watercolor of birds flying by sun, "Welcoming a new year" text

Welcoming a New Year

This year has been challenging, as we all know. In spite of all the tough stuff, we saw many silver linings in the form of increased compassion, civic engagement, and scientific accomplishments that include new vaccines and more. With challenge often comes reflection, growth, focus, and an increased sense of responsibility. We asked our partners, colleagues, and peers to share one takeaway from this year for us all to consider as we strive to advance our work in the environmental education field and more broadly about how we want to help shape a better future—for ourselves and others in 2021. You can read some of these takeaways below and more in a recent note from Judy Braus, NAAEE’s Executive Director.

Alex Porpora, Executive Director of Utah Society for Environmental Education (USEE), shares her thoughts on the environmental education field and what is ahead for her personally and professionally:

For me, the biggest take-away is the need for environmental educators to be actively engaged in advocacy efforts at the state and national levels. Like the Lorax, we speak for our field and have the passion and knowledge to move forward on big things, but we need to ensure that we are working collaboratively and with one unified message. I am proud of the work we have done on eeGuidance, in Utah and nationally. This work encouraged our state Office of Outdoor Recreation to establish a grant program to fund outdoor classrooms. We couldn't have done this without collaboration on this issue. Our state affiliate has also been actively engaged in sharing how our members and partners can speak up for nonprofit relief and how we can support each other and the small businesses in our communities. 


Finally, the thing that is front of mind for me is how we can continue to work to create the changes that we want to see from policymakers. 2020 has taught me that beyond just watching school board meetings (my new reality TV!) and city council meetings online, there are ways I can participate and be involved. I have applied to serve on city and state boards and am considering running for city council. I'd love to see how we can provide support for individuals in our field to run for office at any level so that we can bring our perspectives and values to legislation.

And Patricia Weil Coates, President of Coates Communications shares:

This was the year that backyards took on a new meaning, bird feeders brought great joy, and the flower and vegetable seeds that many of us started in plastic cups with a bit of soil provided great anticipation and daily pleasure as they grew and flourished, even as we were cooped up in our homes.


I have a greater appreciation for my immediate neighborhood and am delighted by its (basic) wildlife. Deer, a fox, squirrels, and a great blue heron and other birds provided much-needed diversions and interest, and I know exactly when various plants and flowers will bloom, their names, and where they grow. A carpet of bluebells by the nearby river was a perfect antidote to dreary lock-down days.


I found that the outdoors and the creatures in it were the best tonic to relieve the monotony and stress of 2020, and I anticipate this heightened awareness will continue into the future.

What are your takeaways from 2020 that you plan to carry with you into the new year? Share in the comments below this post.

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The importance of building a supportive community collaboratively. I have the honor to work with amazing people connected to the eeBLUE partnership. Colleagues, grantees, and various partners. It has been a light during this challenging year, and I hope to continue the cultivation of that light!

Skill building has brought light into my life this year, building a new community of Guidelines trainers in Michigan with Bora Simmons and our Michigan Alliance for Outdoor and Environmental Education affiliates has been really inspiring.