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Meet the 2020 Excellence in EE Award Winners!

Wow! 2020 was a memorable year to say the least. Despite unprecedented local and global challenges facing our communities, Arizona environmental educators stepped up to meet the challenge. Each year the Arizona Association for Environmental Education honors the individuals and organizations that have made a significant impact on environmental education in Arizona. Although we couldn’t do the awards ceremony in person this year, we had a blast celebrating these leaders at our 2020 year-end virtual mixer. Scroll down to meet the amazing Excellence in EE Award winners of 2020, and stay tuned for more details from the nominators about what makes each of these EE organizations and individuals so exceptional!

2020 Outstanding Environmental Educator of the Year – Ellen Bashor

Ellen is the Education Director at the City of Prescott’s Community Nature Center and the Environmental Education instructor for Prescott College. In 2020, Ellen revived an underutilized piece of city open space property called the Community Nature Center Open Space Preserve and developed an intergovernmental agreement between the City of Prescott and Prescott Unified School District to provide free outdoor and environmental programming for K-6 public school students without adult care, meal, and virtual learning options available to them during the pandemic. This program was so successful that, as the district returned to in-person learning, teachers and school programs have continued this outdoor and environmental learning relationship. In less than a year, thousands of students have received services from the Community Nature Center, averaging 100-200 student visitors a week. The district and city plan to continue the partnership under the shared goal of increasing access to healthy outdoor learning and recreation for all public school students in the area.

www.prescottcommunitynaturecenter.org

2020 Outstanding Environmental Education Program – Camp Colley

The Camp Colley foundation provides wilderness experiences and environmental education for underserved Phoenix children to nurture healthy development and resilience, foster meaningful relationships, and encourage wilderness exploration. Since its inception in 2005, the nonprofit Camp Colley Foundation has focused on funding camper scholarships and investing in facilities at their City of Phoenix owned camp in the Coconino National Forest. Camp Colley. Despite major pandemic setbacks deterring their opening of the summer camp, the Foundation quickly pivoted to virtual environmental education programming as an alternative to reach kids while keeping them and their families safe. The result was the Camp Colley Foundation’s free Virtual Environmental Learning Program which consisted of nine online activity sheets and accompanying videos which guided children and families to have fun, learn, and connect with nature right from their own home.

www.campcolley.org

2020 Outstanding Business Committed to Environmental Education – Desert Awareness Committee of Foothills Community Foundation

The Desert Awareness Committee is an organization under the 501c3 non-profit Foothills Community Foundation serving the North Phoenix communities of Scottsdale, Carefree, Cave Creek, and Wickenburg. Their environmental education activities include those for children and adults, schools and scouts, private organizations associated with homeowners groups, live-in care facilities, and more! Since 2004 the Desert Awareness Committee has been presenting our highly acclaimed free environmental program to all fourth graders in the schools of the Cave Creek School District as well as local charter and private schools and youth programs. Their members have also written 3 books, “The Fragile Desert”, “Chloe and the Desert Heroes”, and “Our Tastes of the Desert”. Due to the pandemic restrictions, their members were unable to bring classes to the park so they innovated and created a virtual tour of the park to be used in online instructions. This video will continue to be used by Cave Creeks students in 2021 in service to their mission of “educating all ages about the Sonoran Desert.”.

www.hollandcenter.org/programs/desert-awareness-committee

2020 Young Environmental Education Professional – Erin Scott

Erin Scott has been working as the unofficial program coordinator for the Whetstone Prison Project (WPP) for nearly 3 years. She took over the bare-bones program in 2017 as a full-time art student and at the time, the program had just begun a garden at the Whetstone prison unit in Tucson, AZ. Erin has grown the program considerably, creating & teaching her own lesson plans and forging connections community organizations to bring in further expertise. In February 2020, Erin wrote and was awarded an $84k grant to support this project. Since then, WPP has expanded from a simple garden at the prison to a full workshop for the inmates; and this project now has University support with Erin as a paid program coordinator, another graduate assistant, and a four-credit course with a dozen interns. Erin’s next step is to roll the WPP into a non-profit organization and to expand this amazing opportunity to inmates in other prison units.

www.instagram.com/whetstonepp

2020 Outstanding School Committed to Environmental Education – Tucson Unified School District’s School Garden Network

TUSD’s School Garden Network delivers high quality environmental education programming to a diverse community of K-12 students, University of Arizona (UA) students, parents, and K-12 educators. TUSD serves an 80% non-white student population with 70% of students qualifying for Federal Free and Reduced Lunch. Over the 2019-2020 School Year TUSD SGN delivered broad reaching environmental education programming in collaboration with University of Arizona Community and School Garden Program. Before pandemic closures, the Network hosted a STEM EE Conference with 40 participants and 30 K-12 teacher trainings and a Green Academy Workshop Series impacting 91 educators and reaching 3,000+ students,. Quickly adapting to pandemic restrictions, the Garden Network took action to reduce the social and academic impacts of the pandemic on TUSD students. To do this, they distributed 50 computers to in-need TUSD families, provided K-12 distance environmental education and virtual teacher support, and coordinated groups of UA students to restore gardens in preparation for the return to in-person learning in 2021.

