by: Dayna McRoberts, Education & Outreach VISTA, Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center
We can not all travel to every conference in STEM Education and Sailing,however we can share what we learn. Below, and in future posts you will find a report from a Reach Educator who received a a professional development grant to attend a conference in a related fields and share their experience, and top takeaways thanks to the funding and support of 11th Hour Racing.
The Climate of Change Conference in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire was a three day event from November 8-10, 2015 hosted by the New Hampshire Environmental Educators (NHEE) and the New England Environmental Education Alliance (NEEEA). This conference pulled in representatives from all over New England to share in three days of conversation about how the changing climate effects us all, especially in the realm of environmental education and stewardship. The conference’s main goal was to “bring together scientists, communications experts, educators, students, and others to discuss and share ideas around four key strands: climate change, the changing climate of environmental education, the evolution of the environmental movement, and the environmental challenges of today and tomorrow.” NHEE and NEEEA identified some important questions that the conference aimed to shed light on and create conversation around… where did we come from, and where are we going? Which strategies can we celebrate and which need improvement? The atmosphere of the conference was productive because it attracted people from so many different specialties, but all with similar ideals, so the discussion were usually multifaceted and interesting for everyone involved, considering participants could attend workshops most prevalent to their organizations and their goals.
Top 5 Takeaways:
- Two of the workshops I attended were Cutting to the Chase – How to Approach Controversial Topics (Sam Evans-Brown, NH Public Radio) and Communicating Effectively with People Who Dismiss Science (Tony Lacertosa). Although different, these sessions had significant overlap pertaining to the problems people in and around the field of environmental education. These workshops opportunities for participants to share their experiences around the inevitable controversy within the subject of climate change and for others to offer methods and approaches which proved to be successful or somewhat successful in return. The leaders of the sessions offered guiding and thought-provoking questions to all participants to get to the root of the problems such as what fuels the denial of climate change and how to combat (without being combative) such problems. Although a lot of what was discussed in these workshops could be considered common knowledge, the conversation fostered a sense of community, ability, and positivity and resulted in tangible strategies to use in a variety of settings when people question controversial, scientifically-proven environmental science.
- In three of the other sessions I attended, Enhancing Depth of Knowledge Through Nature-based Learning, EcosySTEM: Using Ecology as an Integrating Context for E-STEM Education, and Slow Down… Sketching and Mapping, there was overlap again, but on a different frontier of environmental education. These sessions and their presenters, Julie Bisson, Meg Edstrom Jones, and Bob Woolner, offered insight from three very experienced environmental educators and three great environmental education programs in New England. The takeways from these sessions were simple, and things that people in environmental education sometimes need to remind themselves of. The takeaways included messages about the simplicity of sensory learning, the importance of slowing down and letting the students do the learning on their own, and how educational standards such as STEM and NGSS can still be reached through programs that utilize the two prior ideals.
- In the EcosySTEM: Using Ecology as an Integrating Context for E-STEM Education workshop with Meg Edstrom Jones, the takeaway was incredibly applicable to programs that are not necessarily in a traditional school setting. The presenter discussed ecology education, which is more systems thinking than outdoor education or environmental education. She also surveyed the group for opinions about STEM, receiving responses that were cynical, positive, and negative. What was relevant to sailing programs and non-traditional environmental education programs was the idea that STEM education is complex, and STEM goals can be reached through any outdoor medium. From walking a beach to sailing, ecology is a great integrating context for STEM. Meg Edstrom Jones also presented an example activity to help participants understand how ecology and the systems thinking can be translated into STEM initiatives. Even though sailing was never mentioned in the discussion or examples, I could see ways in which ideas could be adapted for Floating Classrooms so that the Sailing Center can continue implementing STEM education and initiatives.
- At the very end of the conference on Tuesday, we were asked to participate in a concluding activity with everyone who attended. For the first time, we were put in groups by the state we worked in. The Vermont table was made of up mostly of people I surprisingly had not met yet. Individuals varied from environmental artists, to event coordinators, to educators, to the co-chair of Vermont SWEEP, Jenna Guarino. With Guarino as a facilitator, we were asked to get to know each other and make a broad plan with goals we were going to strive towards in the coming year in Vermont. It was great to build community and understand that, in general, environmental educators and community partners in Vermont are on the same page and have confidence and positive momentum moving forward. One of my favorite goals and most relevant goal that we came up with was for traditional school programs to get more involved and build a stronger relationship with more non-traditional education programs, such as sailing centers.
- In many of the sessions I attended, there was some form of technology presented for analysis of programs, creation of student projects, etc. In environmental education, the focus is the environment and learning how to understand the past, present, and future based on our knowledge. That is a goal almost every education program has in common. However, it became only more apparent that technology aids understanding and compilation of knowledge. In Slow Down… Sketching and Mapping, Tony Lacertosa introduced a piece of technology called ESRI. It involves GPS, computers, and mapping techniques to aid sensory observations and sketches. ESRI is a site that allows upload of drawings, pictures, or notes to a map created through a GPS that tracked the locations of where the observations were taken. Students learn a lot through their senses, which is vital to all environmental education. However, in this generation, students of all ages really connect and relate to technology as well. By merging the two mediums of intake, students are bound to walk away with a more a meaningful experience and retain more knowledge.
1. www.PeerlessLearship.com, Tony Lacertosa’s personal website
2. www.esri.com/connected, free resource for educational institutions for mapping and basic GIS data compilation and upload
3. Bethany Powers, email@example.com, VT SWEEP Climate Resistance in Schools Conference Coordinator, conference on April 9, 2016
4. Brianne Studer, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.farringtonnaturelinc.org, Program Director, Farrington Nature Linc
5. Cameron Wake, PhD., Research Professor, Climate Scientist, University of New Hampshire, email@example.com
“Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses.” -Aristotle
Education & Outreach VISTA,
Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center,