Missouri Environmental Education News: February 2021

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

Table of Contents

  • Feature Article & Lesson
  • Kudos
  • Upcoming Events, Workshops & Grants
  • MEEA News Highlights

Dear MEEA Members,

I feel like I blinked and now February is over. MEEA began the 2021 Monthly Event Series, co-hosted with KACEE, this month. I am so happy we are able to provide this path for learning and community building. MEEA also presented at the DESE Interface Conference with our friends at Missouri Department of Conservation and the Earthways Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden. This was a great opportunity to share a couple of MEEA’s great resources: our Outdoor Learning Kits (now aligned to the Missouri Learning Standards!) and the Mock Trial of an Invasive Plant Activity Guide (also aligned with MLS). The VISTA team has been steadily reaching out to schools and partner organizations, and the momentum is building!

We have a great slate of candidates for the 2021-2022 Board of Directors, and voting starts….now! Scroll down to learn about the candidates and vote. Thank you Jill Hollowell, Christine Jie Li, Joan Ruppert, and Jennifer Schamber for stepping up to support MEEA in this way!

Thanks, everyone, for all you do to bring hope and healing to the world.

Lesli Moylan, Executive Director

Article: Increasing Equity in the Science Classroom


Laura Seger, St. Louis Zoo Education Department

Photos credits: top to bottom, Todd Race (Barstow School), Laura Seger, Missouri River Communities Network

We know that our current education system is not working for many students. Research has consistently shown us that students from non-dominant communities face opportunity gaps in their education. Science education is a particular area of concern. We understand the importance of having diverse innovators, as well as the potential for career advancement that the sciences can bring. Additionally, the reality that members of these communities are also disproportionately impacted by environmental justice issues makes a strong science background even more important.

There is more and more research on how to increase equity in science education. Here are just a few of the ways that we can continue working to remove barriers at the classroom level and help students reach their full potential. Not surprisingly, they are also best practices that benefit all students.

Science in Local Life

We know that focusing on science as it appears in our everyday life can make it more meaningful. Consider looking at the cultural implications of science in your community. Start by asking the question: What is valued by your community that is also “science”? One fitting example, in an area with ties to agriculture, is looking at weather and climate as it relates to growing seasons. Or chemistry as it relates to crop rotation and soil health. Science can be better understood when it is a part of our lived experience and when it can be seen as a social accomplishment. Can students share how members of their community show up in science, or in science-related careers? Leveraging cultural knowledge can also increase positive identification with science.

Building on Prior Interest

Research shows that personal interest can be the most significant factor in engaging children in science. Designing learning experiences around students’ interests are known to increase engagement and retention. Can lessons be developed around the science of sports, popular music, or other trends to heighten interest? Interests and identity, however do not exist in isolation. They need to be considered in their social and cultural context. Research suggests that interest in science in early adolescence can be a predictor of attaining a college degree in a science field.

Communicating and Meaning-Making

Students from historically non-dominant groups are more successful in classrooms where open discussion about topics are allowed to flow naturally. Traditional classroom management styles sometimes stifle healthy discourse between students that could otherwise assist with meaning-making. Allowing students to talk through their work can actually deepen learning and broaden participation. Creating inclusive community standards is an essential part of this. Students need to feel safe from judgment when talking through their learning. Less focus on quick, “correct” answers, and more on productive discussions that address the how and why the conclusions more meaningful. Increasing wait time is another easy barrier to remove as it encourages broader participation from all.

Authentic Experiences

When students are able to participate in authentic and meaningful science-related experiences in their communities, they are more likely to become engaged in science. As an example, students learning about real world problems like pollutant-related health inequities in their community who then are able to engage in the problem-solving, like sharing data with their local public health officials. This kind of impactful experience can increase engagement in both science and community advocacy. Students can promote environmental justice while also learning about the value of science. Smaller scale community science (formerly known as “citizen science”) projects have the potential to create a similar impact– the more local the connection the better.

These are just a few ways to start moving forward on our journey toward equitable science education. Working on more inclusive classroom practices is a great beginning strategy. Allowing students from all backgrounds to see themselves as scientists, now and in the future. These approaches benefit all students and the greater good, as we prepare for a diverse scientific workforce to innovate, create, and solve the problems of tomorrow.


Students Gardening



Kudos to Flance Early Learning Center for all their green efforts! Flance is our nominee for the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon School award. From ongoing garden-based education to distributing fresh food in the community to providing afterschool outdoor programming for elementary-aged neighbors, Flance is a true exemplar of a green school. Fingers crossed that they will be selected for this national honor!

Kudos to all who participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count.  Each February, for four days, the world comes together for the love of birds. Over these four days people spend time in their favorite places watching and counting as many birds as they can find and reporting them using eBird. These observations help scientists better understand global bird populations before one of their annual migrations. Missed it this year? Learn about it now and participate next time.

Kudos to Lisa Ann Douglass and Nick Speed for two wonderful presentations to help us kick off our Virtual Monthly Events with KACEE! Lisa Ann shared her insights on the benefits of indoor gardening, especially during the winter months. Nick told the story of how his time at Earth Dance Farms changed his life trajectory, and shared some of the many, many ways that Black Americans have made innovative contributions to agriculture in our country. Learn more about our monthly events on the MEEA Events webpage.