www.schoolgardens.arizona.edu

2020 Outstanding Inclusion Programming in Environmental Education – Ironwood Tree Experience

Ironwood Tree Experience, led by Suzy and Eric Dhruv, is  an organization has been committed to the diversity of its board of directors, staff, and participants since its inception. Through it’s 15 years as an organization it has only increased this commitment and has become even more focused and conscious of efforts to become inclusive. Especially important is the opportunities and encouragement that ITE provides for youth participants to engage in their community as leaders. Just as one example of this commitment is ITE’s Youth Action Corps (YAC), where teens are encouraged to embrace their love of nature, people, and community by engaging in activities, initiatives, internships, and programs through Conservation & Restoration, Environmental Education, and Sustainable Community Development! In 2020, ITE continued to provide a virtual and safe space and guidance for a diverse and inclusive community to grow in supporting youth leadership in the Tucson area.

www.ironwoodtreeexperience.org

2020 Lifetime Achievement in Environmental Education – David Pijawka

After 37 years at Arizona State University professor David Pijawka stands out for his commitment, leadership, and impact in delivering environmental education for university students, the Arizona community, and the academic profession. This year he retired as Professor Emeritus after mentoring around 35 doctoral students to complete their PhDs and many Masters students through their theses or Applied Projects mostly on environmental topics found in Urban Planning and Sustainability. This outstanding commitment to environmental education does not stop with student mentoring but includes over sixteen national awards given to his graduate students for their achievements in environmental research and service to the profession. Teaching in two disciplines, Urban Planning and Sustainability, he is known for introducing interdisciplinary environmental education to students, developing education programs, and providing the latest and pressing information on issues related to environmental justice, hazards and resiliency, socio- ecological modeling, as well as urban sustainability planning and global needs.

www,sgsup.asu.edu/david-pijawka

Meet the Board of Directors!

WOW! None of us expected to start the year in a pandemic, but here we are. Navigating the challenges and changes of 2020 has been difficult for all of us. That is why we are so grateful to have a team of amazing professional Environmental Educators leading this organization–Educators who, like you, are dedicated to collaboration, innovation, and justice in our field.

We want YOU to get to know US!

President, Interim Executive Director, and Professional Development Committee Co-Chair: LoriAnne Barnett

Why is EE important to you?  EE is critical to helping people understand our interconnectivity and the impact of our choices!

Why did you want to join the AAEE Board of Directors?  I wanted to join the board to help me become a better leader and learn from other great leaders in the field.

Board of Directors and Marketing and Membership Committee Chair: Ellen Bashor

Why is EE important to you? EE is important to me because I believe so whole-heartedly that it is our best chance for protecting and restoring the well-being of human and ecological communities, as well as reviving the dignity & justice that belongs to all living beings and systems. EE is important to me because it gives me hope.

Why did you want to join the AAEE Board of Directors? I wanted to join the board because I see this organization & team of leaders as a vehicle for the change our world so desperately needs. The hope, energy, and dedication of the EE community has given me so much inspiration & guidance in my life; I believe it is my heart’s work & duty to give that in return.

Board of Directors, Treasurer, and Resources Working Group Chair: Lisa Ristuccia

Why is EE important to you? EE is important to me because it connects us to nature, ourselves, and others in a meaningful way.

Why did you want to join the AAEE Board of Directors? I wanted to join the AAEE board to connect with people who have a common passion & interest so that, together, we can make meaningful, positive change.

Board of Directors, Secretary, and Certification Committee Chair: Staci Grady

Why is EE important to you? EE restores a lost connection to our place in ecology and heals our relationship with all parts of the world around us.

Why did you want to join the AAEE Board of Directors? Serving on the board gives me an opportunity to participate actively in a passion and a fundamental belief in the role humans should play in the world.

Board of Directors and Early Childhood Environmental Education Working Group Chair: Diona Williams

Why is EE important to you? In the last 18 years I have witnessed first hand as an Early Childhood Education professional the decrease of outdoor play with young children. I have witnessed first hand the effects of young children being indoors and the increased fear of what will happen if they go outside. There’s an increase in certain behaviors, lack of self-awareness with children & parents, an increase in obesity & sensory processing issues (touch, taste, etc.) too. EE is important to me because I know the work I am doing will have an impact on a larger scale, therefore it can change the lives of young children & adults. EE also helps me push past my own boundaries.

