Missouri Environmental Education News: October 2023Welcome to the lastest edition of MEEA's Newsletter
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 MEEA friends,
I am continually inspired by fellow environmental educators who stretch my thinking and influence my actions. As I look forward to Indigenous People’s Day on Oct. 9, I’m reflecting on how much I have to learn about Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). Even though I feel a deep connection to the land, there is so much history I have yet to learn and so much wisdom I have yet to tap into. This month the MEEA staff team begins its TEK learning journey with the “4 Seasons of Indigenous Learning” series. Though it’s a small step, I know it’s in the right direction, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Registration is open until Oct. 15. It would be amazing to have other MEEA Members learning alongside us in the coming months, so let us know if you enroll!
Also top of mind right now is the annual MEEA conference – it’s less than a month away! The conference will be held Nov. 3-4 in St. Louis, and this year’s theme is “Sharing Hope & Inspiring Action”. We have an incredible lineup of speakers (including youth!), time set aside for networking and planning, and some great raffle prizes for attendees. You don’t want to miss it. View the full agenda and get registered at https://meea.org/professional-development/annual-conference/. In accordance with our values, we offer a pay-what-you-can option so that cost is not a barrier to attendance, so please join us!
Finally, I want to call to your attention all that is happening with Show-Missouri Green Schools, the suite of 3 green schools programs co-managed by MEEA and the Missouri Gateway Green Building Council. The Green Schools Quest officially launched this month, and 65 schools are participating. That’s back up to pre-COVID numbers, wow! This week we also announced the 2023 Missouri Green Schools Honorees – 18 schools! It’s exciting to see our list of Honorees grow each year, but even more heartening to see schools progressing through the recognition levels from an initial commitment to documented impact. In other news, Hope Gribble with the Missouri Gateway Green Building Council (co-manager of Show-Me Green Schools) is moving on to a new job. Hope has been instrumental in developing the Show-Me Green Schools suite from the very beginning, and she will be sorely missed. If any of you reading this might be interested in stepping into her former role, you can find the job listing HERE.
Please enjoy this edition of the newsletter. I hope it challenges and inspires you!
Lesli Moylan, MEEA Co-Director
The Value of Acknowledging the Land
Article, photos and lesson ideas submitted by:
The land upon which I live…
My entire life I have been told that my family, on my father’s side, is part-Cherokee. It has never been “proven,” to my knowledge, and my immediate family members aren’t affiliated directly with the Cherokee Nation as tribal members. More recently I learned through discussions with elder family members on my mother’s side that we may have a connection with the Osage Nation, too.
But, the oral history about my ancestors has always been a fascination for me. Over the years I‘ve made a few attempts to confirm my grandfather’s Cherokee heritage by researching genealogy, interviewing family members, visiting the Cherokee Nation headquarters in Tahlequah, OK, and gathering photographs, news clippings, and other resources. I’ve also spoken directly with tribal representatives from both Nations that I identify with to get assistance and clarity about my ancestry. As I shared with my contacts from both Nations, I don’t want anything from them…I just want to unearth my connection to those who came before me; to acknowledge them, the land that they have called home for generations, and myself as an indigenous person who is passionate about my own sometimes unexplainable connections with the natural world.
Land Acknowledgement is a concept that is showing up more and more in our communities, particularly when we gather for conferences and workshops. It is an important step forward toward understanding the effects of colonialism on indigenous people, and how we still have so far to go toward equity. Interestingly there is controversy bubbling up about land acknowledgments that deserves discussion, and I feel that my point of view may be helpful or at least get us pondering. How can we always improve when it comes to equity?
Perhaps one solution is to listen more, and explore the idea through other people’s eyes and experiences.
My mother always talked about how her father (whom I never met, unfortunately) had “black eyes and black shiny hair,” as did her oldest brother. As a child I thought that was fascinating, especially in comparison with her and the rest of her large family (all with blue eyes and either blonde or light brown hair). I don’t remember discussions about our ethnicity, but Mom often referred to her grandmother’s father as French. It wasn’t until much later in life that I shared genealogy research with one of my aunts and she told me that they had found possible evidence (including a photograph) that their French grandfather had married an indigenous woman. Historically it was quite common, and acceptable for a time, for the frenchmen who came into Missouri to marry Osage women.
My Cherokee heritage from my father’s side was discussed off and on during my childhood, and my father and his brothers all had black hair and indigenous features. Although Dad never really acknowledged it directly (probably because of the timeline in which he grew up and the rampant discrimination against indigenous people; I myself have experienced heart-breaking racism after sharing my indigenous ancestry) he didn’t deny it either! Besides, his father was born in eastern “Indian Territory” (later to become Oklahoma) in the 1890s. Another piece of the puzzle.
I’m still trying to find the more tangible indigenous connections to both of my grandfathers, but most importantly to me at this point in my life is that I acknowledge them. I also acknowledge that I am one of their living descendants. I identify with and acknowledge the land that they lived on for centuries, and were removed from against their will. Finally, I respect the deep connection I feel with the natural world, and am grateful for my ancestors that passed it on to me.
