The 2012 NAAEE Conference, Mini Update

Over the next few weeks I am going to be going into lots more interesting detail about the 3 fall conferences, but for now I thought I would just give a few highlights and then later you will get all sorts of lessons, info, and findings. As far as Wings, Worms, and Wonder is concerned it was a great venue for getting word out about the book. I was so happy to be a part of Friday’s Authors Corner, and the book was viewed  by some pretty big name people in the environmental education field which was exciting. The session I led Saturday morning (School Gardens and the Arts: Integrating Nature Across Elementary Curricula) went great. The participants were all engaged and their feedback was wonderful.

There were so many interesting sessions to attend I wish I could have been a few people at once! Friday began with some roundtable discussions and I attended on the Children and Nature Network’s San Francisco group and creating a “network of networks.” Friday’s keynote speaker was California State University professor Dr. Wesley Schultz. He spoke on Education, Motivation, and Behavior: Lessons from Behavioral Science. I found him to be incredibly interesting. His philosophy on communicating social messages when teaching about the environment and how it is it is important to align the the desired action to that of a social norm, thereby not making the intended audience feel like they are different, but a part of a larger group or norm that is also performing the desired action. For example if you want people to plant school gardens, make them realize how many people are doing that and that they will actually be in the minority if they don’t plant a garden.

I also attended a session led by the ladies who began the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance and authored the books How to Grow A School Garden and the new book Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation. It was really great to see and hear them speak on their process and ways to set up a long term culture that keeps schoolyards evolving. I especially liked this quote by Sharon Gamson Danks on how green schoolyards are “empowering children to change their place” and create meaningful spaces with which to connect.

After Friday’s Authors Corner, I attended a symposia session moderated by author Dilafruz Williams on exploring “What is the Learning in Learning Gardens?” It was great to hear professors from Portland, Hawaii and British Columbia speak on the outcomes they have found in their experience creating gardens and gardening with children. I was pleased that in my experience I have documented the same outcomes!

Finally, I ended the day listening to youth activist Craig Kilbourg speak on the ways his organization “Free the Children” has begun to incorporate environmental issues into their work because without a safe and stable environment their social work will not be successful. It was great to hear him in person too because their was a story about him in the 4th grade reading book I used to teach from!

The most inspiring session I attended Saturday, besides my own of course, was a youth panel where activists ages 14-22 spoke on the work they have been involved in over the past few years. I was surprised that the room wasn’t packed because staying abreast of youth concerns and ideas seems, to me, to be one of the most important things that environmental educators can do!

So this was just a rundown, but more in depth looks at the exciting work evolving from these people will be on its way!

 

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