Missouri Environmental Education News: December 2022Welcome to the lastest edition of MEEA's Newsletter
Table of Contents
- Feature Article
- Lesson Resources
- Reflections on the Annual Conference
- Vista Positions Available
- Featured Events, Grants, & Workshops
- JEDIA: Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility
- Green Schools Corner
- Missouri Nature Phenomena This Month
- News from the Field
Dear MEEA Friends,
Over the last few months, Jamin and I have engaged in a flurry of in-person gatherings across the state on behalf of MEEA. It seems that people everywhere were as excited as us to convene face to face, and nowhere was this more evident than at our fall conference in Kansas City. It was so wonderful to visit with friends old and new, and to see attendees learning new things and making connections. Even if you missed the conference, you can still view Dr. Sharonica Hardin-Bartley’s keynote address on the MEEA Facebook page. I hope it inspires you to join us next year!!
In other MEEA news, the Board of Directors has been hard at work developing a 3-year strategic plan, and I am SO excited about this. It gives us the clarity and direction that will energize us and propel us forward in 2023.
As you can see, we have set our sights on growth – expanding our services and expanding our audiences, which means we need more people power (staff and volunteers). To achieve our goals, we have to expand our funding streams. Thank you to all who have joined/renewed their MEEA memberships this year, providing vital support for this organization. Giving Tuesday marked the beginning of MEEA’s end-of-year giving campaign with CoMoGives, and your generosity has already gotten us 10% of the way to our goal of $5,000 during these last days of 2022. And we have two potential new volunteers. That’s amazing! Thank you!
You can help us keep up the momentum by:
Joining MEEA (link: https://meea.org/get-involved/join-meea/)
Donating to CoMoGives: (link: https://comogives.com/product/missouri-environmental-education-association-2/)
Volunteering Your Time: (link: https://secure.lglforms.com/form_engine/s/1k1GkfVt7VotXCKTJbu4Jg)
Grateful for all of you, and looking forward to an amazing 2023,
Lesli, Executive Director
Feature Article & Lesson Resources: Holiday Ideas with Reuse/Repurpose in Mind
Reduce/Reuse/Recycle—the 3 R’s—many of us have heard these terms for years. As the holidays approach, it’s even more essential that we consider not only these 3, but the addition of a fourth “R”—Repurpose. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans typically “throw away” 25% more trash than any other time of the year. That equates to about 25 million tons of trash generated in about 6 weeks. And there is no such thing as throwing something “away”—an item put into the trash can is headed for one place—a landfill—where it will remain, and oh so slowly decompose over a VERY long period of time!
By thinking about ways to reuse and repurpose, we can begin to decrease the amount of holiday waste headed to the landfill. Listed below are a few ideas for getting started, as well as some resources for doing further investigation!
1. Begin with the end in mind–as you start your holiday shopping, consider the material items are made of. When possible, choose natural materials, and an item’s potential for reuse. For example:
- Holiday cards—avoid glitter and foil designs on both card and envelope. Glitter and foil make the paper non-recyclable. Try to choose cards made from recycled paper. Or consider cards made from seed paper—after the holidays, the card can be planted and wildflowers will bloom! Possible sources to consider for this option:
- Wrapping paper–again, avoid glitter and foil designs. Even better, consider alternative options for wrapping gifts.
~ Put those mismatched socks to work—tuck small gifts into the sock, tie up with some twine, a set of colorful shoestrings or some reuseable ribbon, and add a sprig of pine tucked into the top.
~Line a mason jar with aluminum foil or leftover wrapping paper from a prior year and tuck a gift inside. Add the lid and the gift is ready to go!
~Pack a basket—place the gift item(s) inside the basket, tuck a piece of fabric over the item, and the basket becomes part of an ongoing, reuseable gift on its own!
For additional ideas, check out these sources:
2. Gifts that go beyond the holidays— consider gifts that will last far beyond the holiday season. From gift certificates, to “date night” coupons, to memberships, the possibilities are endless, and result in gifts that encourage memory making moments that last far beyond the holiday season! Some great ideas are found on these sites:
3. Décor with a RE-purpose–holiday décor is a perfect opportunity to repurpose items! For example:
- Schedule a “décor swap” with friends. Encourage everyone to bring one holiday item they are ready to “retire” along with a dozen holiday treat items and the recipe and have a holiday decorating celebration and swap. Everyone gets a “new to me” decorating item, plus a potential new holiday treat recipe.
- From leftover glass jars, to toilet paper/paper towel tubes, to cardboard boxes and everything in between, there are ideas galore to create unique holiday décor from existing resources. Whether you’re a craft guru or a craft wannabe, these resources have some great ideas!
