Missouri Environmental Education News: June 2023

Welcome to the lastest edition of MEEA's Newsletter
Lesli Moylan Photo

Table of Contents

  • Feature Article
  • Lesson Resources
  • Annual Conference & Professional Development
  • 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, 

Mental health has been weighing on me recently. Maybe my sensitivity is heightened, but I keep bumping into stories about the mental health crisis among our youth and I naturally think about the role EE should play in addressing it. Environmental education can’t wipe out anxiety and depression, but it certainly has a role to play in student’s overall health and well-being. There is so much we can do as environmental educators to care for our learners as we help them care for the planet.

As environmental educators, we have to place real value on self-care first. If we are distraught and anxious, or if we are on the edge of burnout because we feel guilty when not burning the candle at both ends, we’re not being the educators we want to be. I just watched Sami Aaron’s session at the Midwest Climate Summit about self-care for resiliency when working on environmental and social justice issues, and I highly recommend it! It’s valuable for educators and students alike. 

I also encourage you to spread the word that good environmental education doesn’t include any gloom and doom before age 10. Not every kid is going to ponder the existential meaning of facts about biodiversity loss or a warming planet, but those that do are affected deeply. I remember when my oldest son was in 2nd grade, he was learning about the rainforest. He was really into math, so when he heard how many football fields were being cleared each day, his calculations convinced him that rainforests wouldn’t last the year. Several sleepless nights followed, holding a kid that couldn’t be swayed that the Earth was bigger than he could imagine and that it would all be okay. 

One reason that good EE inspires hope in learners is that it’s action-oriented. “Solutionary” is a term I’ve been hearing that resonates, and I’m happy that everything MEEA does is solutions-oriented. Show-Me Green Schools is solutionary – it provides pathways for schools to embrace helpful changes and offers opportunities for student ideas to drive positive actions. The MEEA Conference is solutionary – our theme this year is “Sharing Hope and Inspiring Action.” The NAAEE Affiliate Network is solutionary – sharing resources freely so we can all support much more professional development in the field really soon. The Sustainability Institute is solutionary. This year its focus is on Climate Action, and how teachers can help students move through the natural anxiety they may be experiencing to join in and spark new solutions-oriented action. (MEEA is not a conference host this year, but we are a Promotional Partner.) 

There are so many uplifting things happening in MEEA, in the field of EE, and in climate action. So many reasons to be hopeful. Thank you for being part of MEEA and helping grow a network of solutions-minded educators across the state. Here’s to a growing group of solutionaries! 


P.S. If you need a dose of ingenuity and creativity (and of course some controversy), I found this episode of The Whole Story about climate-related projects to be really thought-provoking. And my youngest son, age 16, watched a lot of it and said it made him “feel a little better…a lot better actually” because he normally just hears about all the bad things related to climate change. I call that a win!


Lesli Moylan, MEEA Executive Director

Feature Article:

Environmental Injustice is Personal

I grew up in Joplin, MO, a town now famous for the massive EF5 tornado of 2011.  But before that beyond-belief record-breaking natural disaster, Joplin was famous for another environmentally-significant phenomenon: Lead Mining.

My godparents happened upon a land deal that later became a very lucrative commodity:  they purchased gravel piles (we called them “chat piles”) that were remnants of the once flourishing Lead Mining industry. These piles of waste gravel were often used by local residents as places to play! We would climb the chat piles and watch the cliff swallows fly like bats to and from their huge nesting colonies.  My brothers and sister and I would race across the smaller piles, and bring home crystals and unusual rocks to add to our collections.  Little did we know that these piles were full of lead dust, probably covering our tennis shoes and the clothing that we of course wore home.

When most of us think of environmental injustices, we accurately think of urban areas where underprivileged communities (usually minority populations historically segregated to live near industrial areas, railroads, highways, and waste dumps.  But remote and rural areas often have a unique history of environmental problems, too.  So often people in these areas rely on jobs in industries such as logging, agriculture, and mining.  Or, in the case of Joplin, the town grew quickly as families moved there either to work the mines or build businesses to support the mining families. The economy actually thrived when the mines were producing.  Concern for the miners, and even for the rest of the community that grew up literally on top of the depleted mines, was nonexistent.  I don’t ever remember anyone warning us back in the 60’s and early 70’s of the danger of lead poisoning in our town.