Why did you want to join the AAEE Board of Directors? I wanted to join the board to increase EE within in the Early Childhood Education community, gain more leadership skills, learn more about EE, and connect with more of the EE network system.

Board of Directors and Professional Development Committee Co-Chair: Bret Muter

Why is EE important to you?  EE is important because our future, our children’s future, and our quality of life depends on it. EE helps us develop a sense of place and connect with our community in a meaningful and life-changing way.

Why did you want to join the AAEE Board of Directors? I wanted to join the board to connect and work with inspiring EE leaders around the state and to help advance the EE field in Arizona.

 

Board of Directors: Jessie Rack

Why is EE important to you? EE is important to me because it can: restore the lost connection between humans and their environment, create environmental stewards, and engage people of all ages to invest in nature & conservation issues.

Why did you want to join the AAEE Board of Directors? I wanted to join the board to be on the forefront of EE in Arizona. I want to help build a community of engaged, effective educators that can change and deepen education in Arizona.

 

 

Board of Directors: Josh Hoskinson

 Why is EE important to you? EE is one of the best ways to enact social change. EE is the best way to stay connected to our environment.

Why did you want to join the AAEE Board of Directors? I wanted to join the board to develop meaningful connections with other folks in EE, help provide/gain access to PD opportunities in EE to stay current in my field, and improve EE in Arizona.

 

 

 

Are YOU interested in joining our Board of Directors? Email president@arizonaee.org for more information.

Towards Inclusive & Equitable Environmental Education

Environmental Education organizations across America are coming to terms with a history of practice that has often been, and continues to be, exclusionary of many groups. This was a central topic at our 2019 #WEareEE Conference, and we want to keep the conversation going. We’re also writing this short piece 1) to clarify some of the key terms, 2) to take a deeper look at reality of inequity in ‘green’ organizations, and 3) to share some valuable resources that we love that can help programs better serve the diverse communities here in Arizona. Down the road, we’re going to continue with blogs diving deeper into these topics and will be featuring some model inclusive EE organizations & efforts here in Arizona.

At AAEE we have been working hard on our organization’s mission,  culture, strategic planning, and practices to make sure that we center justice, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of our work. Diversity is strength, and we want our association to welcome the variety of beliefs, identities, languages, interpersonal styles, and values of all individuals in our state. Our goal is to create an association that is inclusive, respectful, and equitable, and to engage the talents of people with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to collectively create a sustainable future for Arizona that prioritizes social & environmental well-being. We recognize that we have a long way to go, that this is work that is never done, and we are looking forward to continuing to dig deeper & commit ourselves to positive change.

Have you heard of “DEI”? Maybe your organization wants to build a “DEI” strategy, or perhaps build a “JEDI” committee — But what does that really mean? What is meant by all these acronyms being tossed around in corporate, non-profit, and institutional circles? First of all, as we engage in this work, it’s important to remember that these words are representative concepts & actions surrounding serious issues, and to casually turn them into acronyms or just ‘another committee’ or just ‘another strategy’ can not only be ineffective, but harmful.

In the various environmental sectors: the government, non-profits, research areas, businesses, science/education/outdoor programs, and more, there is a pattern of this work being predominantly facilitated by middle to upper-class, white, and older populations. This imbalance becomes more prevalent the further up in leadership one looks. Yet, in many studies, Americans of color consistently demonstrate more concern for environmental issues that white Americans. This paradox points to a phenomena many refer to as the Green Ceiling, which Green 2.0 describes briefly as, “Despite increasing racial diversity in the United States, the racial composition in environmental organizations and agencies has not broken the 12% to 16% “green ceiling” that has been in place for decades.”

Even knowing that moving towards a more sustainable and just world takes all of us, “The leadership, boards, staff, and memberships of mainstream environmental groups continue to be largely white, upper middle-class, and older. This failure to include other segments of society is a serious limitation. It reduces the reach and impact of all groups working in conservation—from non-profit organizations to foundations to government agencies. All too often, it also means that the support of nature and conservation by people from diverse backgrounds—and the toll of environmental problems on less wealthy communities—is neglected or ignored.” (Dorceta Taylor, Green 2.0)

In order for all of us to achieve our goals we need to prioritize inclusive & equitable practices that address social & environmental injustices as the interdependent systems that they are. One of the places we can start is by building personal and organizational cultural competence. For those of us in EE who aren’t familiar with the term “cultural competence”, if you check out this great chart, you may see something surprising. (Martin & Vaughn, Cultural Competence: The Nuts & Bolts of Diversity & Inclusion) The components of cultural competence, are almost identical to the components of the objectives of EE as documented in one of the EE field’s founding documents: The Tbilisi Declaration! The same familiar elements of the EE “Awareness to Action” continuum from Tbilisi can be applied to understanding and developing cultural competence. 

