Promoting Professional Development and Best Practice in EE
Roles at NAAEE:30 Under 30
Environmental Education Supervisor
US Fish and Wildlife Service, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
Philadelphia, PA, United States
Brianna empowers the next generation of budding conservationists through equitable environmental education that forges a deep appreciation of their local environment.
How are you using education to build more sustainable and equitable communities?
I strongly believe in the power of young people to create change. My work in Southwest Philadelphia centers the importance of forging deep connections between students and their most local environment. When students deepen connections to the nature in their neighborhoods, they become aware of both the positives and negatives that exist. I work to directly engage students with nature to build a sense of ownership that leads to stewardship. Given the necessary resources and support, students are empowered to create an authentic impact that improves their surroundings and builds a more sustainable community.
I strive to create both local and national change as the leader of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Environmental Education Community of Practice. Its goals involve sharing resources and best practices, creating collaboration, and paving the way for new national education strategies that will lead our agency to new heights.
Tell us about your journey to where you are today.
I am originally from the Metro Detroit Area and grew up living in a big city. I did not spend much time in the outdoors until I met a great mentor who introduced me to horseback riding on trails throughout Michigan. This connection to nature led me to discover the world of conservation and opened up many doors for me. I now work to do the same for others. I am passionate about sharing nature, science, and environmental education with both nature-lovers and “city kids” like myself. Even one experience outdoors can ignite a passion for the environment or even lead to a lifelong career. I hope to be that person who lights a flame for as many students as possible and fosters strong connections between communities and greenspaces to further conservation and environmental justice.
What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?
I would tell the next generation to let their big ideas blossom! Your voice is valid, and it deserves to be heard. It is okay to take up space. Sometimes, you may be the only person in the room that looks like you, but know that your presence is creating necessary change and moving us all forward. Although it may not always feel like it, you have a right to be in the rooms where decisions are made and to let your voice be heard.
What keeps you motivated, inspired, and/or hopeful for the future?
The students in our Philly Nature Kids program keep me inspired and motivated for the future. At only nine or ten years old, they are intelligent, curious, funny, and incredibly resilient. As an educator, it can be tough to pack in all of the learning and exploring during our short trips, but I have found incredible value in slowing down and simply talking with kids. When given the opportunity to open up, they share incredible ideas, unique perspectives, and hilarious stories! My students are an awesome source of motivation to continue on the path of creating the best possible future.