Did the mining industry and medical profession of the time know of the dangers from lead exposure? Do the communities around the still active lead mines in Missouri, such as those near Bunker and Viburnum, understand the environmental impacts of their region?  I know so many residents in the region who have made a good living working the mines (including my father-in-law).  There aren’t many high quality jobs in such a remote area of our state, so what else can they do to provide for their families?

Ironically, the Joplin tornado of 2011, which tore a mile-wide track across the center of the town, reminded us of the environmental hazard that had been under our feet our whole lives.  Studies of lead contamination since the tornado have revealed high levels of lead in the soil, uncovered as the twister chopped up the ground like a blender.  

For me, environmental injustice has become more personal.  I can now better empathize with the urban communities who have suffered from environmental hazards throughout history.

Reflecting on my home town, wondering if lead exposure affected my family’s long-term health, and discovering that it is now still contaminated from the mining that happened oh so long ago, I question the audacity of what we as a species do for the sake of “progress” without first considering the consequences to ourselves and our planet.  For example, I can’t wait to be able to purchase an electric car, but I’m concerned about the environmental and social impact of lithium mining (a metal crucial to making the batteries for electric vehicles). Can we extract lithium without creating mining waste and without destroying the ecosystems and local populations where it is found?   

I admit I don’t know, but I hope we will learn from past mistakes such as what happened in the old lead mining districts of Missouri.

Aerial photo of the “lithium fields” in South America


Article, lessons, and photos submitted by:

Jamin Bray, MEEA Assistant Director

Lesson Resources

The Global Institute of Sustainability, in partnership with Arizona State University, provides some impressive lesson options (aligned to learning standards across multiple grade levels and subjects) related to human impacts on the environment (sustainability-innovation.asu.edu/sustainabilitysolutions/programs/teachersacademy/teacher-resources).

In particular, and related to the feature article, this 6-8th grade lesson focuses on what sustainabilty actually means, and encorages crutucal thinking about how we sustain the planet into the future:

Defining Sustainability  (sustainability-innovation.asu.edu/sustainabilitysolutions/Defining-Sustainability.pdf)

Lesson introduction:

  • Key Questions
    What is sustainability?
    What are basic human needs?
    How do the actions of one generation affect future generations?
  • Overview
    During this lesson, students will explore their current understanding
    of sustainability, learn a derivative of the Brundtland definition of
    sustainable development, and examine what this definition implies
    about meeting basic human needs now, and in the future.
  • Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Define sustainability as the ability to meet the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to
    meet their own needs
    • Articulate their vision of a sustainable future, and develop a plan
    for achieving it


Another intriguing and relevant lesson that encourages placed-based and personal connections to the environment:

Measuring Your Ecological Footprint  (sustainabilitysolutions/Measuring-Your-Ecological-Footprint.pdf)

Lesson Objectives
Students will be able to:
• Identify the factors that contribute to their ecological footprint
• Compare their ecological footprints to those of other people
around the world
• Explore ways to reduce their ecological footprint, and discuss the
logistics of doing so
• Explain why reducing their own ecological footprint is important
to living sustainably

Annual Conference & Upcoming Professional Development

Update on Annual Conference!

Thanks in advance to our generous Conference Host:

Amazing Upcoming PD Opportunity!

Register here: secure.lglforms.com/Active Link

This Month!

2023 Sustainability Institute for Educators Annual Event

Climate Change Connections: June 20-22

Designed for educators from all roles and environments, this year, the Sustainability Institute for Educators participants will explore the multidisciplinary nature of climate change. Teaching about the climate crisis can be daunting, but is not insurmountable. Climate action is happening all around us. Teachers can help students move through the natural anxiety they may be experiencing to join in and spark new solutions-oriented action.

