hike in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan’s largest nature reserve, which includes four different bio-region zones (Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo, Arabian and Sudanian). We hiked along part of the two-year-old Jordan Trail which extends through local villages and consists of eight sections. I hiked the 72.6km section from Dana to Petra.  The trail aims to get people out into nature, and support local populations.

“Friend” The Donkey and Fellow Hiker

Over the next 7 days we would hike with our two guides, three local Bedouins, and two donkeys named Felha and Friend. They were the highlight of the trip! Sometimes a little bossy on the trail, and would walk really close behind me wanting to pass. Yes, Felha, you can go ahead of me.

I was impressed by how strong our guides and the local Bedouins were. In fact, on the second day of the hike, which was a particularly steep ascent, one of the Bedouins got a call that his son had disobeyed his orders to stay home and tried to follow our hiking group from the valley up to the mountains. The Bedouin, who was only wearing sandals, ran miles back down out of the mountains to the valley floor to retrieve his son and make sure he was safe. They joined the rest of the group in camp later that night. Second only to the carving of those amazing temples and monuments in the rock, I was in awe of human ability and physical prowess.

Our Guide, Jawad, Doing Crane Pose in Wadi Rum #Badass

Jordan has over 2,000 plant species including pine, oak, and juniper (like Arizona), and fauna such as the jackal, Arabian wolf, lesser kestrel, Nubian ibex, and fox. Some of the main threats to biodiversity include woodcutting, overgrazing, hunting, and pollution. Over 15 million trees were cut down to help build the railway through Jordan to Damascas. The effects of this can still be seen throughout the region, though we did learn that tree-planting initiatives were underway.

Petra Treasury by Night

There are also issues with land-use planning and infrastructure development that have increased destructive flash flooding in the region. According to a recent article in Al Jazeera, ”The frequency of heavy downpours that quickly cause destructive flash floods has increased in recent decades, according to Jordanian water and climate experts.” In fact, the week before my trip there was a flash flooding that caused Petra to close to the public for a few days.

Plastic pollution was also a visible issue as we drove along the highways. A representative from Experience Jordan, the company I hiked with, said “It’s sad indeed that we still see garbage in the streets here, it mainly comes from a lack of awareness that eventually became a habit, but there are programs on raising awareness about this issue and organizations focusing more on environmental education. Hopefully we see change in the near future!”

Some organizations working on elevating environmental education in Jordan include the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). FEE has environmental education programs that are being implemented by the Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan (JREDS), this includes Eco Schools. JREDS is devoted to conservation of Jordan’s natural resources. EcoMENA is another initiative doing EE in the region, and one of the most popular sustainability advocates in the Middle East, with wide following and high degree of credibility across the Arab world.

And a 2017 article in the Jordan Times reported that plans are underway by the Ministry of Environment to introduce EE in national curriculum.

Hiking Group

Photo Gallery:

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.

 

 

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

ELLEN BASHOR AWARDED COMMUNITY ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION FELLOWSHIP FROM ‘ee360’, NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION TRAINING PROGRAM

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.

School Gardens? AAEE Digs Deeper

“Join the United States School Garden Army; Enlist Now!”  reads the World War I poster of a young girl pushing a plow and looking determined in her red, white, and blue attire. Although the school garden army didn’t last, the battle to get a garden in every school continues. Posters like this were spread across the nation in 1918 by our Bureau of Education during our nation’s first federal initiative to get schools gardening. At the time, the nation responded in full force.

Many believed school gardens were both a solution to the labor & food supply issues in the agriculture industry during the war and a way to teach the basic concepts of democracy and civic duty. Fannie Griscoms Parsons, a school garden advocate of the early 20th century, is quoted in a Smithsonian article as describing school gardens not, “simply to grow a few vegetables and flowers,”  but, “to teach [students] in their work some necessary civic virtues; private care of public property, economy, honesty, application concentration, self-government, civic pride, justice, the dignity of labor, and the love of nature.”

Although remarks like Fannie’s were revolutionary at the time, emerging school garden research from the past two decades indicates Fannie was just discovering the top of the carrot; there were a lot more applications and benfits to be dug up! As we now know, school gardens are not just for vegetables and flowers nor just for imparting civic virtues—school gardens can teach almost any subject, and perhaps, teach it more effectively than Fannie or United States Bureau of Education could’ve ever imagined. Here’s some statistics that rocked our world: In a recent interview between NPR and REAL School Gardens, an organization that not only helps schools get gardens going but trains teachers on using them, REAL School Gardens reported their partner schools see a, “12 to 15 percent increase in the number of students passing standardized tests,” and that’s not just students in the garden program–that’s school-wide! Even in an independent study of these schools, they found that “94 percent of teachers in the REAL School Garden programs reported seeing increased engagement from their students”.

Wow! Those statistics are hard to ignore. But what if you aren’t working with a professional development & training program–will your garden be as effective? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” And, there’s no need to pour through every article; the University of Georgia did an analysis of all the research connecting school gardens and academic performance between 1990 and 2010 and discovered, “overwhelmingly that garden-based learning had a positive impact on students’ grades, knowledge, attitudes, and behavior”.