4. Feasting on food waste–the US Department of Agriculture estimates that between 30-40% of the nation’s food is wasted each year, ending up in landfills. This equates to approximately 70 billion pounds of food waste sitting in a landfill, taking up space, and generating methane gas. The holiday season, with an emphasis on family feasts and an endless supply of holiday treats can be a significant source of wasted food. However, there are a number of ways to reduce food waste—not only during the holidays, but all year long!
- Plan for and prepare only what is needed. A great tool, called the Guest-imator, helps take the guess-work out of how much food is needed for a holiday meal. Plug in info. such as how many people, what foods you’re serving, appetite sizes, and whether or not you’ll want leftovers, and the Guest-imator delivers a plan for purchasing just the right amount of food for your holiday feast. https://savethefood.com/guestimator
- Encourage guests to come equipped with their own take-home containers, and then during meal clean up let your guests pack up their containers with their favorite foods for leftovers to take home with them.
- Put those leftovers to work by cooking up some new menu items! This site has a healthy recipe idea for just about every possible leftover ingredient! https://www.eatthis.com/holiday-leftovers/
- And continue thinking waste reduction during the holiday meal by using reuseable plates, silverware, glassware and napkins.
With just a few adjustments, the holidays can become an opportunity to waste less and enjoy more! Happy holidays!
ARTICLE & IDEAS SUBMITTED BY:
MEEA Treasurer & Education Outreach Coordinator for City of Springfield Department of Environmental Services
(see News from the Field article below about recycling your Christmas trees, from the Missouri Department of Conservation)
Seed Cards source:
Reflections on the Annual Conference
Conference reflections and photos by
Jamin Bray, MEEA Assistant Director
I can sum up my reflections on my very first MEEA Conference with one word: IMPRESSIVE!
- The venues -wow- both of them (the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center and the Kaufman Foundation Conference Center) were perfect settings for our themes and our presentations (and they were within walking distance of each other – Nice!)
- The planning – I was so impressed at the friendly but also “get to work” approach I witnessed with everyone involved! Thanks to our buddies at KACEE for being such great-to-work with/top-notch professionals.
- The speakers, presenters, tablers, exhibiters, venue staff, and sponsors – I was blown away by not only the diversity of our jam-packed agenda, but also the knowledge and commitment to environmental education excellence among all of the folks who showed up and did their thing. It made me well up with hope and inspiration. And by the way, we all had a lot of fun together! It was so wonderful to meet in person.
- The content – our conference’s focus on Health for All expanded my world view and how what we do really does affect everyone, everywhere. Our lives, health, and happiness depend on a healthy environment, and connecting with citizens about that is what we do so well!
Ok, so I couldn’t keep it at just one word! 🙂 Now let’s take this stellar experience and look forward to our conference next year. It will be at about the same time of year, will be in the St. Louis area, and will be hosted by us at MEEA only. Let us know what you’d like to experience next year! In the mean time, we’ll just bask in the glow of all the people we connected with in KC and the new ideas we can add to our toolkit!
Vista Positions Available
Current Open VISTA Positions
Click the links below to find out more!
- Two School Support positions: Provide one-on-one support for under-resourced Missouri schools, assist with action planning, progress tracking, and outreach to expand the program. MGS School Support VISTA
- One Partner Network Coordinator position: Manage the development of a statewide network of organizations that desire to help schools lower their environmental impact, improve health, and shift to a culture of sustainability. MGS Partner Network Coordinator VISTA
National Science Teachers Association Awards & Programs
JEDIA: Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility
Y’all Means All, Even Outdoors
by Laura Seger
MEEA Board of Directors Member & Manager of Learning Experiences
Director, Zoo Preschool, Saint Louis Zoo
If we want to understand JEDIA and how important it is in Environmental Education, we need to start at the beginninThis first video is a brief explanation from NAAEE, and the second goes into more detail about experiencing inequity, and how a disconnect from nature can affect human health. Take a look
Many of us who spend time in nature and enjoy its benefits, assume that it’s something that everyone can and should do. Unfortunately, not everyone feels welcome or safe outdoors. Not to mention that many people have negative associations with outdoor activities. There are many over-excluded groups when it comes to time spent in nature, here we’ll explore the LGBTQAI+ youth community.
Queer youth in America are still going through a rough time. While there is increased visibility and representation, there is still a long way to go. Anti-trans legislation is on the rise, queer literature is being targeted in schools, and there was yet another mass shooting in a queer night club. These are complicated issues that we cannot solve on our own, but as environmental educators, we can work to make the outdoors a safe space in our own little neck of the woods.