There are many great resources to learn more about Land Acknowledgement and how to best express it. The most important thing is that we go directly to the indigenous people for advice, and do the best we can. And I would add…no matter your ethnicity, we are all people of this Earth. Make an effort to connect with the land you live on yourself, and accept that “the land that surrounds us is part of who we are.” https://nativegov.org/about/our-land-acknowledgement-statement
I’m going back to the Osage Hills
I’d never been, no not until
I met my clan, and I heard a voice
She calls me back to the Osage Hills,
She calls me back to the Osage Hills.
(excerpt from “The Osage Hills,” song written by Jamin Bray ©2010)
Connecting Younger Learners to the Land
The classic “Acorn Sink or Float” Experiment
I love this organization and their well-crafted ideas and lessons. I saw this and it was a reminder to me that it’s time to collect and plant viable acorns from the majestic Mother White Oak tree in my own back yard! In about 150 years, maybe some of these acorn babies will reach as far up to the sky as their Mom.
Here’s a teaser from the lesson:
“Oak trees are incredibly valuable keystone species. Allowing kids to collect and test acorns for viability offers connections to the oak life cycle and conservation, as well as an opportunity to positively impact the environment by sprouting and planting an oak seedling. Oak trees (Quercus spp.) support a huge diversity of life forms — more than any other genus of trees in North America. They provide food to many birds, mammals, insects, and humans by producing acorns and dense canopies of leaves. Their branches, bark, trunks, and hollows provide habitats for many creatures. Their leaf litter can last for several years after it falls, protecting creatures in the soil and providing shelter for small animals in winter. “
For complete lesson details: kidsgardening.org/resources/garden-activities-acorn-sink-float
Blue Creek in Yurok Territory.
Photo credit: Dr. Seafha Ramos
Wow! What a find! I happened upon this resource while researching how to provide courses and professional development on “TEK” (Traditional Ecological Knowledge). I’m excited to implement these myself…if you do try them yourselves, please send me your feedback on how it goes!
According to this source:
“The term TEK is often used to refer to knowledge, beliefs, value systems, and practices in Indigenous communities that relate to the environment. For many Indigenous peoples, TEK is “active” (the way in which one relates to the environment) and is sometimes referred to as a “way of life.” TEK is a branch of Indigenous science.
The lessons are a series of readings and discussions, and a hands-on activity. They are aimed and upper elementary and early middle school and fit the NGSS standard 5-ESS3-1 Earth and Human Activity Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.”
For futher information on these lesson resources, explore: stemtradingcards.org/teklessons
And, here is a lovely video from the same site that describes the unit:
Annual Conference & Upcoming Professional Development
The MEEA Annual Conference is almost here!
Registration is OPEN
Each year in early November, formal and nonformal educators gather from around the state to network and learn about environmental education together. This year’s theme is Sharing Hope and Inspiring Action, and we invite you to share your story and expertise with others.
Thanks in advance to our generous Conference Host:email us with questions.
More details and Registration: meea.org/professional-development/annual-conference
We are delighted that Dr. Marion Pierson, President and co-founder of MO Hives KC, will be our keynote speaker this year!
NAAEE Annual Conference and Research Symposium (Virtual)
Conference: October 17–20
Workshops & Meetings:
Clifford Gaylord Foundation
Missouri Common Grant
Deadline to apply Nov 1, 2023
JEDIA: Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility
So Excited to Announce:
MEEA’s New eeCredentials Courses!!
We will be offering two courses starting in November, 2023
With support from the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), other NAAEE affiliate collaborators, and EPA funding, we will be expanding to even more courses in 2024, so stay tuned.
Some objectives to expect from the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) course:
After completing this module, you should be able to:
- Understand commonly offered rules to build brave spaces
- Co-create a group agreement with your peers to support community building
- Identify your feelings and needs in relation to being able to have conversations about JEDI
For more information about our new course platform, as well as other updates on our new and improved Certification Program, contact Jamin directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Green Schools Corner
For more information contact:
Lesli Moylan, email@example.com, 314-368-0500 or
Emily Andrews, firstname.lastname@example.org, 314-577-0854
Missouri Green Schools Honors 18 Schools for Sustainability Strides
Missouri Green Schools (MGS) today announced its 2023 honorees, recognizing 18 schools for their commitment to improving the health and wellness of students and staff, lowering their environmental impact, and providing place-based education.
“By achieving Sprout, Seedling and Sapling level recognition these Missouri schools are embracing green and healthy practices within their campuses, curriculum, and culture,” said Hope Gribble, MGS co-director.
MGS is a state level recognition and support program co-managed by the Missouri Gateway Green Building Council and the Missouri Environmental Education Association. MGS annually recognizes schools for initiatives ranging from designing accessible gardens to establishing diverse Green Teams which foster Whole-School Sustainability.
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."