For more information and to register:  webster.edu/education/sustainability-inst-educators




Featured Event:

Celebrate Juneteeth:  Kansas/Missouri Regional Juneteenth Events

Juneteenth Regional Calendar of Events


Featured Grant:

Pollination Project Grant

Deadlines:  NONE! Rolling grant process

Pollinator Project Grant


Featured Workshop:

MDC Teacher Workshop Series

workshop calendar

JEDIA: Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility

Environmental Justice: A Global Goal

Join Parker McMullen Bushman as she discusses the connections between socio-cultural inequities, environmental issues and the power of EE to make change.

To view the recorded webinar:  youtube.com

How do we balance techonology and innovation with environmental protection (as referenced in the above Feature Article)?  How do we feed more than 8 billion people and not threaten biodiversity? These along with so many other questions challenge us as environmental educators.

These questions also ignite a fire in us to do what we do so well: teach.

Educated people are more motivated by acquired knowledge and, as this webinar’s featured speaker, Parker McCullum, guides us:

Environmental educators have a unique opportunity to empower communities living within impacted areas to take a stand for justice with the tools necessary to make change. Environmental educators can also educate those outside of impacted areas to stand up for global environmental justice.” 

Green Schools Corner



Show-Me Greenschools:

A “Suite” of Programs

In 2023, the Green Schools Quest is joining Missouri Green Schools and the US Department of Education Green Ribbon School programs under the umbrella of Show-Me Green Schools (showmegreenschools.org). MEEA is proud to now be co-managing this suite of three programs with Missouri Gateway Green Building Council (MGGBC)

MGGBC has managed the Green Schools Quest program independently up until  now. Since 2013, this fantastic program has had 194 schools participate in the program. 309 student-driven sustainability projects have been implemented and documented with nearly 30,000 student and staff participants. MEEA is honored to be an official partner with MGGBC on the Green Schools Quest and the entire suite of Show-Me Green Schools offerings.


Nature Phenomena This Month

Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation. Learn more at https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide

News from the Field

Let us know what YOU need: NEW DEADLINE: July 1st

Calling all School Teachers and Administrators!!

We STILL REALLY need your help!

YOU definitely need to be included in Phase 2 of the Environmental Education "PEEPs Landscape Analysis" 

What does that mean?  It means, how can we show you WHO and WHERE environmental education is happening in our state, so you can access services, and we can fill the gaps for those of you that are underserved and need help with academic achievement, teacher retention, and engaging education approaches..

Plains Environmental Education Partnership (PEEPs): Advancing Environmental
Literacy through Data Driven Strategic Action


**To put it simply...Landscape=across our entire state!  Once this survey is complete, we and you as educators will be able to more easily find environmental education providers and support NEAR YOU.  We want to better understand your needs and challenges when it comes to providing environmental education and outdoor learning!

Purpose: To build capacity for environmental education in the Plains Environmental Education Partnership (PEEPs)
states through the assessment, analysis, publication of results and action planning using landscape analysis data of
both environmental education (EE) providers and implementation and barriers in formal PreK-12 schools and districts.

We're embarking on a journey to understand the various ways in which schools are engaging students in learning from and about the environment, from preschool through high school.

Through your participation, we aim to gain insights into the landscape of environmental and outdoor learning opportunities in our region, whether it’s indoors or out, from science to language and fine arts. We want to discover what programs and activities are available, where there may be gaps in access, and how schools can work with organizations to enhance environmental and outdoor learning for all students.

By participating in this survey, you are agreeing to have your information listed as part of a state and regional landscape of environmental and outdoor learning in schools across the Plains and Rocky Mountain Region. Only high level details will be shared.

Estimated time to complete: 15 minutes  (Note:  This survey is formatted with skip logic, so you will only answer questions relevant to you.)

This survey is focused only on PreK-12 Schools. If your organization is not a school, but provides environmental and outdoor learning programs, please stay tuned for other opportunities to contribute to this effort.

**If you haven't already, please TAKE THE SURVEY: PreK-12 EE providers survey for PEEPs

email us with questions, comments and feedback.