A few weekends ago I was fortunate enough to attend the 37th annual Kentucky Association of Environmental Educators conference at the Lake Barkley Lodge down in the western part of the state. It was a fantastic time filled with educational workshops and set in a beautiful part of the state. (If you have never gotten the chance to visit Lake Barkley or Land Between the Lakes, I would highly recommend the long drive. Definitely worth it.)
It was equally exciting to spend time with so many people who understand the value of environmental education and the impact it can have on the lives of others. From professionals like myself, who get to focus on environmental education all the time, to volunteers and school teachers who might not get to spend as much time as they would like, it was great to come together and benefit from the experience of others.
It struck me as I was going from my different workshops and interacting with all of the different people who attended that there really is something for everyone in the environmental education field. As long as you have the desire to learn and teach about the environment as your base, you can take environmental education and plug it in anywhere.
It can be found in obvious places such as schools and with nonprofits, or in less obvious places such as works of art, sports and in businesses. For example, one of the workshops I had the opportunity to take was on eco-graffiti and how artists across the world have used a mixture of moss blended with water a few other materials and have created paintings on the side of brick and concrete surfaces that are alive and grow.
During my time there I enjoyed a trail run and got a chance to canoe, both experiences that offered an opportunity to learn about the environment through both signs and guides. And while networking, it was fascinating to hear about the different ways businesses are learning and interacting with the environment, which not only results in a healthier environment, but also is becoming a standard way to save money and increase profits.
No matter how you look at it, environmental education can be found anywhere and as more people embrace all that it has to offer, hopefully we will all get on the same page about its importance.
Ryan Farley serves Bluegrass Greensource in a hybrid role, working as an environmental educator with several outreach specialist responsibilities. Ryan received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgetown College and a master’s in recreation and park administration from Eastern Kentucky University. He has worked at wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in Texas and with Kentucky 4-H in various roles. Farley provides educational programs to several Fayette County schools and works with downtown businesses and the greater Lexington community to educate and empower residents to become better environmental stewards.
This article appeared in KY Forward on October 3, 2013.