With this in mind, we’re excited to share a list of resources that our colleagues and various members of our organization have shared with us. We’re looking forward to building this list and making a permanent set of resources on our page. If you see we’re missing some important resources–Let us know by commenting or messaging us on our blog, Facebook page, or Instagram

Resources:

Don’t Miss These Field Trips!

Thinking about coming to the 2019 statewide Environmental Education conference? I sure am! Although I love a good presentation, as an experiential learner, I also love getting out into a community and seeing real models that WORK! I know AAEE has put a lot of time into collaborating with local educational, recreational, environmental, outdoor, institutions & business to pull together an amazing set of field trips. Since each field trip will have a limited number of spaces (for example, finding 130 kayaks turned out to be impossible!) — I wanted to make sure you had a chance to get to know the locations & options so you can be sure to sign up for the field trip you want most before it fills.

Watson Lake & the Granite Dells

Just 4 miles from Prescott, located in the heart of the Granite Dells, this beautiful lake is an oasis to escape the desert heat. This grey-blue lake is surrounded by rolling pink granite boulders, and is a vital part of the Granite Creek riparian corridor and an important migratory bird stopover. The 380 acres of park contain stunning rock formations, secret inlets with a myriad of birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects to admire, and small islands to pause upon and soak in the view. Bring sunscreen, a hat, clothing that can get wet, sturdy shoes, and your binoculars for the ultimate paddling experience at Watson Lake! NOTE: this trip costs an extra $30 to participate.

Learning Gardens

Thanks to amazing cooperation between a variety of schools, non-profits, extension offices, and dedicated community members, Prescott is a vibrant hub for learning gardens. Ranging from native gardens to outdoor classrooms to food production gardens, come see some ways in which outdoor areas have been transformed into learning spaces for all ages. See a spectrum of initiatives and learn how gardens can be used as outdoor classrooms that align with learning objectives for all subjects. Contemplate the potential for your program’s own spaces and get inspired to get your hands dirty!

Natural History Institute

The Natural History Institute provides leadership and resources for a revitalized practice of natural history that integrates art, science, and humanities to promote the health and well-being of humans and the rest of the natural world. Located in downtown Prescott in a beautifully restored historic building, the Institute provides a fascinating array of educational opportunities such as in-house explorations of their thousands of preserved plants (over 9,000 in the herbarium alone!) as well as insects and birds, visual & performance art installations, and unique community field trips around the state that provide creative and engaging environmental education to participants of all ages. The Natural History Institute is dedicated to changing the way we view our evolutionary relationship with the world around us and will inspire anyone who strives to connect others to our world’s unique and irreplaceable natural wonders.

Highlands Center for Natural History

Immersed in the beautiful Prescott National Forest near Lynx Lake, the Highlands Center for Natural History is a Prescott nature center, a hub for lifelong learning, and designed to invite discovery of the wonders of nature. This field trip is lead by interpretive specialist and nature play space designer, Nikki Julien. See how the Highlands Center has worked with their landscape to create interactive spaces such as the James Family Discovery Gardens and kept the focus on inclusive & accessible design. Their programs range from Arthropalooza, to Shakespeare in the Pines, Knee-High Naturalists, naturalist certification classes, and more. Nikki will guide you through the beautiful ponderosa forests of Prescott, and help you think about your landscapes and the ways in which you can design & interpret for better engagement with learners of all ages.

Heritage Park Zoo

Summer Zoo Camp 2016 - Wallabies 5Situated on ten acres north of Prescott and overlooking the Granite Dells & Willow Lake, the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary has a wide variety of opportunities for visitors. HPZS is a non-profit wildlife sanctuary, dedicated to the conservation and protection of native and exotic animals. The sanctuary provides a source of recreation, education, and entertainment for all ages, especially with their large, naturally landscaped enclosures for the animals, interactive paths, daily programming, special events, and camps. With the mission of “Conservation through Education,” Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary provides a unique and up-close experience with animals that visitors may see nowhere else. Animals at Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary all have a story and a lesson to teach so come by and learn the story of a small sanctuary making a big difference in their community.

Embry-Riddle Planetarium

Located in the grasslands nearing Granite Mountain, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University does STEM right. Integrating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into all their degree programs, they have recently been focused on expanding their community offerings and providing increased engagement with their STEM Center & Planetarium for all ages. Their STEM Educational Center and the Jim and Linda Lee Planetarium host field trips, community education events, and tours of the universe through year-round planetarium shows such as Tour of the Solar System and 46.5 Billion Light Years. Check out their incredible spaces and get inspired with new ways to grow the whole STEM in your environmental education program.

See you there!

For more information on the conference, including the schedule outline & registration, visit: https://www.arizonaee.org/event/2019-aaee-conference/