Kudos to the North American Association for Environmental Education. The support that NAAEE and the Affiliate Network provides is truly astounding. NAAEE has provided grants for PD over the years and the Affiliate Network has supported MEEA with loads of resources for our Executive Director throughout her past two years in the role, and NAAEE provided initial funding for our Outdoor Learning Kit project that we were able to leverage to generate more support. In 2021, we are tapping into yet another NAAEE resource–the Guidelines for Excelllence and the Guidelines Trainers Bureau. Learn more at https://naaee.org/eepro.

Kudos to the organizers of the Mississippi River Plastic Waste Reduction InitiativeThis project provides a means for Missouri students to learn about the impact of plastic pollution in their neighborhoods and throughout their watershed AND to collect data that will be used to motivate action. Thank you, UN Environment Programme, Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, University of Georgia, and National Geographic for empowering students and adults alike to make a real difference.





Featured Event: MEEA and KACEE co-host an introduction to Safe Zone on March 9 at 4pm.


Featured Grant: MPF Prairie Garden Grant – Deadline March 15, 2021


Featured Workshop: Nat Geo’s Collecting Data to Explore Plastic Pollution in Our Communities, April 7-May 18


Board Election Time!

Please check out the bios of the four amazing humans who have decided the time is right for them to step into a leadership role with MEEA. We are honored!

Returning Members and Board Officers for the upcoming Year:

President – Sarah Holmes
President-Elect – Jeff Birchler
Treasurer – Laurie Davis
At-Large, Past-President – Laura Seger
At-Large Director – Erin Graves
At-Large Director – Tonia Scherer


 Voting will end Monday, March 1 at midnight.

Jill Hollowell

My life path has provided phenomenal experiences as a formal and informal educator. My work with students ranges from “waders on” river excursions for water quality studies to developing environmental afterschool programming. With this focus on environmental education, my desire has been supporting youth

in finding their “spark” through connections with the natural world. An ecologist from the start, I was blessed with a love of water and wildlife while exploring the Sleeping Bear Dunes shoreline on Lake Michigan.


My employment with Meramec Regional Planning Commission allows me to engage with MEEA and Missouri Green Schools with the goal of engaging rural schools in mid-Missouri. I’m elated to join MEEA in advocating for greater awareness of living sustainably and supporting an understanding of how we all must own our impact.

Christine Jie Li

I am an Assistant Professor with the University of Missouri Columbia’s School of Natural Resources, specializes in environmental education and outreach. I teach undergraduate and graduate students majoring in Parks, Recreation, Sport, and Tourism, Environmental Science, and Human Dimension of Natural Resources Management. My research focuses on using community-based deliberative forums and gardening to cultivate underrepresented youth and family’s environmental awareness, hope and action competence. One of the research projects is supported by the Environmental Issues Forums with North American Association for Environmental Education and Kettering Foundation.

I collaborate with Prairie Fork Conservation Area to promote Missouri Department of Conservation’s Discover Nature and Natural Resources Careers Academy summer programs. In 2021, I started a new program to engage urban youth and families with support mostly from MU Extension’s Community Gardening Toolkit. My hope is to engage first and second-generations of Asian immigrants and underrepresented groups to learn about sustainability and become environmental stewards. I volunteer at a local Chinese Christian Church to lead a children and family group through experiential learning and community events. I published peer-reviewed journal articles in Environmental Education Research and Environment and Behavior (https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=7l2XDQoAAAAJ&hl=en). My husband and I live in Columbia, with our two children and a dog named Frank. We love outdoor activities, such as gardening, hiking and fishing.

Joan Ruppert

I have been a nurse for 47 years and am recently retired as faculty from University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Nursing. When taking classes for my doctoral degree, I learned about schools that frame curriculum around nature and the natural curiosity of children. There is such a school in Southern Boone County, Missouri, near property owned by my husband and me. I have been intrigued by this school that encourages children to learn about nature and the environment. This has inspired me to support an organization like MEEA, whose mission is to encourage all Missourians to “care about, understand, and act for their environment.” I look forward to offering my experience as an educator, meeting planner and previous involvement in professional certification as an at-large board member. 

Jennifer Schamber

I am the general manager of a family-owned garden center, Greenscape Gardens in west St. Louis County, Missouri. Greenscape was the 2015 national winner of Today’s Garden Center Magazine’s Revolutionary 100 for their work in the promotion of native plants. I have served as the committee chair for strategic planning for Grow Native!, a professional organization that promotes native plants, and have represented the green industry at the National Pollinator Garden Network meetings in Washington, D.C. I have served as a mentor for the U.S. Green Building Council-St. Louis Chapter Green Schools Quest, as well as a consultant for U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools projects and Habitat for Humanity’s LEED certification design team. I’ve served as President of the Western Nursery & the Landscape Association and the Landscape & Nursery Association of Greater St. Louis. I’m the current co-chair for Keysor Elementary’s Project I.D.E.A. and reside on a mini homestead in Kirkwood, Missouri with my husband, two daughters, a dog, five chickens and a worm farm in the basement.