Missouri Environmental Education News: January 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,

 Over the last year or so, I’ve been inspired by Rethink Outside, which is championing the notion that access to nature is a basic human right and working hard to rectify the narrative about who cares about and enjoys nature. Powerful. Lately I’ve been thinking that perhaps we need to Rethink….well, Everything. We have so many simultaneous troubles that require us to look and think deeply. Open white supremacists attacking the U.S. Capitol. A pandemic that is so out of control here that it has killed more U.S. citizens than died in WWII. The terrorizing and murder of black Americans caught on video over and over and over, yet we still can’t seem to figure out how to make that stop. The unthinkable loss of biodiversity due to our out-of-whack relationship with nature. A global population that is surely approaching our carrying capacity. 

I believe that EE has so much to offer in developing our ability to Rethink. Part of the beauty of EE is that it espouses teaching people how to think, not what to think. It’s grounded in systems thinking and understanding the particularities of one’s “place”. It fosters basic social and scientific literacy so we can better evaluate information, and it provides a methodology for considering the responsibilities that come along with our rights. The urgency to rethink couldn’t be greater than it is right now, so let’s pause, but not look away. Let’s be bold and think systemically so we can multi-solve our interrelated crises. Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place by teaching kids to love the Earth, to love one another, and think critically about how to care for the planet and all her inhabitants. You’re more important than ever.

Lesli Moylan, Executive Director

Article: The Mystery of “Where Are They Now?”

Lesson: Orienteering Skills as Entry-Point to Bird Study


Jeff Cantrell, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC)

Photos credits: MDC

The word “ours” might be a little possessive at times.  I find myself using that expression often while leading nature hikes.  “There’s our phoebe” or “Our short-eared owls should be departing any week now” are good examples of something I might say in late March.  However, the treasured phoebe flycatcher claims my homestead as only part of its lifecycle range.  Perhaps somewhere in Mexico or Central America has a better claim to this amazing bird than my farm in Newton County, Missouri? Short-eared owls may winter in our nearby prairies, but come spring they may be nesting in Canada’s pothole region. This winter we may look out at a schoolyard’s birdfeeders and wonder about the birdlife.  We may daydream from our front porch where hummingbird feeders hung in a warmer season.  The scene of bare canopy shade trees that held orioles and tanagers now commence the thought of “where are they now?”

Migratory animals have thrilled observers for centuries.  Many cultures have built traditions, celebrations and even farming practices centered on the arrival or departures of wildlife.  I have devoted a portion of my career and volunteer time to Neotropical bird migrations. This seasonal movement of birds is a great stage for engaging youth, inspiring educators, and adding a sense of wonder to birders. Leading up to my migratory bird study during graduate school, ornithologists relied on eyewitness documentations (from the tundra to Patagonia) and even radar screens depicting unidentifiable flocks migrating over the Gulf of Mexico. 

Technology advances, and scientific discoveries keep happening. They are currently shedding more light on the migration phenomena. Educators, birdwatchers and ecology students will be excited to glide into the new scientific advances with Motus.  Motus is a wildlife tracking system initiated by Bird Studies Canada with other Canadian partners in 2014.  The Motus program has amazing potential to bring our understanding of migration, essential habitat, and behavioral ecology further.  It begins with wildlife researchers fitting lightweight nanotags or tiny radio transmitters onto the subject animal. 

Currently there are 996 radio towers set up as Motus stations around the world (Missouri has 16 active receivers). The towers pick up the transmitting signals from the passing birds.  So, when a nano-tagged Swainson’s thrush has a stopover between eastern Montana and a winter refuge in Panama, our Motus station in Barry County, MO records when the thrush is nearby. Thanks to this technology, ecologists will be able to learn, educate others, and manage habitats of all ranges of wildlife in transit…collaborating beyond state and national borders.  Shorebirds and songbirds are the bulk of the studies but this new technology will soon assist in bat and monarch butterfly conservation efforts as well.

Birding Resources


Kudos to the Missouri Recycling Association for its PD offering “The Secret Lives of Stuff”. It is an in-depth online course about waster reduction covering Life Cycles, Sources of GHG emissions, Waste Management Hierarchy – Intent and Limitations, and What is Sustainable Materials Management? Nine Missouri educators are signed up to audit the first session, and I’m sure we’ll see more MO educators in the next session, especially as MORA works to gain approval for Missouri educators to obtain CEUs and graduate credit for course completion. Contact Jill Hollowell at jhollowell@meramecregion.org for more information.

Kudos to Sherita Love and Sharonica Hardin-Bartley for their beautiful Op-Ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. These educators deliver a powerful invitation to empathize with our children, especially those most burdened by inequity during COVID. They encourage us to Rethink our current education system in order to dream big and transform it into a system that is healthful and life-affirming for all.

Kudos to Jan Weaver for so many things! Jan is the former director of MEEA, and she’s truly an amazing educator. She has just launched a website called Curious Dust, because she wants to “keep on teaching and learning and poking around”. Jan created some Science Sight Word Booklets for early readers that we will soon be featuring on the MEEA website; you can find those now at Curious Dust. She’ll be adding more resources for educators in the coming months. Kudos, Jan, we are so glad you have found this way to continue sharing your passion for EE during retirement!

Kudos to Green Works in Kansas City for their unwavering commitment to serving KC kids during COVIDGreen Works found in-person summer work experiences for their Excelerate high school students, provided summer and fall ECOS outdoor nature exploration for our younger students, and engaged our high schoolers in Green Ink outdoor service projects, and in-person classroom programming in the Green Works Lab. They have kept their programs going and all their staff employed. They have updated procedures, managed COVID supplies, doubled their classroom space, and launched a retail social enterprise for even more real-world learning. Way to go, Green Works, and thank you for inspiring us!

Kudos to the Green Schools Quest program for Rethinking their whole program in light of COVID. With so many schools going online, the program shifted to 6 theme-based monthly sustainability challenges (instead of one comprehensive six-month long project as participants have done in the past), with monthly online gatherings open to participants to brainstorm how to expand and connect current projects to each of the themes. Continue the Quest is another inspiring example of innovation!




 Featured Event: MEEA Presents Black Farmers, Innovators, and the Architects of American Agriculture


Featured Grant: Gro More Good Grassroots Grant – Deadline: February 5, 2021


Featured Workshop: S&T’s Beginner’s Guide to Earth Sciences for Educators Feb. 20


2020 Annual Report

Check out MEEA’s Annual Report for 2020 and see what we accomplished together!

Highlights include:

  • 6300 outdoor learning kits to help families in need due to COVID
  • Bringing on four Americorps VISTAs to help us expand the Missouri Green Schools program
  • Our first-ever virtual conference, in collaboration with KACEE


Board of Directors – Election of new officers will be held in February. We have several at-large positions available, and are specifically looking for a more diverse representation on our board. We practice Dynamic Governance, a methodology grounded in systems thinking that provides an effective means to draw out diverse perspectives and still get things done efficiently. If you’re from a rural area of MO, Kansas City or Columbia, and have a passion for people and the planet, we encourage you to consider serving! Contact Lesli Moylan at moylan@meea.org for more information.