Start by considering the barriers to nature exploration in your area. Are your meeting locations in isolated areas that might be perceived as unsafe or unwelcoming? Do you have to drive by flags and signs that represent groups that promote anti-LGBTQAI+ ideas and messaging? Can you change a meeting location, provide an alternate route, or have a group meeting spot and then travel together? Does your marketing seem inclusive? Is a diversity statement easily noticeable? Are photos representative and pronouns included for staff members?
Misconceptions about the outdoors and what environmental education looks like can be another barrier. Not everyone is interested in strenuous activity. Can activities be strolls and short walks rather than hikes? Do participants understand that “gear” isn’t required, and that you can walk in whatever shoes you are comfortable in? Can you offer options that don’t require getting extremely dirty? Do you need to dispel myths about the quantities of biting “bugs” that you will encounter?
We know that time in nature has positive impacts on physical and mental health. According to the Trevor Project’s 2022 national mental health survey of LGBTQ youth, there is a need for such positive impacts. 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide. Less than 1in3 transgender and non-binary participants lived in gender-affirming homes. 60% who sought mental health care could not get it. 73% reported symptoms of anxiety and 58% reported depression symptoms. According to the American Psychological Association, time in nature has been shown to provide benefits in all of these areas and more. Time in nature can reduce stress, increase a feeling of well-being and encourage positive social interactions. Nature exposure can even lead to discovering a sense of meaning, or purpose in life. This audience is naturally well aligned to our programing, and could potentially get some great benefits from them, if we make some intentional choices about how we market and do our work moving forward.
If we want queer youth to experience the peace and tranquility of the natural world more intentionally, we need to remove the barriers and do some outreach. Are your registration forms inclusive of everyone? Do they say “Parent 1 and Parent 2” instead of Mom and Dad? Is there a space for “name” and another for “legal name, if different.” These are important things if you want to be seen as a safe space. Something as simple as allowing students to write out their own name tags with their pronouns and name of choice, can make a huge difference’. Starting off programs with a diversity pledge stating that everyone is welcome here, is another simple way to set an inclusive tone. Outreach to local LGBTQ organizations or school’s Gay Straight Alliance groups is another good place to start.
Let’s all make sure that environmental education is a part of the rainbow, because nature is for everyone, y’all.
(photo by Jamin Bray)
Green Schools Corner
Starting a School Bird Club? Great Idea!
Here are some tips from the bird experts at Cornell University:
First of all, don’t worry if you’re not a seasoned birder. You can learn along with the rest of the club! Learning how to find the answers is more beneficial to students than you telling students the answer to every single question. This kind of inquiry-based learning allows students to explore, discover, and find the answers themselves.
Planning for success
First, consider your goals for the club and how you might achieve them. What activities will you do? Which themes will you focus on? What will members of your club learn?
For example, your bird club might wish to focus on activities like:
- Citizen science
- Improving your schoolyard habitat
- Understanding bird biology
- Practicing birding and seeing as many birds as possible
- Art, sketching, nature journaling
- Field trips
Make it fun! Be sure to gauge what your students are curious about and what they want to get out of their bird club. Ask students for help in setting the goals and agenda. Let the kids take ownership of the club!
Nature Phenomena This Month
News from the Field
CDC Life Expectancy Report
US life expectancy rose last year, but it remains below its pre-pandemic level
**for full article content: apnews.com/article/what-is-us-life-expectancy-2022
BY MIKE STOBBE, Updated 2:59 PM CST, November 29, 2023
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. life expectancy rose last year — by more than a year — but still isn’t close to what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2022 rise was mainly due to the waning pandemic, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers said Wednesday. But even with the large increase, U.S. life expectancy is only back to 77 years, 6 months — about what it was two decades ago.
Life expectancy is an estimate of the average number of years a baby born in a given year might expect to live, assuming the death rates at that time hold constant. The snapshot statistic is considered one of the most important measures of the health of the U.S. population. The 2022 calculations released Wednesday are provisional, and could change a little as the math is finalized.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Recommendations to the MO Legislature for 2024
**for the complete list of recommendations: dese.mo.gov/media/pdf/state-board-education-2024-legislative-priorities
The State Board of Education (Missouri) submitted 2024 Legislative Priorities earlier this year, which include the following recommendations that Environmental Education can help accomplish.
Under Educator Recruitment and Retention:
"The State Board of Education supports the implementation of strategies aimed at providing immediate support for classroom management, improving the flexibility and professional growth opportunities within the teaching profession, and expanding training for local school leaders on cultivating a positive school climate and culture."
Under Safe and Healthy Schools:
"The State Board of Education supports ongoing efforts that reinforce positive student behavior thereby allowing educators to focus on providing instruction in a respectful, engaging classroom environment."
Under Success-Ready Students and Workforce Development:
"The State Board of Education supports continued funding of literacy initiatives aimed at supporting the Science of Reading."