Don’t be discouraged. It’s often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock.
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Our world has turned upside down in the past two weeks. We have all been struggling to figure out what this virus and its aftermath will mean for ourselves, our families and friends, our colleagues, our partners, our organizations, our neighborhoods, and the world. But, wonderfully, for every heartbreaking instance of fear, uncertainty, and loss, there has also been an outpouring of caring and compassion for each other that has been uplifting and transcendent.
This gives me hope. Hope that our lives are going to be OK sooner rather than later. Hope that by all of us being in this together, we’ll get through this together. Hope in a bunch of incredibly smart people, steeped in science and many other disciplines, who are working every second to find solutions and help those who are sick. And hope that during this incredibly stressful time, we will have a million moments of insight, creativity, and new ways to innovate and collaborate.
Our network of environmental educators is strong, as is our spirit. We are problem solvers to our core. Much as we love working together in person, we also thrive together virtually. The last two weeks have shown how well modern technology and personal determination can support imaginative learning any time, anywhere. If we can’t hold a conference or a meeting, we continue to connect via ZOOM, phone, email, WhatsApp, Slack, snail mail, or something else we haven’t invented yet.
Right now, we at NAAEE are spending much of our time listening: to our Affiliate leaders, our non-profit leaders, our federal agency partners, and our members. We are committed to collaboration and figuring out together what we do in the short-, middle-, and long-term. We want to know your needs and how you and others are responding. Our Affiliates are also holding listening sessions with their state and local partners, so we can all understand how we can help support everyone who needs help, especially focusing in on the inequities in our systems that have made this crisis even harder and more painful for so many. Together, NAAEE and its Affiliate Network have hosted 22 “community check-ins” for the environmental
education community, with several more planned over the next few days. Most states are convening weekly virtual meetings to provide an ongoing opportunity for EE professionals and organizational leaders a chance to connect with others and share information over the course of this crisis.
We are also taking active steps to inform and provide resources for our community. Here are a few examples of what we’re working on:
Webinars: Wednesday, more than 1,400 participants joined Spitfire Strategies President Kristen Grimm online to discuss how we can communicate more effectively during the COVID-19 crisis. She vividly explained how to blend the personal with the practical, how to connect with audiences facing fears and challenges, and how to move the world forward. You can access a recording of the webinar here. We will continue to sponsor webinars in the upcoming months on topics related to the crisis and bringing new ideas and learning to the field at this unique time.
Blog Posts: Sarah Bodor, our Director of Policy and Affiliate Relations, put together an update on the new stimulus package and how it might help many of us in this network, as well as some other tips for educators and advocates. You can access it here. We’ll continue to post updates as we get them. We’d also love to post a blog from you!
Resources, Tips, and Support: Environmental education is more important than ever. We are launching a new section on our site full of ideas and resources for educators and parents through the shutdown. The site will also include a discussion forum, and we’ll post uplifting stories about what all of you are doing to make a difference. And you can always visit eePRO for thousands of searchable resources that might help fill just the gap you're looking for.
Conference: As I mentioned last week, our Natural Start conference will now be virtual. It will be an amazing learning opportunity (stay tuned). Many of you have also asked about our annual conference in Tucson, which is currently moving forward, full-speed ahead, with the expectation that it will be held in person in October. But safety is crucial. We will make a final decision about the conference when we have more information about the long-term prospects for the pandemic.
Just know, no matter what you’re feeling, it’s OK, even if it changes day to day. As my sister-in-law Marcia, a therapist, always tells me: concentrate on what you can control rather than what you can’t. This virus seems to be teaching us to focus on what really matters, and what we can actually influence.
One thing I find particularly comforting is thinking about the things I am grateful for: my amazing family and friends, the team here at NAAEE, our incredible Affiliate Network, our members, who have been absolutely wonderful, the fact that my computer hasn’t exploded, that ZOOM can handle more than 1,000 participants, that CO2 levels are falling, that I can still bike outside, and that spring has sprung with all its amazing beauty and grace.
Please, go easy on yourselves. Whatever you feel is OK. We will someday be on the other side of the curve. And we will be ready—because we’re environmental educators!
It always seems impossible until it’s done.