Like the university’s analysis discovered, the benefits of gardens go far beyond improving grades. As parents, educators, administrators, or anyone who works with children, we know our students academic performance is a small indication of their overall well-being. A student’s physical and emotional development is deeply tied to their success both in school and throughout the rest of their lives.  Across the nation, children and adolescents are experiencing physical and mental health issues at all time highs. Here’s a few sobering statistics shared by the the Collective School Garden Network (CSGN): They found research that our children are the “first generation of Americans at risk of having a lower life expectancy than their parents,” closely tied to the fact that “less than 2% of US children eat the recommended 2.5 cups of vegetables each day.”

Fortunately, the CSGN and many others have found and proven a simple antidote: school gardens! Not only do children experience academic improvement when engaged in a school garden, their health and commitment to making healthy choices receives a boost as well. In a 2007 summary of a school garden study they that, “students involved in a garden-based nutrition education program increased their fruit and vegetable consumption by 2.5 servings per day, more than doubling their overall fruit and vegetable consumption”! These statistics and effective solutions are hard to ignore.

Digging deeper, we consistently found across all ages and abilities, and the spectrum of personal and cultural identities, school gardens help teachers teach, children learn, and communities thrive. Since the numerous approaches and benefits to green schoolyards and school gardens goes on, we’ve decided to share the latest and greatest in green school action and research with you throughout the rest of this year. Stay tuned for more on: School Gardening in Arizona (our climate brings unique challenges and opportunities!), The Dirt on Green Schoolyards (a growing national movement & why!), Planting Standards (state standards, NGSS, and the EE Guidelines are easy in the garden!) and more.

To really get your seeds started, check out our Environmental Education Certification Program, where you can start today, working online on your own time towards a nationally-recognized, career-building certification. In our certification program, you can integrate your interests in garden-based learning and other environmental education approaches so that your certification portfolio builds resources that best serve you, your students, and your community. Break the soil, check it out today!

…and happy gardening from all of us here at AAEE!

*photos from https://communityofgardens.si.edu, www.kidsgardening.org, and www.childrenandnature.org

Events

Summer Institute for Nature & Place-based Early Childhood Education

Summer Institute 2019

Join us this summer for 5 days of inspiring and hands-on professional development in beautiful Prescott, Arizona on the Prescott College campus*. Collaborate with a passionate and diverse group of ECE educators (birth-age 8) from all over the country, at the annual early childhood educator Nature & Place-Based Summer Institute.

The Summer Institute fee includes materials and resources, four nights of lodging on campus, and two to three meals a day. Enrollment is limited and a non-refundable fee of $100 is required to hold your place. As a part of the enrollment process, each participant will be asked to identify a nature- and place-based project they can develop during and after the Summer Institute with the assistance of a mentor.

This year’s Summer Institute participants will discover:

  • What nature- and place-based early childhood education is and why
    it’s such a hot topic in ECE today.
  • Ways to align their current teaching practices with the pedagogy
    of nature- and place-based learning.
  • How to plan nature- and place-based experiences for young children
    that are developmentally and culturally appropriate, inclusive, and linked to
    early learning standards.
  • Current advocacy efforts for increasing inclusive and equitable
    access by all children to nature- and place-based learning.
  • Potential community resources and partnerships for increasing
    inclusive and equitable access to natural environments for children and
    families.

Participants receive:

  • Year-long project development support from a Summer Institute Mentor
  • Valuable resources and user-friendly materials to support integrating nature and place-based activities in your own program
  • Nature and Place-based Early Childhood Education Certificate 
  • Professional development hours

Past Participant Feedback:

“This Institute exceeded my expectations! The presenters, workshop material and

community support has built a confidence and inspiration in me that I was craving so

very much when I arrived. Thank you!”

 

“My experience at Summer Institute went far beyond my expectations. I not only learned

lots of new activities, it made me look within to pull out my strengths and passions. An

inspiring experience!”

 

Sliding scale fee:

Price A** Price B Price C
$150 $325 $500

Why three prices for the same experience?

We offer a voluntary, three-tiered pricing program based on your needs:

Price A** – the lowest cost, subsidized by donors

Price B – partially sponsored by contributors

Price C – represents the actual cost of Summer Institute operations

 

To register online, please visit: www.prescott.edu/sifece. For questions and more information, please contact our Program Coordinator, Ellen Bashor, at npece@prescott.edu or 928-350-2235.

The Summer Institute is offered annually by the Prescott College Center for Nature and Place-based Early Childhood Education with the generous support of the George B. Storer Foundation.

* Several local, off-site childcare options are available. Please contact us for details.

**We believe every educator should have the opportunity to attend professional development experiences such as this one. Please contact us if you need further scholarship assistance.

Sustainability in Schools Symposium

Are you teaching your students all the critical concepts for them to create a sustainable future? 

OUTCOMES:
• Discover key concepts students will need to create a sustainable future
• Meet local resources to help you
• Find funding and get more support for sustainability in your school
• Visit a school demonstration garden to understand a closed-loop food system

This is a FREE event, with a certificate of completion for 8 hours of professional development. Lunch included!

Register here: https://bpt.me/4026272

Contact: Darcy Hitchcock at Darcy@SustainabilityAllianceAZ.org or 928-554-5171 for more information.