What awoke your interest in environmental education? | eePRO @ NAAEE

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What awoke your interest in environmental education?

Hi everyone!

My name is Margarita, and I'm from Chile. I'm studying to become an English teacher in my country, and I'm currently taking an Environmental Literacy course. Throughout the semester, we have been working on an eco-journal, which has given me the chance to reflect on my first meaningful experiences with environmental topics. It would be great if we all could share our experiences because maybe we can use some of these ideas in our classroom now as teachers instead of students. So, here goes mine:

I was 12 years old when my school won a project about apiculture. It taught both children and parents about beekeeping, their biology, and how they live within their hives. At that age, I feared bees since they had stung me a couple of times, but this school activity changed everything by showing me the importance of bees and teaching me about their true nature. Since then, I began moving slowly every time a bee was close to avoid jeopardising its life and observed them while pollinating flowers. Even nowadays, I keep flowers in my front yard for them and even leave a little plate with water and sugar.

I am looking forward to hearing about your early experiences!

Hi Margarita! It is nice finding you here. As you already know, I am from Chile, and I'm also studying to become a teacher of English as a Second Language.
I have always been interested in environment related issues and what we can do both as individuals and as a society to take care of the planet.
I just remembered when I was about 7-8 years old, for Earth Day, my school would make parades every year and we would go walking behind singing different songs related to the environment, greeting people and trying to raise awareness about it.
When I was 13, I changed to a school that was still "under construction" in concerns of the garden and landscape design; therefore, the head of the school allowed us to plant flowers and trees throughout the whole playground yard; which was a lot of fun.
Those particular experiences boosted my interest to inform myself about these topics and try to make a change!

Hi....I tried to post to you the other day...and somehow it was lost. So I try once again. Thank you for asking your question about what made a difference in our lives...what directed us to environmental education. As a child...I lived in urban Philadelphia, a row house in North Philadelphia. There were some places to play...like the park around the block, and while it was filled with trees, many of them Sycamore, while I identified with that space and place it was something my mother did that made a supreme difference in my life. She went to our counselor at my elementary school and asked if he had any suggestions to take me away from the hot, urban summer and would get me outside of Philadelphia. He suggested a camp that was 32 miles outside of the city, then a rather rural area. At 8 years old it was a bit scary...but we went by train and walked through two rather daunting railroad tunnels to camp. It was green, inviting...but for an 8 year old it was the first time I had been away at home. The next year however...three weeks in the country side was amazing...swimming, creeking, and many opportunities to try things. The cost was amazingly affordable though in the 1950's-1960's $25 for three weeks, an overnight camp with good food...still was a stretch. The Camp, Paradise Farms was created by some very wealthy Philadelphia women who thought it essential to provide experiences for underprivileged children to spend time in nature. That idea I did not know when I was a child...but from 8 years old until my last years as a counselor at the camp when I was 18, it made such a difference in my life. There were amazing counselors there who loved what they did...one, a biologist who was working on a doctorate at the University of PA. He was magical...in bringing us to a stream or creek...to the woodland....and his enthusiasm was contagious. That not withstanding, there were so many opportunities for us at camp...that I look at those times as being seminal in my professional work. It took a while...but I found environmental education as something akin to camp...it brought everything together...school subjects...but it piqued my interest to such a degree that I wound up directing a Center for Environmental Education and becoming engaged with the North American Assoc. for Environmental Education. I have never regretted it...but now I am retired....I miss the classes we had at the USFS facility, Land Between the Lakes. We took students to explore nature and make connections to the natural world and to school subjects they were going to teach. Funny enough...Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods...confirmed in my mind the need for all of us to have time in nature...and all of our classes took place in nature...one in Austria on environmental sustainability. I learned as a teacher and a student the importance of being outside...and camp gave me that great beginning. I often asked my undergrads...what they liked about elementary school the most...more than 90 percent suggested being outside was essential and what they liked the most. A confirmation of what Rich Louv's work suggested to us all. I am grateful to several persons who made my camp experience possible - Ms Alexia, Ms. Smith and one of the founders, Fanny Mae Weitzel...in addition to my mother and school counselor.

One last reflection...in the summer at Paradise Farms...the creek and the valley that accompanied it....at dark...was alight with fireflies....it was so magical....it was an amazing picture...still in my mind...lo so many years since that time. That valley was like a huge Christmas tree...with small LEDs...and that was way before an LED. But I can see those fields....and to this day I think of how it captured my awe.

During one very stressful day, I left home tin Sacramento o drive to the coast. I took a back road that featured a stream alongside it. The narrow road winded through a tree lined corridor. I parked my car in a turnout and to listen to the music of the stream.. The sound of the water was very calming. Later, I returned to the car, drove further and saw around the corner lush, green hills. I decided that sharing the stories of nature's beauty and need to conserve was the way was the work I wanted to do.

I have accomplished this through creating field trip curriculum for national parks, interpretive writing contracts, blogging first person experiences at a river nearby by home that turned into a self-published book , writing for conservancies, land trusts and created "Nature Detectives" a weekly nature discovery program for K-3rd grade students. Live online training program in process. Continues to be Very rough journey of short term projects and long stretches of empty space. Always looking for the next project.

View my "Mornings on Fair Oaks Bridge" blogs, photos, videos and blogs at https://naturelegacies.com. Learn more about Nature Detectives at https://naturedetectivesusa.com.

water, river, mornings, nature, walks, American River, wildlife
Mornings on Fair Oaks Bridge
Fall, tree, nature journal, children, nature
Seasons of a Tree
Nature Detectives, nature, logo, children,

Hi Margarita! I hope your Environmental Literacy course is going well! I loved reading about your apiculture experience.

To reply to your question about "what awoke my interest in environmental education?" I thought back to when I first learned about environmental education. It was the summer I graduated college. I was dragging a kayak in muskeg as part of a research project studying migratory birds. My field partner and I took a break, and I remember he asked me what I planned to do after the internship ended. I confessed I didn't know. Then he asked, "Have you thought about environmental education?" That was the first time I heard the words.

When I think about it, I'm surprised it took me so long to learn about it. I feel like I was constantly circling around it. Hiking, bicycling, and being outdoors was—and is—my favorite thing to do. Growing up, I loved learning about animals. Once I was able to identify birds, I noticed red-tailed hawks in the grocery parking lot, hummingbirds at the end of my street, and white-crowned sparrows singing in the winter.

Margarita, I am so excited that you are looking to connect nature experiences in your classroom as a teacher. Looking back, I wish my early school experiences applied outdoor and environmental education across the curriculum, especially because nature and stewardship are embedded in our communities. Thanks for starting this discussion!