Since joining the field of Environmental Education in 2011, I have loved attending the annual conference for the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education. This great opportunity has been a fantastic way each year to meet with other professionals from across the state to bring fresh ideas back to the programs we offer here at Bluegrass Greensource. This year, however, was a very special case as Lexington played host to the largest conference in North America focused on Environmental Education and it did NOT disappoint!
The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), created in 1971 by a group of environmentally-minded community college professors in Florida, holds their own conference every year in different parts of their service region. From the resting place of Aldo Leopold in Wisconsin to the beaches of Cancún, Mexico, NAAEE moves their annual conference in an effort to connect with many partners to share common goals of promoting environmental literacy. Kentucky last held the conference in 1981 and later became the very first “affiliate” to join NAAEE in 1986!
Over 2,000 environmental and educational professionals descended into downtown Lexington to learn from each other and to see the great things we are doing right here in the Bluegrass. As someone who has lived in Lexington for over 11 years, my favorite part was helping shuttle visitors to their tour at FoodChain. I remember when this great nonprofit was first beginning and the dreams they had for the rest of their space. Having not been back in several years, it was so inspiring to see all that they are accomplishing – and how excited the visitors from all over our country were to take in this fantastic operation. From one nonprofit to another: cheers to FoodChain and all of the potential that is yet to be tapped.
Two presentations by Bluegrass Greensource staff members were accepted for the conference. One was a poster presentation on our Junior Nature Explorer’s program by Rachel Patton, the program coordinator, alongside education professor Dr. Priyanka Parekh of Transylvania University, who partnered with Bluegrass Greensource to do research on the way environmental education was helping in the preschool classrooms. The other presentation was by Pattie Stivender, education director, and Danny Woolums on the success of the Lexington Teachers’ Environmental Academy. Alongside staff from the City of Lexington, the 4 people shared about the city’s goals for the program and lessons learned over the course of two years. Since the presentation, a city in North Carolina has already reached out to learn about how they can model this same program next year with local teachers.
Overall, Bluegrass Greensource was everywhere at the conference. We were volunteering at registration, with the silent auction, participating in sessions, coordinating networking events, and so much more. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet people from all over the country and share what makes Kentucky such a special place to be.