Missouri Environmental Education News: January 2023Welcome to the lastest edition of MEEA's Newsletter
Table of Contents
- Feature Article
- Lesson Resources
- 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 Friends of MEEA,
As 2022 closed up shop, I was just about as depleted as I have ever been, and so over the holidays I did what is extremely hard for many of us to do. I stopped working. I stopped thinking, striving, and worrying about MEEA. Full stop, for several days in a row. The result? Nothing imploded, and I am now feeling rested, rejuvenated, and excited for 2023.
I came back after the break to check on our end-of-year CoMoGives campaign. Wow! Y’all, we exceeded our $5,000 goal with a grand total of $7,505 in individual donations to close out 2022. To our amazing community – THANK YOU for believing in MEEA and the power of environmental education to change the world. What a great way to start this year.
I’m also excited about 2023 because we start this year with a strategic plan, aka our “guiding star”, and because I have a fantastic coworker to work alongside me from the outset. Jamin and I are working hard to clarify roles and responsibilities, delegate tasks as appropriate, and develop systems that will increase efficiency. We’re also committed to supporting each other’s quest to find the elusive work-life balance. Finding that balance shouldn’t be seen as a pipe dream or a luxury – it’s actually what enables us to keep plugging away in meaningful ways in meaningful careers.
In 2023, I hope we remember that our personhood is as important as our livelihood. I’m grateful to have a job that allows me the autonomy to claim that value, and I wish the same for all of you. Here’s to a great year.
Lesli Moylan, MEEA Executive Director
Feature Article & Lesson Resources:
The Earth Garden–Why Youth Engagement is Vital.
As a mom I wonder about my children’s future every day. I’m sure I share this concern with anyone who has kids and/or grandkids…or in any way has an empathy with the plight of our planet. But, one of the things I try to remind myself is that impact shouldn’t just be based on my dated experience. More importantly, what these young people value as they build their lives is crucial to our goal-shaping. With the new year I am committing to listening more and talking less when it comes to youth and what they prioritize and value.
Let’s begin the New Year with a focus on the future–specifically a focus on Youth Engagement and how getting young people more involved in the process of environmental education is the key to expanding the impact of our mission.
Perhaps one of the challenges for us as EE providers is that we feel the push to get things done immediately (“the fierce urgency of now”); we have grants to write, conferences to plan, submission deadlines, and, not to mention, sometimes bleak headlines about children’s health, a lack of connection with nature, environmental issues, legislative hurdles, yada yada yada…
We forget that meaningful and sustainable impact sometimes requires time, and we have to be patient.
When my son was only about a year and a half old, my husband and I started working on creating a pine forest on a few acres of our land. We had already cleared and burned the old brush to open up the parcel and started planting hundreds of shortleaf pine seedlings. My husband took a picture of me with my son in his backpack (his constant mode of transportation at that point in his life!), not realizing that it would mark the beginning of a restoration timeline. Now our son is 23 and on his way building his life, and he and our pine forest are both thriving. This is a metaphor of our EE efforts that have to be nudged forward with patience and the wisdom to know that some things take time. But those efforts really do work! As the old saying goes: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…”
Our organization recently approved solid strategic goals and measurable objectives for 2023-2025. One of our central goals is Youth Engagement. These young people are the seedlings of our efforts to connect folks across our state with the environment. They will, in what will seem like the blink of an eye in a few years when we look back (just like our pine forest) grow in their knowledge and skills and give back more than we can imagine. Their insight, new ideas, and forward-leaning, diverse environmental perspectives will sustain our organization and our efforts to meet our objectives. So, I challenge you to hug not only a tree but a young person, too! The future of our Earth Garden is bright when we put it in the hands of our young planters, don’t you think?
I’m super impressed with this organization and their approach to youth education and engagement, especially older kids that might be interested in sustainable agriculture:
Take a look at this high-school level lesson on Sustainable Ag; I could learn from this myself!
ARTICLE & IDEAS SUBMITTED BY:
MEEA Assistant Director
(photos by Tim Bray)
Jamin with son, Nate (2001) at the beginning of the Pine Forest project
Back to the same spot in our beautiful Pine Forest (2023)
Vista Positions Available
Current Open VISTA Positions
Click the link below to find out more!
- Three 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
Connect on the Quest: Feeling Empowered to Teach Climate Change!
Missouri Environmental Education Mini-Grants
JEDIA: Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility
Embracing More Diverse Representations of Children in Nature Inspired Books
by Carla Gull
University of Phoenix, USA
Book and Resource Editor
(As educators it can sometimes be confusing as to whether we are respecting diversity in all that we do. This collection of reviewed books for young readers is helpful and sensitive to inclusion, but also to the fact that given that we are human, we sometimes make mistakes. The point is to make a mindful effort, and research and contemplate what we teach before we teach it–JB)
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
I love sharing book suggestions and have been asked a few times about nature related books that show
more diversity in the cultural/racial identity of the children. Some educators have mentioned not
sharing picture books about nature play because they do not depict the skin colors of the children in
their care. However, more publishers and illustrators are striving to show nature play as a part of
childhood for all children, regardless of skin color. I chatted with Carol Malnor from Dawn Publishing, a
publisher focusing on nature related books. She mentioned, ““Nature is such a unifier across cultures.
We talk about diversity in nature, but nature can be a real bridge for bringing people together. We’ve
seen that with educators again and again.” Additionally, she mentioned, “Our books are for those
children who don’t have a lot of access to nature. Our books can be an entry to nature for them with the
stories, ecosystems depicted, and rich illustrations with nature. We make sure to have a diversity of
children represented. We want children to see kids that look like them interacting with nature. We want
to show “YOU” in nature. Many of our books depict urban settings. We can still notice animals around
us in urban areas. Nature isn’t just off and away in the mountains, but it is right under our noses. Our
books become an introduction or a spark to nature”
(C. Malnor, personal communication, March 7,
This collection of books merely focuses on nature play with children of more diverse skin colors;
however, this conversation can go much deeper. Find additional resources at the end of the article that
look at environmental equity, explore the barriers some people of color have in getting outside, and
resources on finding more diverse books.
Amy’s Light by Robert Nutt, ill. Robert Nutt (2010)
Amy notices the lights flashing outside in the night. She grabs a jar and catches
the fireflies, yet finds they do not glow in the jar in her room. When she lets
them go, they light up her room and help her feel less lonely in this rhyming
To view other reviewed books and additional resources, go to:
Green Schools Corner
Collect Species Data, and Have a BioBlitz
Use a smartphone or tablet to record observations of plants, animals, and other organisms in areas around your school or home. You can upload observations to iNaturalist using the smartphone app or on the website iNaturalist.org. You can even ask for help identifying species. Observe and record data at different times of the year, and consider how wildlife sightings change with cooler or warmer seasons. Plan a BioBlitz event at school or in a nearby park to get more of your community involved in taking a species inventory.
For more tips on engaging students in environmental service learning projects, go to:
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."