I have spent 4½ days listening and learning from other environmental educators. I am at the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) conference in Oakland, CA with two colleagues, Dan Calvert and Jen Wyld. We have definitely taken the “divide and conquer” idea at this conference so we could experience and share as much as possible.
A few things from this week have really stood out. While there is not a large informal education presence, this conference has offered a lot of talks that I (and hopefully some of you) have an interest in and I think a lot of them apply to informal learning.
During the Research Symposium, the presenters had us divide into groups and go out into an urban green space. They challenged us to answer questions that were originally posed by Aldo Leopold to his students: What is happening here? What has happened here? What should happen here? We used these questions to think about the more-than-human world.
The actual conference opened Wednesday night with an amazing keynote by Annie Leonard, who talked about “The Story of Stuff” (www.storyofstuff.org/). Annie was an enthusiastic presenter with so many zingers that I can’t possibly type them all out here!
On Thursday morning, Jen & I (and about 40 other conference attendees) went on an urban hike with Oakland Native American youth. We learned about their program and the importance of outdoor experiences to their identity and sense of place.
Hector (…and if you are reading this Hector and I misspelled your name, leave a comment or email me for a correction!) was our guide and has been involved with the program for 8 years. He took us up to Inspiration Point in Joaquin Miller Park. We spent some time taking in the view of Oakland and then Hector shared that he comes up to this point when he feels stressed, even if it’s at midnight. He also shared, so eloquently, that “We have to remind ourselves that we all started somewhere. We all came from the woods.”
On Thursday we heard about how environmental education can integrate equity, inclusion, and diversity. We also heard from three inspirational women about effective social media (maybe a discussion for another day).
Today is my last day here. This morning I went to a panel about eating local food and partnering with farmers for education. This was nicely followed by a visit to the Oakland Farmer’s Market!